Mayank Shekhar is a well known Film Critic and Journalist who has been writing for leading Mumbai dailies. He has been recently appointed by the Hindustan Times as National Cultural Editor. Prior to joining Hindustan Times, Mr. Shekhar was freelancing as a Film Critic and Columnist with Mumbai Mirror, and hosting special review and interview shows on NDTV Good Times, NDTV 24×7 and other national channels for almost two years. He is a member of the Central Board of Film Certification and was the winner of the Ramnath Goenka Award for Journalism in 2007. He has headed the features team at Mumbai Mirror for two years and was also part of the Mid-Day features team for four years.
Mr. Shekhar has also authored a book called ‘Bombay Talkies’, which is a critique on contemporary Bollywood cinema and is in the process of finishing two more books on pop culture.
Starting off with what Film Criticism is all about, he said, “The only difference between me and perhaps all of you is that, you can go watch a movie…like it or dislike it and the matter ends there but I have to explain why I liked or disliked the movie…and the explanation cannot be that the cinematography was excellent or that Amitabh Bachchan rocks!” He felt that the Film Critic should respond emotionally to a film as a whole. The response can combine the Critic’s associations of literature, his life, other films, the industry etc. However, film criticism is ultimately a person’s opinion and cannot be classified as right or wrong because one thing is viewed differently by different people because of the varied circumstances, ages, backgrounds and cultures to which they belong.
It is a known fact that one of the highest read things in a newspaper is the film review. Writing movie reviews then becomes a way of taking a standpoint about anything on the planet, even if subtly with the knowledge that the article is being read. There are two kinds of reviews generally in existence; one where the story itself is so senseless that just narrating it makes for humor writing and the other where there is more to the film than the film itself, for example if the film is doing something different that is testing the waters. Every work of Art, even if unwittingly comes with a point of view, so even a film that is touted as brainless is somehow expressing the point of view of its Filmmaker, so Mr. Shekhar said (tongue-in-cheek) that there are no brainless films only brainless Filmmakers. However he firmly stated that to be a Film Critic, one does not need to have an extensive background in Cinema. It is after all his job at some level to represent the public and the lay viewer does not watch a movie in scenes & shots but as a whole, since they are not masters of cinematic grammar.
Describing the process of writing a film review he said, “Say if you go to a beautiful city like Tehran… or you go for a theatrical performance or even if you go parasailing… whatever it might be you come back with an experience and it is up to you as a writer to pen that experience and express it in any way you want… the mediums can be cinema, painting or writing but essentially film criticism is, coming back from the experience of a film and just expressing what you feel creatively…”
The topic of Film Appreciation is completely different from Film Criticism. Film Appreciation means watching and studying the films of the masters that truly changed the landscape of filmmaking. Emphasizing this he said, “It is important to have watched the films of the masters…you might say that Citizen Kane doesn’t entertain you anymore but it is important for you to know the evolution of various elements… if you are going to be part of the process that takes things forward, then I presume you need to know where things are coming from…” 
