Career in film making

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He went against the norm to do a course in film making at the prestigious Satyajit Ray Film Technology Institute. Today, Raja Shabir is a film maker. Ibrahim Wani reports

I did not even know that such institutes exist,” says Raja Shabir, about the Satyajit Ray Film Technology Institute, “I came to know of it through weekly Employment News.” As soon as he saw the admission advertisement of the institute, he jumped onto the opportunity. There are only two film institutes of repute in India run by the government, The Film Technology Institute, FTI in Pune and the SRFTI in Kolkata.

Shabir had developed an interest in film making at an early age. “I used to see a lot of films. I also acted as a child artist in a number of programmes in Doordarshan,” he says. “I wanted to do something related to this field.” But he was unaware how to do it, and Kashmir provided no opportunity.

So, Shabir continued like others. He opted for science subjects, and passed his higher secondary from Higher Secondary School, Jawaharnagar. After that, he was selected for an engineering course in the SSM college of engineering. “But I did not find it to my liking. My heart lay elsewhere,” says Shabir, who left the course in a year’s time, to pursue a Bachelor’s programme in Arts.

After completing his graduation in 2000, he joined Kashmir University for a Post-Graduate programme in History. It was after he had completed a year here that he stumbled upon the employment news advertisement. “I instantly knew what I had to do,” says Shabir. He applied for the course.  Now, he had to face an entrance exam. “I did not know of any of the technicalities of the subject,” he says. Unprepared, he appeared for the exam at Delhi. Luck smiled on him and he qualified.

He was called for the orientation tests to Kolkata. “The orientation tests were spread over three days, and included several aptitude tests and interviews,” he says. Since he had opted for a course in film direction, he was only tested on the creative side. “I was honest. I told them that in Kashmir there is no cinema, or related activity. So they asked me of my opinion of the most recent film I had seen, and questions of that sort.” The interviewers were impressed by his answers. He was one among the nine candidates selected for the course from all across the country.

When he finally joined the three-year PG diploma course, spread over six semesters, he was in for culture shock. “The environment is completely different. It is is a completely different place from Kashmir.”

The problem was compounded by the fact that the hostel did not have a mess. “For most of the three years my staple diet was Maggi noodles prepared in the room,” he says. But these were minor problems. For the first six months, he found it difficult to grasp whatever was being taught. “It was a completely new field for me.” When he shot his first film exercise, he was very depressed. “It was just not up to the mark.” But he did not lose hope. “I gave it my best effort,” says Shabir who challenged himself to the task. Soon he was topping all exams.

“I even received all the meritorious scholarships,” he adds. One of the films, he shot during the course, even won an award at a film festival in Texas. His final project in the course, was a film titled ‘Banafshe’ based on a Kashmiri boy who goes out to Kolkata to search for his father who is missing. The film was screened at the Osian film festival.

After passing out from the institute, he headed to Mumbai, where he assisted in the direction of a film ‘Banegi Apni Baat’. The film is about to be released. After this, he worked with Star Tv, for sometime as a unit director. Then he returned to Kashmir.

In Kashmir, he landed a job as the programming head of Big FM. He worked here for 4 months, before leaving the job, and heading back to film direction. Currently he is shooting a film about kids affected by conflict in Kashmir. For the film, he has secured funding from NHK-Japan. The film will be shown on the NHK channel in Japan upon completion.
Raja says that film making today is much easier to what it was in the past. “All it needs is patience and creativity. Due to the technology today, anyone can become a film maker.

 You need just a camera and a computer.” For those who see film making as a serious career option, he advices, “To learn the art of film making, go to a film school.” But he contends that the awareness related to the field is missing in Kashmir. “Even Jammu and Kashmir had a test centre for the entrance exam to FTI. But for four years no one applied, and they were left with no choice but to cancel the centre.”

He feels that this trend should change. He feels that youth in Kashmir needs to realize that there are a lot of fields other than medicine and engineering, where you can excel and make a name for yourself. He counts film making as one of these fields.  He says, “film making is an exciting career option. It is a highly creative field, where you are not only paid well, but you also get a chance to express yourself.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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