“I am not a superstar, I am a supergiver. I love teaching and always wanted to give back what I learnt,” thunders Bollywood’s showman Subhash Ghai when Indian Express quizzed him about settling down in his new role as that of a guru.
The legendary filmmaker is satisfied teaching students of his premiere film institute Whistling Woods all the finer aspects of filmmaking that he believes will make them create content original in nature and international worthy. As Whistling Woods kickstarts its third year of ‘Celebrate Cinema’, an annual festival that organises workshops and film screenings for all film aficionados irrespective of their socio-economic status, Mr. Ghai in an exclusive interview with The Indian Express discusses the imperative need of creating original ideators in Bollywood rather than copycat filmmakers.
Ques: How different is ‘Celebrate Cinema’ this time?
Subhash Ghai: Last year, I was busy with the court case trying to save my institute. Thankfully, God has been kind and we have been granted reprieve. The government is also supporting us and recognising our vision. With media, government and public support, we are motivated. The vision behind establishing Whistling Woods is something much greater and I wish the earlier government could have understood the same. We are nine years old now and have progressed tremendously but I think we could have progressed even more with greater support. My vision is to create the next generation of filmmakers who can make quality films for the international market. But it is important that they make films based on original stories…stories of our own soil. Don’t take stories from the West is my instruction to them. Because you have 10,000 stories in your own country. You have a tradition of rich culture and literature. We are not looking at them. We have not gone to the Oscars yet. Why? Because we couldn’t educate our film students in the right direction. My vision is not to teach students but to develop them. There is a difference between teaching and developing. When we teach, we transfer knowledge but when we develop them it creates an environment for them to think creatively and independently. Our students should be ideators first. Our technicians should be artistic first. So, for those you have to provide the best faculty. Hence we hired international faculty to interact and train our own faculty. Today we have our own faculty going abroad to teach. We are that rare institute that is exporting its teachers to impart film education.
Ques: What are the key workshops that students should focus on this time?
Subhash Ghai: Writing and ideation. How to think and conceive an original story. How to put your ideas in the right direction. How to tell your own stories. Likewise there are 47 other important workshops that we have planned this year. Students will have a wide array of things to choose from.
Ques: You stressed on the need to create original content. However Bollywood is notorious for aping the West. Infact, these days, they are even remaking your own iconic classic. What is your take?
Subhash Ghai: My iconic movies that are being remade are Indian epics themselves. ‘Hero’ is about Krishna with a flute. Ram-Lakhan is derived from Ramayan. To answer your other question about Bollywood aping the West, all I can say is that they have not read their own culture. That is why they are interpreting western movies and making movies out of that interpretation. We should read our culture and heritage and get ideas.
Ques: Why do you think government’s support less?
Subhash Ghai: Cinema is never taken as a serious subject neither by the government nor by the politicians. They look down upon cinema. Look at USA. Their second biggest export is entertainment. That is why Hollywood is so big. Government doesn’t understand the subject and they think it is just like another engineering or medical subject. There already so many education related scams and cases. People have maligned this noble profession. Dhanda bana diya. But not me. We at Whistling Woods believe in imparting quality education to all deserving students. We give scholarships, help in getting bank loan for the poor people. We have never made any profit. Every year, we have been incurring losses. We spend Rs 12 lakhs on a student from who we charge Rs 10 lakh. Will you find anyone as crazy to do that? That paagal dewaana is Subhash Ghai.
Ques: So, are you happy being a teacher?
Subhash Ghai: Absolutely. I never wanted to be a superstar. I wanted to be a supergiver and I am happy I am doing that. I am a simple, humble guy who likes teaching.
Ques: Being a teacher, what’s your take on the FTII fiasco?
Subhash Ghai: I can’t criticise or comment on it. It’s my mother institute.