Being an intense Film buff, he excitedly recounted the history of new waves in Cinema, citing the progression from Italian Neo-realism to French New Wave to today’s Mexican Frontier Cinema. He felt that it is necessary for one to keep abreast of the goings on in World Cinema, explaining the reason he said, “You don’t want to go overboard with admiration over something that has been copied from somebody else’s work… you might argue that it will be new to the audiences because they’ve never seen it before… but it is chiefly because credit must be given where it is due… people who take movies a little seriously should feel incensed at movies that are copied, because plagiarism cannot have an excuse…” As human beings the brain organizes stimuli into data patterns, it becomes more complex as the associations to stimuli increase. Ideas and thoughts are referenced from these data patterns, so at some level everything is the result of copying. However, direct stealing is unethical; it is necessary for one to build the idea in an individual manner, which is what makes it original.
On being asked about the Critic’s effect on the commercial gains of a film he replied saying, “I don’t think it is the critic’s job to say whether a film works or not…In India film reviews can even be bought! That is why the quality suffers… Essentially, nobody knows what works, what you do know is what works for you and that is what I as a Film Critic should do, tell you what ‘I’ think…” According to him, the idea of a Film Critique is not about agreement or disagreement with the reader/filmmaker, but rather to develop a conversation. It is a medium of dialogue that must also stand alone as an independent piece- with a beginning, middle and end, which can amuse, inform, irritate and do all the things that any writing does.
It is a common misconception however that reviews and ratings are the same thing. A review is a text that encapsulates the writer’s emotional response, his worldview, his opinion and his tastes, thus provoking the reader into a discussion. Speaking of ratings he said, “I don’t believe in ratings, unfortunately the public only seems interested in the marks… the problem is that when I rate a movie poorly, it might be for the very reasons that make you like the film, but when the conclusion is drawn based only on the number of stars…you miss the point of a film review! I am someone who would like to read someone’s opinion about why they liked or disliked a film… ” The film ‘Om Shanti Om’ by Farah Khan succeeded in garnering audiences in the Multiplexes as well as in the small towns. The film is about‘re-incarnation’, which was a popular theme in the Indian Cinema of the 80’s that was produced largely for the masses. The small town audiences perceived the film with renewed interest since it was a new film, which was about an old forgotten theme whereas the educated, Hollywood exposed, urban gentry at the multiplexes perceived the film as a spoof on Bollywood, which it was. A review sounds the perceptions of the critic’s background thus proving that reactions to a critique are just as unpredictable as they are for a film.
Although he cited the examples of Film Critic turned Directors like Jean Luc Godard, François Truffaut & Robert Bresson who made brilliant films, Mr. Shekhar felt that Filmmaker’s don’t necessarily make good Film Critics as the two processes are diametrically opposite: the Film Critics job is about deconstruction, viewing the film as a whole and responding to the film itself whereas the Filmmaker’s job is about construction, viewing the film in scenes, shots & building up the entire film.
Talking about Film Criticism as a profession he said that he fancied a job that was solely about writing Film Reviews, except that it is still not a full time job in India, as the public doesn’t follow specific reviewers for their opinion unlike the west where one finds the likes of Roger Ebert, the famous American Film Critic. Describing the constraints of the print media he said, “That’s the hazard of working in newspaper journalism, we’d all like to work a little bit more on our stories, except that they have to be turned in the next morning…” Urging the students to become active about the lamentable condition of newspaper’s attitudes towards Film Criticism he said, “If you believe in the Newspaper, if you read the Newspaper, then write to the paper, inform it if you find a complacent or appeasing review… make it a strong letter… they cannot ignore the letters of a thousand people… opinions will be printed and voiced…that itself is enough, after all Film Criticism is about an opinion voiced!”
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008


