A spotless train pulls out of an immaculate station. Hanging precariously out of the door, the hero reaches out a hand to the heroine scrambling along the platform… A Tollywood blockbuster being shot — on the picture-perfect sets of Calcutta’s own film school.
The Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) will be a vital junction for tinsel town, if a mega makeover move goes according to plan. In a bid to reduce its dependence on Central government funds, the institute on the EM Bypass has chalked out several self-sustaining schemes, including the masterplan to transform part of the 40-acre campus into a ‘mini film-city’.
“A film school can’t exist in isolation. Producers should be allowed to shoot on campus and involve students in the ventures,” says film-maker and SRFTI chairman Shakti Samanta. Dean Shyamal Sengupta adds: “We need funds to upgrade the infrastructure and maintain the campus, but the Centre wants us to shoulder some of the expenses. So, a proposal on various revenue-generation projects has been tabled before the governing council.”
Besides opening up the revenue stream, the proposed film-city — on a small but significant scale, considering that the Ramoji Rao Film City is , officially, 2,000 acres — will enable the authorities to put to use much of the space and facilities, which remain under-utilised, says an SRFTI official. The compound has a waterway, a footbridge and an island, which could be landscaped into picturesque outdoor locations. Semi-permanent sets, like a railway station, a Shyambazar bylane or a marketplace, can be created.
“We hope to have a swimming pool, with provisions for boating and underwater photography, as in Ramoji Film City. Our students can also have hands-on training for a couple of weeks a year there,” feels Sengupta. Some of the institute’s quarters, converted into AC make-up rooms, will be a vital plus for an industry struggling to provide actors with bare essentials on the sets.
Introducing short-term courses, renting out sophisticated equipment and the institute’s film and television studios are part of SRFTI’s cash-spinning programmes. Arriflex 435, a sophisticated German camera costing Rs 1 crore, will be hired out to commercial units on a priority basis, “though only big-budget feature and ad films can be made with it”. According to Tridib Poddar, an ex-student, the campus and the equipment should be rented out on the condition that institute pass-outs are involved in the projects, as “film school students face a hard time getting a foothold in the industry”. The dean, while buoyant about the film school going the Film City way, cautions: “Nothing has been finalised as yet. We are working out the financials and the logistics. Our immediate focus is on short-term courses.”