Disclaimer: The 'I' in the piece below stands for every student of FTII.
My freedom is my pride. And that's what I am fighting for at the FTII.
India's beloved premiere yet neglected film institute embodies freedom. Instinctively. Maybe that is why it has been a thorn in every Government's foot since its inception. Governments like control, artistes don't.
How does one write about freedom? It is easy to write about limitations, boundaries, confinement, claustrophobia but freedom? It is a state of being that must be experienced, difficult to speak about, or at least I find myself unable to... Maybe because, I feel it so deeply here; in itself it's a complete experience that needs no words or explanation.
And what does that freedom do to me? It opens up my mind, it opens up my heart. So that I can delve deep within and touch the creative power that resides within me. I then ask questions, of myself, of others, uncomfortable, but necessary. Questions free us you see, answers don't always. In the carefree abandon of freedom, I find my own truth. And when I create from that place within me, something shifts in the world. Something changes within all of us and that change is all that we live for.
I am a student studying to be an artiste here. Money matters as long as it is for survival, I don't aspire for homes, cars and foreign trips, ok maybe the latter, but then that's again for film festivals not been-there-done-that bucket list tick-offs. I am not a fakir, nor a Leftist, I am not an anarchist, heck unless there is a system to my learning I can't learn film-making! All I need is to be allowed to 'be'. And FTII does that.
But since 1997, they've held the sword of economics on my head. I have to give back tangible returns, in money. I have to pay a price for the freedom I am 'allowed' here otherwise it will be taken away. I have to appear on the profit side of their balance sheet for me to continue existing. Bose said, 'Give me your blood, I will give you freedom.' Governments have co-opted that to say, ‘Give me money and I will give you your freedom.' Economic times, eh?
When I refuse, they strike down. I am then left with no option to strike back. And then they blame me, concocting facts about my 'rebellion', instead of listening to me. What else can I do but continue then? You are fighting for your balance sheet, I am fighting for my survival.
Without the sword of your balance sheet I am unsaddled and free to run my run. Something that you are supposed to help me with. Here, I can wear what I want, I can say what I feel, I can behave the way I do because it helps me unfree myself to be able to then give back to the world much more than monetary profit. When you dangle the sword of economic returns on my head, you corrupt me. You waylay and confine me. Instead, this place tells me to sit back and think. Think for myself. Maybe that's what scares you, isn't it?
Since, you don't understand intangible returns let me speak of tangible facts. My studios are open 24/7 and my staff trusts me enough to hand them over without supervision, whenever I want to work. All my departments have equipments they are willing to lend me outside of course-work to practice my skills. All my teachers are willing to help me out beyond their individual capacities and specialisations because we both believe in film-making beyond economics. There is no hierarchy between students here, everyone learns from everyone and everyone is dying to share. (Did you know, during the strike in 1971, seniors took classes for juniors under the Wisdom Tree to continue the engagement with learning, despite the strike?) I can walk around the campus in the still of the night without any fear and that does wonders to my self-development. You haven't been able to provide me that kind of a world outside and now you want to take this away too. Nice.
FTII is a way of living. True, it has myriad problems and refuses to change keeping in pace with the outside world. But maybe, that's because it stands for something good, something that must not be changed if we have to cope up with the outside world spiralling out of shape. Kill it with your sword of economics and put up a slick, shiny structure full of emptiness instead and you are killing my freedom. And that of every artiste in the society.
My freedom is my pride. And that's why I am fighting for FTII.
Fatema Kagalwala is a second year editing student at the FTII