Renowned Film, Television &Theater Actor Mr. Benjamin Gilani conducted a guest lecture at Digital Academy-The Film School.
He is a noted Indian Actor, especially for portraying Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1993 film Sardar. He also acted in the hit movie, ‘Hum Dum’ along with films like ‘Hero Hiralal’, ‘Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon!’ ‘Waqt: The Race Against Time’, ‘Barah Aana’, ‘8 x 10 Tasveer’ & more.
He took admission for the Economics Honors course at St. Stephen’s College. He soon shifted to English Honors & thereafter joined the staff of St. Stephen’s college in August 1970 and taught undergraduate classes for two years. An accidental look at an advertisement for the acting course at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune led to an impulsive decision to apply and, when he was selected, he resigned from the job at the College and proceeded to Pune for the two-year course. Over the years, he has worked with film directors like Shyam Benegal, Basu Bhattacharya, S. Ramanathan, Ketan Mehta and others. In 1979, he started a theatre company with Naseeruddin Shah and Tom Alter, called Motley.
Mr. Gilani commenced the lecture with a discussion about creativity; he felt that it is most important for one to learn to use one’s imagination to develop new and original ideas or concepts. Film being an expensive medium does not allow indulgence, but what it does allow is consumption, which results in a demand for quality. According to him an artist is not an ordinary professional who can update himself once in awhile, but rather someone who has to constantly fine tune himself & broaden his sensibilities to create films that are of high quality.
On the subject of acting he said, “What can I say about acting? It is plainly human behavior… the details of it are endless… but overall an actor is a communicator, in the sense that he is the façade of the entire filmmaking process…” He expressed that communicating is largely about transferring knowledge and that whatever he passes on to the students can find true fulfillment only if they themselves figure out what to do with that knowledge, as Acting simply cannot be taught but only learnt.
He reported some of the growing statistics of the Film Industry in India; he felt that the whole process has become commoditized to a great degree and that although the numbers of films have increased, there hasn’t been a parallel improvement in the quality of the films. He asked the students about what defined quality or how it can be recognized. Summarizing the attributes of good quality he said, “One can recognize good quality by the means of comparison… also there are certain formulae that govern a story, but one has to approach it with creativity…Stereotypes have to be dissolved and made to suit the story and many more such things have to be thought out seriously”
The root of creativity in cinema is a thought, a thought requires a body for it to take shape and words provide that body. Every individual has a different concept for every word and hence an idea can be born in many avatars. It is absolutely necessary for Filmmakers to have a take and to possess clarity of thought, which can be achieved through developing an idea into several directions. To illustrate the riotous nature of the process of filmmaking he said, “As a Filmmaker, you have to be a saint, a sinner, a psychiatrist, a sane person, an insane person, a servant and a master to come even remotely close to understanding human nature… and what are films if not ways of delving deeper into the human psyche? Either ways you have to make a film that elicits a reaction…” He also declared that as a stage performer he realized that one must never give up no matter what the circumstances are if one is truly convinced and conviction comes only if one recognizes their own abilities. He advised the students to evaluate themselves honestly, without fearing their limitations and said, “As a Filmmaker you will have an identity and you have to know your limitations…knowing them doesn’t mean restraining yourself from expanding or experiencing more… Paradoxically limitations can often lead you to your style…”
Narrowing down the subject to just the Art of Acting, he asked the students what they felt acting was all about. Finally he said, “Acting for me is “Doing”. An action should have a beginning, middle & end. But somewhere between not doing anything and doing to an extreme lies Acting…” Examining the general attitude of amateur actors he observed that there tends to be a lack of confidence and a hesitation. Then he initiated Acting exercises by dividing the room into a stage area and an audience area. A volunteer was called upon and asked to walk from one point to another; as the tasks he had to do with walking became more complex, his gait, pace & body language changed, suggesting that, the more preoccupied the actor was in actually doing the task the less self conscious and contrived he seemed. Elucidating, he said, “When I pick up this cup… I have to be intimate with it… I have to learn to be friends with it… I don’t have to exaggerate, but rather realize how I or others do things in real life…” He felt that the situation in the script must absolutely compel the actor to behave in a certain way. The act should become part of his very reality; only then will his actions lose their self-consciousness and become natural, truthful and meaningful. Apart from this he felt that an actor must constantly observe how people do things, how they move, speak and aspire to match the entire presence of that body.
Since acting is a physical expression of an internal script, concentration is key and one’s physical reflexes must be at their sharpest. He conducted another exercise wherein a group of students were asked to randomly walk around in the makeshift stage area without bumping into each other; they were to freeze as soon as they heard a particular sound. The exercise demonstrated how much effort is needed to stop all body movements immediately after the sound. Scrutinizing this Mr. Gilani said, “It is absolutely necessary for actors to have crisp physical reflexes… he should constantly be alert to external stimulus like sight, sound, smell & movement… Always find a reason to move slowly or fast…use logic and reason to design your actions…” Another exercise he made the students do was to make them walk around and then freeze their body in an exaggerated or contorted position and maintain it, simply to illustrate the importance of body balance. Other exercises were aimed at making the volunteers make extensive use of their body, explaining the need for this he said, “We must be able to make our bodies suggest or communicate something, the more we understand our bodies the more we will be able to express with it…”
In the final exercise they were supposed to speak out the numbers 1- 25, in series and with only one voice saying one number at a time, an error meant that they had to start from the beginning. This exercise required all the students to be calm, to listen, to anticipate each other and exhibited the dynamics of the group. Observing the many attempts the students made Mr. Gilani said, “There is rhythm in nature, rhythm exists everywhere and we have to learn our body’s rhythm…and an actor must be receptive, he must learn to listen, to accept what comes to him, to become conscious…” Speaking about the relationship between Director & Actor, he said that a good Director should be able to communicate to the actor, what is needed, especially when he is stuck. He suggested that the best way to act is the simplest use of body & mind, but slightly more than what is used in real life.
He concluded the lecture by saying that Acting for stage is most difficult since there is no space for mistakes, but he also advised them saying, “The actor’s world is full of mistakes…we don’t want artificiality or Xeroxes or parrots…be really observant and operate with conviction then you can make great even the smallest role…”
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008

