Authorities of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) have stalled the shooting of a diploma film project, being directed by acclaimed Punjabi director Gurvinder Singh, alleging that the Chauthi Koot director violated the ‘shooting ratio’ norm.
The project is an unique one as the FTII is producing an hour-long feature film, instead of two 30 minute-long short films, for the 12 acting students of the 2013 batch. Given Singh’s association with the film, it was expected to be a launchpad for the acting students involved in it.
Singh, an alumnus of FTII, has been a vocal critic of the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairman. He has also taken a critical stance on the policies of the Union government on social media. Singh had also supported Shardul Bharadwaj, an acting student, who was rusticated by the institute for allegedly sending an abusive letter to Tom Alter, the head of the Acting Department.
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The film’s first shooting schedule was completed in November 2016 and the second one was scheduled to commence in December. But it never took off as the Acting Department issued a notice to the director, saying the crew had violated the 1:6 shooting ratio norm, by shooting 390 minutes for 30 minutes of final footage.
In an e-mail to FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola on February 6, Singh wrote, “Such a norm is non-existent anywhere in filmmaking in the digital format. If such a stipulation had been detailed when I was approached to make this film, I would have never accepted this project”.
He claimed that the shooting ratio norm was not mentioned in the contract he had signed and he was informed about it for the first time by the Production Department on November 11 last year, when the crew was in the middle of its first shooting schedule. Speaking to The Indian Express, Singh said he tried his best to persuade the FTII authorities that since the alleged over-shooting didn’t have any budgetary repercussions, he should be allowed to go ahead with the shoot of the second schedule. “We also agreed to delete the extra footage. We even went and met the Chairman (Gajendra Chouhan) in Mumbai. He heard us out patiently, but nothing has moved forward in the last two months,” said Singh, wondering how anyone could agree to edit a ‘half-shot film’, as directed by the administration.
Singh suspects that the actual reason behind the administration stalling the project could be his support of rusticated student Shardul Bharadwaj.
“I think they are penalising me and the class because of our support for Shardul. Shardul was removed from the film’s cast after he was rusticated. I sent him an e-mail saying if the Bombay High Court allows him to participate, I am willing to include him in the film. After the HC allowed him to do so, he came to us and we shot with him, but we did so with the institute’s knowledge. This seems to have angered the administration,” said Singh.
Meanwhile, students involved with the film said they would suffer losses academically due to the stalled project and the incident may deter other established filmmakers from getting involved in the institute’s projects.
“Going by the rushes… it was turning out to be a beautiful film and we were hopeful that it would go to a lot of film festivals which would have, in turn, enhanced the reputation of the institute. But stopping the film midway and stalling Gurvinder with bureaucratic hurdles would only mean no acclaimed director would want to come to FTII and direct student films,” said Ashwani Kumar, a final-year acting student.
However, FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola denied the allegations by Singh. He claimed that the copy of norms governing the production of the film was given to the latter, but the director went ahead and “violated them in a deliberate and planned manner”. Kainthola claimed that if Singh wanted to, he “could have controlled the situation when he was issued a written notice on the third day of the shoot”.
“Our faith was completely betrayed by Singh going on, in whatever way he wanted, regardless of the prevailing norms of professional conduct,” said Kainthola. He added, “Such contempt for rules, as shown by Gurvinder Singh, perhaps arises from an exaggerated self-opinion that comes from having won a National Award… his stature is not taller than that of FTII’s. If you look at the range of films produced in FTII in the past few months or years or decades, you will know that we are as liberal as any other institution in the world,” Kainthola told The Indian Express.