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The Off-Screen Mentors...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Filmmaking is one of the most wanted career options by kids. Oorvazi Irani, Director of SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd. is an artist and a film educationist who teaches filmmaking to students who seek guidance in the industry. She speaks to ADC about what goes behind filmmaking, the woes of struggling actors and aspiring filmmakers and how important mentoring is in the industry...

Tell us about your background in filmmaking
Deep down I am an artist and my role as a filmmaker and a film educationalist are deeply connected, as each role enriches the other. I am the Director of my production media company started by my father which was incorporated in 1975 and the company has  over the past 5 decades made many critically acclaimed films and documentaries for Indian and European markets including Channel Four TV and BBC, London. I started my professional involvement with my company as a filmmaker right from college and learnt from the school of hard knocks.

But a very interesting stage in my career started when I got into teaching film by default. This journey led me to discover films in a new way and it enriched me as an artist too. I started taking my independent film appreciation and acting appreciation weekend courses in 2008 which started with Kishore Namit Kapoor Acting Institute and then I got invitations to teach from various prestigious institutions like the Mumbai University, Digital Film School, ICE - The Educational Division of Balaji Telefilms, BITS Pilani Goa and undertook the ‘Understanding Cinema’ module of the BMM syllabus of a suburban college affiliated with the Mumbai University. Teaching is a fascinating journey for me, it helps me discover myself and my subject afresh each time with each new student.

I made my first short film “Mamaiji” (Grandmother) in 2011. It was invited and screened at prestigious film festivals including the IAWRT Asian Woman’s Film Festival and the International Short Film and Documentary Festival of Kerala. I recently released by feature film “The Path of Zarathustra” theatrically in 5 cities and it was a PVR Director’s Rare release and Sony released the DVD. This germ of the idea for the film was born in 2006 when in a Minority Commission meet, I was made aware of the dwindling numbers of my Parsi community and felt a need for a film to address this small pioneering community.

What sets SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd. apart from other institutes?
I feel the best way to learn filmmaking is to make a film so I want them to make a film and use that as a playground to learn, to discover themselves anew and the magic of cinema. The course includes Mentoring to make your own film, Understanding the language of cinema, Discovering the Artist in you, Studying your favourite filmmaker, Learning about cinema from India and the world.

How do you think  younger filmmakers today have adapted to the art of filmmaking?
What is unique about cinema is that it has technology at its core and today digital technology has made filmmaking very accessible which is great and at the same time we have an explosion of content and a lot of it is mediocre or a recycling of the same content. I feel digital technology has been able to liberate the medium and has a lot of positive impact on democratising cinema. I feel cinema at one level reflects the changing times and is a mirror to us but we need to pause and contemplate on what we are creating and where are we headed.

What are the struggles of a new filmmaker?
I think a peculiar problem with aspiring filmmakers is that they want to make films so badly but do not know what film to make. They need to be mentored in the right direction at this crucial juncture and I feel this is an important aspect of filmmaking. The idea is the foundation on which you build your film if that is not unique and truthful then the whole edifice is not worthwhile. After finding the right idea its about being able to get the funds to make your film and since film is an expensive medium money is often a hurdle that a filmmaker has to cross specially while making his feature film.

How can one make a mark in the industry if one does not have any mentors, unlike the trend there is today?
You need a mentor who can help you actualize your potential and guide you on the right path. If you have talent and enough fire in your belly you will find people along the way who will collaborate with you to help you. You need to first discover yourself and have something to say that is powerful, the rest is then a process which will follow.

What is the toughest part about making a film?
Getting the right idea that ignites you to see it to the finish line.

While there are beliefs that star kids get their success comparatively easy, how much of struggle does it takes for struggling actors to be influential in the industry?
There are so many examples in our film industry that are not star kids and have made it as stars and the role of a star too is being redefined and that has been possible due to filmmakers and changing priorities. Anurag Kashyap made a star out of character actor like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and if the film is good even a non actor can earn crores like in the recent example of the Marathi film “Sairat”.

Tell us about your future plans
I plan to make my next feature film which in most probability will be a comedy and I plan to continue discovering young talent to lend a nurturing hand.

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