Sameer Chanda, renowned Production Designer and Art Director conducted a guest lecture on Production Design in Cinema at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.

Renowned Production Designer & Art Director, Mr. Samir Chanda has worked on movies like Ghajini, Omkara, Rang De Basanti, Makdee etc. This trained painter from Calcutta Art College has also done the Production Design for films like Delhi-6, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Guru, Dil Se and more. He has been associated with the Film Making and Advertising industry for over 25 years now. Under the leadership & guidance of the renowned Production Designer Mr. Nitish Roy, he was given an insight into the exciting & creative world of Production Designing. He was, very soon accepted by the great masters of Indian Cinema like Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Kalpana Lajmi and young Film Makers like Samir Karnik and Vishal Bharadwaj.
He is the winner of numerous State, National & International Awards. He has been instrumental in developing the Post- Graduate Diploma in Production Design & Art Direction at the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune
On being asked by the students to explain what Production Design is Mr. Chanda said, “The Production Designer is a creative artist who visualizes a story, accentuates it’s meaning & renders its concepts into realities for the moving images… it encompasses all form of narrative design…” Putting it in plain words he stated that Production Designing not only involves creative expression but a lot of implementation of ideas. 
Giving the students exquisite details about his process he described the Production Design book that he creates using the script before the start of any film, wherein he sets the basic design elements: progression of colors, composition and locations, with respect to the scenes, along with photographs and mood boards that compile the visual journey of the film. The book ultimately helps him to communicate lucidly with the director and creates a tangible document that allows for further discussion and change.
Recounting his course of action he said, “The space comes in my head first as I read a script… then I interpret the physical movements & view the script as if I were in a theatre…” He described a simple scene, wherein a mother walks into a room where the daughter cries about something & then they leave; he then described how he breaks the scene down into spaces: 
a) Mother comes into the room, so there will be a door b) Daughter is sitting somewhere, so there can be a bed or a dining table c) Depending on what the Director’s context, he chooses the room as a bedroom or dining room d) According to the script’s description of the girl & her mother, he fills up the space with props that communicate social strata and tastes e) He creates windows of a specific style to allow for adequate & enhanced lighting f) Designs a set that allows for wide coverage encompassing all the action, even if the Director comes in later & cuts down the area of the set.
However, he felt that at the final stage all their preparations didn’t matter as the locations, lights & scenarios are ever changing, hence spontaneity and flexibility are key qualities in the job. Decisively he said, “How you perceive that particular scene and how you want to go about it…is what is most important…” He advised the students to try and never say ‘No’ to their clients and to try their best to find solutions for the problems occurring. He illustrated this with the work he did in the film ‘Rudaali’ by Kalpana Lajmi. It was a low budget film, which almost couldn’t afford any sets, but as a Production Designer Mr. Chanda created beautiful compositional elements with black and red sarees. Emphasizing this he said, “As a Production Designer, one should always strive to achieve an aesthetic unity with his director, crew & technicians… A good film set does justice to the script without wasting money…”
Another important aspect that a Production Designer must look into is the contextual logic of their choices. Presenting the example of the film ‘Kaminay’ by Vishal Bharadwaj, where a character named Charlie calls an old train bogey his home, he stated how the facts suggest that the Indian Railway, officially abandons a train bogey only after it has been condemned for nearly forty years, hence the choice of making the bogey look that way. He then described his experiences of working with different Directors and their different methods and approaches to locations and sets, suggesting the need for a Production Designer to be receptive, adaptive & intelligent.
After describing his process, he navigated towards the sea that provided nourishment to his thoughts. He suggested that for the ideas to come when reading a script and to keep ones visualizations varied and crisp one must be observant and constantly study his/her environment. Highlighting this he said, “For the sets to look real one has to understand reality… and then only can one go beyond it. The thrilling part of being a Production Designer is that one can create a concrete jungle a la New York as well as a Rajasthan Desert or snowy mountains of the Alps to remote villages of Bengal…”
When asked about the methods of choosing locations and how one goes about location recces, he suggested that one use the director’s briefs, the context of the script and logically choose a direction, geographically and then set out to find the exact place depending on the various necessities of the scene. He also recommended that the students start sketching out the places and locations they find in their imagination. Urging them to develop a photographic memory he said, “You have to remember the colors, the light, the look and the feel… especially if you have to shift locations…” He said that when one is on a location hunt, if all the logical and factual aspects of the script are in tandem with the places one is scanning, then what one must truly look for is the exhilaration that a particular location brings, which most of the time is the decisive factor on location hunts. Speaking from his experiences he said that sometimes one overlooks the location that is just in one’s backyard.
However, discussing the status of the Art Director in the Film Industry he said, “The Art Directors in India are still treated as glorified carpenters; hence I decided to evolve myself as a Production Designer… It was a struggle to achieve the respect we deserve… But today I can smell a location & I enjoy what I do…”
He advised the students to concentrate on what they want to do and do it, while constantly re-inventing and rediscovering themselves with every new project. He also said that the combination of the correct time, correct location and correct season is a surefire method to make a scene stand out. He concluded by saying, “Doing Production Design is a challenge…Its very important to give the director what he wants, the largeness of the set is irrelevant…so go on exploring locations and take pride and joy in doing it…”
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008


