When Santosh Sivan wants to make a point, he doesn’t just say it outright. He draws you into an illustration, albeit a verbal one, which more often than not is just as colourful as some of his stunning cinematography. After his special session with students at The New Indian Express’ ThinkEdu Conclave, the director gets talking about his time at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), working with students despite the politics at play and how he learnt to make foreign critics and festival juries a happy lot. Excerpts from a conversation:
You were among the first people to resign from FTII’s GC. Now that the strike has been called off, would you ever consider going back?
I resigned because I knew all this trouble was going to happen. This politicisation is becoming a huge problem these days. See, ten years ago when Vinod Khanna, who was a BJP member came in, this type of trouble did not happen. I still do masterclasses and workshops at other institutes, so if I am called to do it there, then I am game.
What was it like when you were a student at FTII?
FTII is a crazy place, actually. I learnt more outside FTII than I did inside. In my first year, they gave me a camera and film to shoot for free. So I went to a park next door and took pictures of mothers and children on a swing or elderly people taking a walk, got black and white prints and sold it to them. That way I made a lot of money, which funded my travel.
Internationally, people really love your work. How’d that happen?
I always like to think I’m just starting out. I want to go someplace where nothing is expected of me. I’m not afraid to take risks. When I passed out of FTII I had this dream of shooting five Black and White films, but that never happened. But life is strange because I managed that with the opening sequence of Rajinikanth’s Thalapathy. Internationally, when The Terrorist premiered at Sundance, people picked it up and called it one of the most visually appealing films ever.
Do you pick your directors based on what they’re like or the script?
I’ve never felt cramped working with different directors. At the beginning of my career, I worked with plenty of newcomers and they bring so much energy and freshness and you know after 2-3 lines if the story is really theirs. So I let them dictate the styles.
@annavetticad: And once again, it is students who shame those in authority when all else fails. Bravo! #TERI #Hyderabad #FTII
@VAvinash: Dear @AnupamPkher Now that you have won The Award... Will you now say that Gajendra Chauhan is an excellent choice for #FTII ??#AskAnupam
@KR15H4N_KUM4R: If we allow students to elect their VC, #FTII will vote for #Kejriwal and #JNU for Hafeez Saeed
@MuktArth: Kader Khan costarred in Khuli Khirki with Gajendra Chauhan. What happens to #FTII protests if Kader Khan is honoured?
@ashokepandit: #FTII students at the protest site at #Hyderabad along with #RahulGandhi exposes the ringmaster of all this circus. #RohithVemula