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Lipika Singh Darai : In Conversation With A Film Maker

Lipika Singh Darai

Lipika Singh Darai is a graduate in Audiography from the FTII. Apart from sound recording and design, she directs and edits documentaries and fiction films.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?

I grew up in a few small towns in Odisha, mostly watching national TV channel DD-1 and hardly visiting cinema theatres. My father an easy going liberal man, a bank manager and mother, a very strict home maker, waiting for her two girls to grow up so that she could go back to her younger dreams, both being the first generation post graduates in their respective agrarian families. My maternal grand aunt and grand mother, two strong women in my life who lived in a remote village were my family extension and reason for beautiful earthy childhood memories. Around six years old, I started to learn Hindustani classical vocal, painting and occasionally Odissi dance. Training in music kept my mind mostly occupied as my mother was quite particular about my regular Reyaaz every morning around 5.30am, five days a week for years. I was about six years old when my music teacher Late, Prafulla Kumar Das was sixty. Little that I knew, music was shaping a new world inside me. I think, my first imagery from any of my imagination evolved through music, through sound while trying hard to understand what my music teacher was expressing.

From my childhood memory, I would bring out three scenes from three different films which had lasting impression on me. Woman turning into a tree in a deep forest, from the film “Cheluvi”, Man tiger dances on the drum beats and the villagers following him, from the film “Bag Bahadur” and Ajay Devgan, the Bollywood actor’s stunt standing on two running bikes, with loud music in the background from the film “Phool aur kaante”.

I was too busy with people and the world around me that I never got much time to read books, never liked still cameras, those consumer cameras which every middle class families had,I found a camera interfering and only for documentation of family occasions. I was fascinated by my painting teacher who always used to ask me to sketch the time you are in.

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Anadi Athaley : Editor, Producer, Film Maker

Anadi is an editing graduate from FTII and is one of the brains behind Human Trail Pictures, and continues to edit as an individual professional as well.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I think I’m very lucky to have very supportive parents. My mother and father are both theatre artists and they are associated with IPTA in my hometown of Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. I have always been inspired by their zeal. When I was a kid, a friend of my father’s bought a small mini-dv camera, which he gave him to test and experiment with. That camera got into my hands and I started discovering what I could do with that. At that point it was just amusement for me. Later I got my hands on Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, which my mother got for me. I remember being mesmerised by his brilliance and the simplicity of his work. This is where I started taking cinema seriously. I remember watching a lot of his films and eventually got my hands on many other filmmakers including Georges Melies. I guess I figured what I wanted to do.

How did you first become interested in film editing?
I was unaware what editing was, before I met Mr. Sankalp Meshram. While working with him, I discovered how editing was a creative process, and it was much beyond the technical aspects of it. I started realizing that I really liked the edit room and the sense of calm which prevails there. I also realized it brings me a lot of joy when the film is able to evoke meaning and emotions through the process. I think editing is a very cathartic process for me. I can gradually see things taking shape, and it gives me immense satisfaction.

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Prerna Saigal: Editor


Prerna Saigal is from Delhi. She has worked as an editor for films like Peddlers (Dir: Vasan Bala), Tigers (Dir: Danis Tanovic) and Bombay Velvet (Dir: Anurag Kashyap). “Attempting to leap even while taking baby steps, she does not mind the falls as the highs will always be special”

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
Community viewings of movies. Since I lived in a joint family those experiences. Not just the film but the collective experience, that drew me in.

How did you first become interested in film editing?
It started with editing college projects. The idea of putting together audio visuals was exciting enough, fiction or otherwise. Cinema of course seemed like a natural transition.
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Nikhil Mulay : Live And Film Sound


As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, music, photography?
Growing up, my father was my biggest influence towards music and cinema. We were the one of the first people in our society to get a vcr and that is when my love for films started! Every weekend was a trip to the video store to rent 2-3 films and watch them all in one sitting. I remember the first film we saw when we got the vcr was The Wall by Pink Floyd. Not many kids my age got to see that!

How did you first become interested in audiography? Most people don’t know about this field of cinema?
My love for music helped there. My father is a big audiophile and so are most of his friends. One of his friends had this huge Bose system with a CD player(in 1985!) and I would go to his house every evening to listen to music. Loved the sounds that came out of the system. Being exposed to good sound from a young age really helped me train my ears. You know what the result should be, even when you are starting out, and you try and work towards that goal.
I really became serious about audiography when I was doing my bachelors in electronics engineering. It just started with DJing for friends’ parties. Then I got hold of audio software and the tinkerer in me took over.
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Pushpendra Singh : Interview


An alumnus of the Film & Television Institute of India and Berlin Talent Campus, Pushpendra began his career as an actor playing one of the leads in Amit Dutta’s Venice award winning film ‘Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniya’. He then went on to assist Amit Dutta on his next feature ‘Nainsukh’ and the latest ‘Sattvi Sair- The Seventh Walk’. He has also assisted Anup Singh on his feature ‘Qissa- The Ghost Is A Lonely Traveler’. 