Mr. Ashu Trikha has directed films like “Baarbar” ‘Deewanapan’, ‘Alag: He Is Different…He Is Alone…’ & ‘Sheesha’. He has done Special Effects in movies like ‘Chal Mere Bhai’, ‘Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya’, ‘Hawa’, ‘Chote Miya, Bade Miya’ & more.
Mr. Ashu Trikha began the lecture with the trailer of his film ‘Baabarr.’ He showed many versions of the trailer, each revealing a different facet of the film. Discussing the use of the songs in his film, he said, “Songs are a very effective tool to make the narrative progress and popularize the film… it creates valuable recall…” The students asked him why he had chosen to use an item number in his film; in response he recounted the experience of being in Lucknow where he witnessed stage shows of the kind that had been picturized in his film. Acknowledging what the students were thinking he said that the song was a necessary part of his film because without it a large chunk of the movie would get usurped leaving the movie unfinished and incomplete.
Speaking from the experiences of his thirty one years in the industry, which spans across animation, television work and corporate films, he said, “The key to succeed in the industry is to be flexible… the process of Filmmaking is all about adapting…” He emphasized the importance of a ready & complete script before shoot, by saying, “If people write a script on the shoot or post shoot then they are digging a grave for themselves….” He said that in the film ‘Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya’, a song sequence had been added that came after the scripting and even the shooting process, resulting in making the scene look inconsistent, emphasizing this he said, “Fitting something into a script makes it lose the seamlessness…”
Elaborating on the process of story writing he said that many times it is easy to narrate a story within twenty minutes but once an attempt is made to write it in seventy scenes, the narrative becomes evident and clear. Highlighting this he said, “On the scripting stage you don’t interfere with the taking of the film…at that stage you are only looking to see what you are saying through the film…” He advised the students to move onto the shots and visualization of the story after the writing process is complete, after which they should extensively brainstorm to breakdown the script. He said that when it comes to casting it is essential to look for faces that can add a charismatic nuance to the film but warmed them against choosing someone who might overpower the character. He discussed the various stereotyped characters that exist and suggested an efficient tool for writing characters, he said that the most important attribute of a character should be a flaw as that makes him human and audiences can relate to him.
On being asked about the role of audiences in the making of a film he said, “It’s absolutely unpredictable…almost impossible to know what will work for the audience…but I’m still a student, albeit a senior one and I have spent more time communicating with the audiences…so I can adapt intuitively”. He said that the success of a film depends on many things and said, “The only thing that is not in your hand is the success of the film…what you have to do is make a great film…something you are proud of…” Since there is no real formula for success, he felt that as Filmmakers one must constantly reinvent and rediscover oneself, elaborating this he said, “If the passion is not there, then don’t get into this profession…it involves a lot of hard work and rejection… if you do stick with this then it is very important that you try new things relentlessly… otherwise there will be no drive to make films…the greatest thing about Filmmaking is that you can never go wrong, it can only be more effective or less effective…”
He discussed the ‘spoon sequence’ in his film ‘Alag: He is Alone…He is Different’ from a Special Effects point of view- describing in detail, the intricate process by which the sequence was shot. The sequence required an upright spoon to attract spoons from all over the cafeteria where the sequence was shot. He described in detail how a magnet was used from below the spoon to move it and how it was hung with fish wire to keep it upright. Conversing about the techniques involved in chroma key he said, “If I put a blue screen behind me and a 1000 watt Tungsten light in front of me then you will have a spot on the screen…now video doesn’t understand color, it only understands the corresponding digit, so in an unevenly lit background, some parts will be keyed out and some not…”
In an industry where Producers are more interested in the stars involved in the film than the story telling, he spoke out about Industry procedures & about the difficulty of producing Art, which is always at odds with Commerce. He also stated that corporate production houses have increased the amount of transparency in the Film Industry. He concluded by saying, “In spite of working with the medium for twenty two years, I’m still learning…still trying… so don’t stop…there is a lifetime of film studies for you all…”
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008


