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Tag boosts SRFTI facelift hope

The over two-decade-old Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI) is set to get the facelift it badly needs following finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget proposal to declare the campus as an institute of national importance.

“Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Calcutta, are proposed to be accorded the status of the institute of national importance,” Jaitley said while presenting the general budget on Thursday.

The students, teachers and authorities at the SRFTI welcomed the move, expressing the hope that the Bypass institute might eventually appear on the national radar and shed its “local” tag despite being a national institution all these years.

“It’s a great thing for the institute,” SRFTI director Sanjaya Pattanayak said, welcoming the finance minister’s proposal.

“Once the status is formalised, the institute will have more power and flexibility. This will help the SRFTI, which has been playing a pivotal role in cinema education, to emerge as a centre of excellence. We can start research and doctoral programmes and introduce more streams in filmmaking.”

“The ‘national’ tag should allow the SRFTI to become more widespread,” said Vikram Arora, a second-year editing student from Delhi. “Our institute has always been a national one like the Pune institute but it’s not as talked-about as the FTII.”
Ballari Roy Chowdhury, a first-year student of producing, agreed, saying the new tag would encourage more people from the filmmaking world to visit the campus and interact with the students and the faculty.

The proposed status will help spread awareness about the institute, feels Ballari. “Not many people in Calcutta are aware of the SRFTI’s presence or what it is. Awareness is important and a sense of acknowledgement is satisfying. It pushes students like us to feel more responsible and take our studies more seriously.”

The SRFTI started functioning in 1995 as an autonomous institution under the ministry of information and broadcasting. Modelled after the Film and Television Institute of India, the SRFTI was set up to train professionals to meet the demands of a rapidly growing entertainment industry.

Yet every time it seemed that the dream was finally taking shape, SRFTI lost direction. There were instances of admission being stalled for three years and students going on indefinite strikes to protest alleged academic and infrastructural shortcomings and financial irregularities.

The institute has often announced “mega makeover” plans and several self-sustaining schemes to reduce its dependence on central funds. The institute once drew up a master plan to transform a part of the 40-acre campus into a “mini-film city”.
But such moves often led to unrest, like clashes between students and officials, and temporary closure of the institute.