His film ‘Lajwanti’ (directed, produced and acted by him) and Ich Will Mich Nicht Künstlich Aufregen Aka Asta Transfer ( as an actor) directed by Maximilian Linz premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in 2014. 

Currently he teaches at Film & Television Institute of India in the department of Acting. 

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I studied in a boarding school where every Saturday we were shown Hindi movies. Occasionally we were shown a Malayalam or an Hollywood film. But, it was during the vacations that once I saw ‘Pather Panchali’ on Doordarshan and related to the images despite it being in Bengali. I started watching regional classics on Doordarshan since then. I looked forward to watching ‘Gandhi’ every October 2nd on Doordarshan.

I was fond of literature since my childhood. Raduga Publications from Russia would come to our school with Hindi and English translations of the Russian folk tales and I started collecting those books.

How did you first become interested in film direction?
It was while working with Barry John in his theatre group in Delhi, we would not only act but even direct small acts based on certain themes. Barry exposed us to Cinema outside India and since then I was interested in directing a film one day.

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Jayakrishna Gummadi : Interview with a Cinematographer


JK (on the left)

JK graduated from the FTII in around 2005.  In 2008 he won the National Award for Best Cinematography for his short film ‘When This Man Dies’. His IMDB page is here.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema?

My first impressions of watching a film were magical transformations happening on a massive screen. Watching Sunday afternoon regional cinema showcased on DD, I began to immerse myself in studying and understanding the craft behind the poignant and dramatic portrayal of these narratives. Discussing with my uncle Sivaji Rao about how the height of camera placement affects the way a character is perceived, I realised I wanted to be a film maker.
Did you start with photography? If yes, why did you choose to leave photography to take up motion picture professionally?
My fascination for motion picture photography was the foundation for my interest in photography.
I wanted to join FTII and decided to enroll myself in a Bachelors in Photography at JNTU college of Fine arts in Hyderabad.

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In conversation with Antara Lahiri


Antara was born and brought up in Kolkata. She completed her schooling from La Martiniere for Girl’s and college from St. Xavier’s, Kolkata.
Prior to working in Mumbai, she directed a magazine style non fiction daily programme for Doordarshan Bangla. In Mumbai she wrote scripts for and directed MTV MotoAlert.
She graduated from the FTII in 2008 with a diploma in film editing.
In the same year, her diploma film “Narmeen” (directed by Dipti Gogna) won the HBO Short Film Competition Grand Jury Award in the South Asian International Film Festival in New York, and in 2009 Best Short Film at the Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles. Her documentary project “A Call Too Far” (also directed by Dipti Gogna) won the Silver Award at the 2007 IDPA awards.
Antara has assisted on projects like Ghajini, Daayen Ya Baayen, Road Movie and Jhootha Hi Sahi. Her independent feature film projects are Gattu (CFSI), From Sydney with Love (Pramod Films), Mere Dad Ki Maruti (Y-Films) and Bewakoofiyaan (YRF Studios). She has edited a documentary for PSBT entitled ‘Gandhi Lives’.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I grew up amidst myriad creative influences. My grandmother was a graduate of the National School of Drama. My mother is an independent artist and one of the best read people I know. She encouraged me to read from a very early age. Also in my family, most of us have trained in some form of dance and/or music. So most of my childhood was spent shuttling between the library, dance/singing lessons, my mother’s art class or play rehearsals in school. While all this was tremendous fun, my one bone of contention was that my father was super strict about TV and film viewing. So much so that my sister would stand guard at the stairs while I watched Chitrahaar, and at the first sign of my father returning from office we’d switch off the TV and run to our room. The few times I was actually allowed to watch a film, it would be an an old English film playing on Doordarshan (read: Casablanca, Ben Hur, Ten Commandments). There was no cable or VCR allowed in the house. I think ‘Tridev’ was the first Hindi film I watched, that too at a relative’s house. The second film I distinctly remember watching was the Tom Cruise film ‘Cocktail’ at a friend’s house and I remember feeling more than a little scandalised at the waterfall scene.

Somewhere along the way I figured the only way I could freely watch films and TV was to actually study them. That was the sole reason I applied for admission into the Mass Communication dept at St. Xavier’s Kolkata. I celebrated by watching Biwi No.1 seven times in the theatre.