Manish Gupta, renowned Writer & Director conducted a guest lecture on filmmaking & cinema at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.


Manish Gupta has had a curious career graph he graduated in Mechanical Engineering and after giving six years of his life to the field, found his calling and decided to join an Ad agency as copywriter and began writing TV & radio commercials. After getting mesmerized by the film ‘Company’ by filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, he gave up a lucrative career in advertising and began writing for Cinema.


He has written the screenplay for movies like D, Sarkar, James and Darna Zaroori Hai. His directorial debut was Darna Zaroori Hai, a montage of six different stories. He followed this up with ‘The Stoneman Murders’, which was inspired by a real life story about a serial killer who terrorized Mumbai.


He started the lecture with a tongue in cheek statement saying, “I don’t believe in lectures…there is no point in it! …But I believe there is always a possibility of being a better filmmaker…so here I am!” Armed with the script of his film ‘Sarkar’, he approached the subject of ‘Screenplay Writing’. He asked the students if any of them had written a story, after which he illustrated some of the common errors that beginners made while writing their scripts: like treating the story similar to a screenplay or deciding how to shoot the scenes before completing the story outline etc. Citing the example of the film ‘Sholay’, he extracted the simple story that forms it’s skeletal structure and laid it bare for everyone to see, exemplifying its importance he said, “The skeleton of the film…that is the story outline may not be entertaining, but stronger the story is, stronger will be the screenplay & stronger will be the film… the element of surprise and all the ‘what happens next’ plot points, are what you wrap the skeleton with, to finally form your screenplay”


