Very vicious propaganda against institute: Filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan on KR Narayanan film institute controversy

“I’m not a fan of OTT. It will finish off cinema. Cinema is meant to be seen on the big screen," the filmmaker stated
Filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan in conversation at Think Edu Conclave 2023 | (Pic: Sathish Babu)
Filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan in conversation at Think Edu Conclave 2023 | (Pic: Sathish Babu)

Speaking at The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave, renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan candidly expressed his thoughts regarding the ongoing controversy at the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, Kerala. He said, “It is a calculated, planned and scripted attack on the institution. Many teachers resigned saying that the institution has no future. Very vicious propaganda has been put against the institute. I’m sad that the institute is getting a bad name but I’m happy that now, it has reached more people.”

The veteran filmmaker was speaking on the topic The Art of Filmmaking at the 12th edition of the education conclave. He said that he knew that there are people within and outside the institute with interests who have a lot to gain from the institute's fall. Until Shankar Menon (former director of the institute) stepped in, there was complete anarchy, Menon brought in discipline, Gopalakrishnan added.

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When asked about the situation at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, Gopalakrishnan said that he doesn’t hear about FTII anymore. He spoke about the strike that was staged by the students of the institute after a television artist was made the chairperson. 

Gopalakrishnan said, “They have started many short-time courses there. These will kill the main course. There are many private institutions that can run these short-term courses.”  

Talking about the history of cinema watching in India, he said that film societies brought many good films from across the globe to India. This made people understand good cinema and made them interested in studying them. Many people joined FTII after watching world cinema through film societies, Gopalakrishnan added.  

Answering questions about the merging of the Films Division of India (FDI), Children’s Film Society and Directorate of Film Festivals with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), he said that all these separate entities had individual existence and excelled well. Now, they are bundled together. Running NDFC with ‘event managers’ is the wrong approach.

Talking about FDI, he said that it played a vital role in developing cinema as an art in India. “It was the training ground for young filmmakers. Once they learnt to make documentaries there, they made good films. They did not go behind the glamour of cinema, but went after the art of cinema,” Gopalakrishnan said. He said that FDI recorded the life of a diverse India. Then came the advent of television, and politicians wanted to be on TV all the time which then resulted in the downfall of FDI.

Citing the example of France, where there is a separate ministry for cinema, he said that India should have the same because cinema under the Ministry of Information and Broadcast does not make sense. 

When asked about the rise of OTT culture among the public today, he said, “I’m not a fan of OTT. It will finish off cinema. Cinema is meant to be seen on the big screen.”

Talking about the film-watching habits of the present times, he said that nowadays, people do not watch cinema, they just hear it. And people do not give cinema the respect that it deserves. The highs and lows are not conveyed on TV, only the medium portion reaches the public. Mediocrity is the main ingredient on TV, he opined.

Answering a question from the audience regarding the global success of SS Rajamouli's RRR, Gopalakrishnan said, “I have not watched the film yet and from what I’m hearing about it, I do not want to watch it. I do not want to give my money to a movie that I know I will not like.”

On the question of the importance of regionality in films, he said that it is very important in films, otherwise, it loses its roots and particularity. “People should bring in their own thoughts to cinema,” he added.

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