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Jabeen Merchant : Interview

cropped closeup


Jabeen graduated from the FTII in 1995, majoring in Film Editing.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
I have a very clear memory of the first movie I ever saw in a theatre, The Poseidon Adventure. I was about three years old. I knew that it was about a sinking ship because my aunt had told me the story in advance; but I was barely able to decipher the images on the screen and the American accents sounded like complete gibberish. I literally didn’t understand a single thing while watching. Still, the experience seems to have gotten imprinted into my mind forever. Talk about the power of cinema.
Mostly, like all children growing up in the 70s and 80s, I watched the Sunday evening Hindi movie on Doordarshan. Occasional trips to the theatre were made for films that my parents thought were age appropriate. Adventure and wildlife type Hollywood films. Amar Akbar Anthony, but not Sholay when it released. Later on, there was this series of teen romances launching various movie star sons. I didn’t care for Kumar Gaurav or Sanjay Dutt (Love Story and Rocky), prefering Sunny Deol and Jackie Shroff (Betaab and Hero). Alongside, there were the ‘parallel cinema’ classics of the 80s – when I recall those films now, I realise that Shyam Benegal was the giant figure there, although at the time I wasn’t interested in knowing about any filmmaker. Movies were fun, but just a regular part of life that I didn’t think much about.

The other arts, not so much, but literature has been the biggest influence for me while growing up. I’ve always been an obsessive reader – school library period, comics stolen from my older brother, pulp novels from my father, tattered books bought cheap from the corner raddiwala and that wonderful, now forever lost place, the neighbourhood ‘circulating library’. I wasn’t a topper otherwise but I usually got the highest marks in the class for the English exam. My 10th standard teacher was convinced I’d be a writer. In college, naturally, I chose to major in Eng Lit and loved every second of it.

I became interested in cinema and filmmaking mainly while studying mass communications after graduating from college. I joined the SCM course at the Sophia Polytechnic, intending to pursue a career in journalism after I finished. It was a very intensive one year, driven by a passionately committed teacher, Jeroo Mulla, whose own first love has always been cinema. In her classroom, we went through a kind of ‘World Cinema 101’ – a 16mm projector was set up every Friday evening and we watched films specially brought in from the National Film Archive. That was my introduction to Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Kurosawa, Bergman, Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Satyajit Ray, Ghatak, Orson Welles, Chaplin (as more than a slapstick comedian), Kubrick, and also the classic documentary films: Flaherty, Basil Wright, Bert Hanstra, Dziga Vertov… we watched a film a week for that one year, each followed by a detailed session of analysis.

I realised by the end of it that my love for literature and writing actually brought me much closer to cinema than to journalism, although that too came easily enough in terms of skill. The best of cinema, for me, is like the best literature; crafting stories and communicating ideas; sharing a view of the world.

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Abhaya Simha : Interview


Abhaya Simha was born and brought up in Mangalore (Karnataka, INDIA). After his graduation, got into Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Abhaya Simha finished his direction course in 2006 and went to Bangalore to pursue a career in Kannada Film Industry. His first film Gubbachigalu (2008) won him the National Award for the Best Children’s Film and was screened in several International Film Festivals. His second feature film was a Kannada and Malyama bi-lingual film titled Shikari (2012) starred Malayalam Actor, Mammootty. Third film Sakkare (2013) was a Kannada film which was a romantic comedy starring Ganesh. He has also done documentary films, corporate films and campaign films in all these years.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
My grand father, G.T Narayana Rao was a well-known science writer in Kannada. My father had a bookshop and a publication house in Mangalore. Both of them had interest in theatre, literature etc. I think this had great influence on me during my formative years. Being from a small town, Mangalore the exposure to world cinema was not much at that time. Cinema interested me later when I took up photography.

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Ajita Suchitra Veera : Interview

A Film Director and Producer,  Ajita is a former alumnus of the Film Institute, Pune (FTII) and studied Science and Theatre from 1995-2000. Her short features have been showcased widely around the globe and acclaimed for their visually beautiful and experimental style of filmmaking.

Short Feature ‘Notes On Her’ was an OSCAR entry in 2003. Her great passion for Cinema and film making, led her to found her own Film Company Imaginem Cinema Pvt Ltd, which she established to create the necessary space for imaginative and provocative cinema in India in 2009. Her gritty, passionate and poetic feature film ‘Ballad of Rustom’ which she has written, directed and produced is premiering at the 12th Osian’s Cine Fan Film Festival in New Delhi on 28th, July 2012.

As a child what were your early influences towards cinema? Art, literature, graphics, photography?
My earliest childhood influences came from my parents and grandparents: my father is a graphic artist, photographer and cartoonist and also loved Cinema. I have spent much of my childhood cutting art works, doing design layouts and printing photographs, and watching films with Dad and then there was the atmosphere at home-no restrictions!
I remember watching movies since I was 5 years-I would get up at 4 am before school and watch films-it was that time when I could be completely alone with myself and be lost in a film-I would be watching late night Metro movies at 12:00 am-and they never restricted me-studies were never a priority-my parents believed first that I must get a holistic education. It’s another matter that I turned out to be a gold medalist in College.
My maternal grandfather was considered the maverick in the family. A writer and theatre guy, who had spent many years in Southern India dabbling in films; he owned theatres in early 50s showing Hollywood classics. My Paternal grandfather was a singer-actor and sculptor and did street theatre roaming in troupes.

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