He acknowledged that when writing a screenplay it is common for the writer to experience a block and advocated that the solution is as simple as going for a walk or even taking a bath, as the idea is simply to disconnect from the process and then re-enter it freshly. He believes that to never encounter a block one must write only about what one is truly passionate about, “Make films, write films & see films only if you are passionate about them…not for the sake of money, success or fame…but for the sheer pleasure of waking up in the morning and thinking solely of your film and everything that surrounds it…”


Recounting the experience of writing ‘Sarkar’, he spoke about the copious amount of research he did to form many of the characters in the film, which were inspired by ‘real life’ characters. On being asked about the difficulty of conceiving a truly original character he said, “It is very difficult to conceive a completely fictional character…your writing will always be derived by something from your experiences or from somewhere in your life… even Batman’s character was conceived by Bob Kane after being inspired by the character of Zorro!”


Elaborating on the process of story writing he said, “There is no hard & fast rule for story writing…you can start with a story, then as better situations come along the story evolves & moves into better territories…but for that you must have the story-structure in place…” He described the process of story writing as being organic & felt that it is not a rigid logic that governs it, thus making it a very difficult medium to master. He recommended the book ‘Story’ by Robert Mckee to all who were interested in honing their skills as story writers and even as filmmakers. He also felt that what one can learn from practical knowledge one can never learn simply through theory and suggested that the students go through the screenplay of his film and then watch the film to increase their understanding of the entire process. Moving into the real world constraints of story writing he described the conflicts that arise between a directors point of view and that of the writer.


On the subject of Screenplay writing he said, “Once you know what you want to express (story) then we come to the most crucial aspect of filmmaking, the screenplay…but writing an original screenplay is a very difficult task… to achieve even a satisfactory level one has to write at least five drafts of the same script….” He felt that the screenplay is where the film truly finds itself coming to life as it is an all-encompassing document that amalgamates sounds, visuals, emotions & actions, that prepare for the birth of the film on celluloid. He deems the process of taking each step from the story outline & converting them into scenes full of impact as the true method to create a screenplay.

‘Screencraft’ by Sid Field & ‘Making Movies’ by Sidney Lumet, were two books that he recommended, although he cautioned the students that these books can only function as guides, since writing for a screenplay cannot be taught.


He appealed to the students to pay attention to the important aspects of a screenplay such as dialogues, sequence descriptions, scenarios, visualization, gestures of the actors etc. He said that as writers one has to write in such a way that the transitions are smooth and each scene flows into the other, without resorting to clichés or formulas. He emphasized the importance of this by describing a scene from acclaimed Director Shekhar Kapur’s film ‘Paani’ where the character staring into a pool of water sees the reflection of an airplane flying above, and the scene immediately transitions into his past with the airplane as the common motif, thus avoiding a clichéd flashback dissolve by using an intelligent visual ploy. However, he felt that one must be careful to not get into exhaustive detailing as that can result in a boring screenplay that lacks the progression necessary for the medium of film. He compared ‘writing for the novel’ with ‘writing for cinema’ to exhume the true essence of writing for a time-based medium by saying, “A novel is read at leisure whereas a film is constrained in time…in a novel the writer has to transport the viewer into the location…but in a film the location is to be viewed, so the details of the location, gestures, clothes, props etc. are more representative than descriptive in the screenplay…”


Entering into the nuances of screenplay writing he spoke about the three act structure, i.e. Set-up, confrontation & resolution or start, middle & end along with the tricky role of sub-plots. He felt that comic relief must be interwoven into the screenplay and that using regional language genuinely can add flavor & authenticity.


Talking about writing as a profession he said, “As a writer your mind is like a loose cannon, your imagination wanders into all the places that thrill you…its one of the things that cant be taught…if you do not have the instinct to write then don’t attempt it…” He clarified that being a bad writer does not mean one cannot be a good filmmaker, since a good relationship between a writer & director always yields a superior film.


He bemoaned the attitude of producers who like to include song & dance routines in their films simply for the sake of publicity & profit, emphatically stating that he preferred films not within the song & dance category.


Concluding the session with a clip from his directorial venture ‘The Stoneman Murders’, he elaborated on his directorial experience, speaking about the instinctive components of direction & filmmaking. He finally advised the students about approaching their career in filmmaking with seriousness and said, “Work only with directors whose work you like… otherwise you’ll get frustrated. Work with different kinds of directors, expand your vision, but make sure you work under someone you respect…”



Digital Academy offers courses in Screenplay Writing, Film & Television Direction, Cinematography, Film & Television Editing, Sound Recording & Engineering, Production Design, Producers Course, Film Making, Acting and Animation & FX.


For more information contact:



Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008


DSC_0395Piyush Jha, acclaimed Writer & Director of the film ‘Sikandar’ held a guest lecture on the topic of Filmmaking for the students of Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.
Mr. Jha started his career with ‘Chalo America’, a small budget film, which had a lighthearted take on the fascination that millions of youngsters have for America. He followed it up with a satire on Bollywood called ‘King of Bollywood’, which was about an aging evergreen hero who refused to face reality and call it a day in showbiz. His latest film ‘Sikandar’ is an intense story about a young boy set against the backdrop of terror in Kashmir.
At the lecture he began by asking the students why they were in a Film School and said, “Anyone here because you want to be a Filmmaker? Do you have anything to say to the world? …To be a Filmmaker you need to have something to say…otherwise what makes you different?” He stated that in the attempt to be a Filmmaker one has to be able to focus on a thought or a concept which is intrinsically one’s own, since what shines through in a film eventually is the ‘vision’. Talking about his previous films, he said, “I keep challenging myself & looking for something new to say…I’m not going to talk to you about the technicalities of Filmmaking now…that can be found anywhere…I’m here to challenge your sensibilities into thinking about why you want to make a film…”
To arrive at a general consensus he discussed with the students about what kind of films they liked, it yielded categories like ‘cult films’, ‘historical films’, ‘thrillers’, ‘socially relevant films’ etc. The discussion also brought out a general bias that exists against films that are considered socially relevant. Reflecting on the situation, he questioned the need for a social message in films and said, “I don’t think it’s about a social message for the sake of it and social themes don’t necessarily have to be dull either, we should see if it’s capable of questioning us & moving us out of our lethargy of thought or even action…”
He spoke about how the movie watching experience becoming expensive, has resulted in the audience choosing a more lighthearted kind of cinema that fully justifies the expense. In turn capsizing the existence of other kinds of cinema and leading to filmmakers creating films that only satisfy the market. He felt that to let the moneymaking aspect dominate is the wrong way of going about it. He believes that the most important thing to be a filmmaker is to really love cinema – all kinds of cinema. However, he advised the students to take in all the aspects of filmmaking and rise above the problems.
On being asked what an amateur artist should take to a producer for him to consider investing a big chunk of money in that project, he said, “We have to make films that are able to make money…but we must understand our culture & history and make films that we believe in, that come from an internal instinct or thoughts that mesh with yourself…and in that come as close to commercial success as possible…” Though he firmly believes that today our cinema needs to strive, to move beyond what he terms: ‘the fascism of the cliché’ and develop a kind of cinema that originates from indigenous soil but with new thoughts, inspirations & contemporary ideas especially since the audiences have changed & are far more adventurous in their tastes.
According to him, another important subject was the ubiquitous nature of the star system in the industry, which hinders the genuineness of films sometimes. Addressing that, he said, “In India one thing you will face is the star system…you will be bombarded by it and everything will be about it…but you shouldn’t reject it…try to work it into your work…as it will benefit you eventually…” He concluded the lecture by saying, “There is no formula for success…one thing is for certain, if you want to make a film then do it any way you can…just be resolute about what you want…” He suggested to all the students that they should watch a lot of films but warned them against the perils of being ‘DVD directors’, eventually stating that the best teacher for a Filmmaker is reality itself.
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008
%d bloggers like this: