Friday, 6 February 2015

Workshop by Tanmay Agarwal: In Solidarity with Second Year Students of Direction

It is not the first time that i am coming across huge injustice being done in the name of pedagogy. Abuse and harassment in the name of education starts from the time a person enrolls in any educational institution. I will, however have to concede that it is in this film school that i met with the most dehumanizing practices carried out in the name of cinema.

There is something called 'film school culture', i came to know when i started my education here. As to what this precisely was, nobody had an answer. There were vague concepts. People did weed, drank, swore, discussed cinema, worshiped certain faculty, dismissed certain others and looked forward to the greater cinema that was soon going to happen. It all sounded fine, i could evade it or take it in. They only sounded like musings of a lost film enthusiast to me. But no, it was the norm. If you chose to be out of it, you weren't a filmmaker.

I was surprised when several of my fellow students gave me the key to good cinema. Listen to S Choudhary (one of the professors) when he was high. He only gave lessons when he was drunk. The sober classes weren't the real deal. Words of wisdom come only from an inebriated soul. People failed to understand what was wrong with such a statement. How much violence it contained. It only meant that those who didn't deem such a space fit for them were out of the 'great cinema' they dreamed of. Nobody seemed to quite understand what the importance of space was.

With the talk i had with the same professor about Tarun Tejpal i gave up on the much celebrated drinking sessions. It was simply not worth the wine while. Cinema i would explore, but kicking aside with confidence all that was created by a largely male, and desperately power seeking structure.

So when i heard what happened in the Lighting and Lensing workshop conducted under the 'guidance' of Tanmai Agarwal from two of my juniors in Direction and Screenplay Writing Department, i was not surprised. Infuriated, yes.

Oh, gurus, divine teachers, preachers of cinema and 'good' life, spare us poor souls, please. May be it's news to you, but really it's called common sense. People are equal. You are a teacher? No, you don't get to harass your pupils. You don't get to make them do manual labour in the name of education. If you chose to teach you chose to be responsible. You do that, and we shall then talk of cinema.

I learnt that the workshop was about seeking the meaning of life. That there was 'punishment'. One of the students was asked to carry bricks from one end of the campus to another and construct a brick structure which looked good. Another was asked to follow the former with her head held down and was asked not to speak to anybody else.

Punishment? An aesthetically brilliant brick wall? Oh dear sir, you truly are just another brick in the wall and we don't need no education to learn that.

I further learned that all the students were asked to make blog entries on the workshop every day with input given by the respected professor. If he didn't like what was written he would ask the students to change it. A little promotional work for his own website was demanded too. Wah. Wah. Applause. Whistle. Truly cinematic. 

I love blogging. While i am glad that the eight 'well behaved' students of the class started blogging i am shocked at the coercive nature of the teaching practices. I have been blogging about a lot of things happening on campus for more than a year now. There were professors who told the dean that i was engaging in slander, that i was calling him names. There were conscious efforts to portray my social media activities and blog posts as anti-institute. Where are the professors now? Why the blind eye towards this ridiculously mediocre exercise? 

Like during the time i raised my voice against ragging on campus i see that the classmates and faculty alike are ostracizing the two victims of 'film school culture'. They are being accused of ruining the otherwise splendid workshop. That itself is a clear indicator of violence. No, you don't get to accuse your fellow students of 'ruining it all'. Pursuit of happiness as one of the students who was harassed has aptly titled the workshop, [apparently Lighting and Lensing workshop was not about that, but about finding the meaning of life and getting enlightened] is not about silencing voices. All voices need to be heard and there is no hierarchy in it all. You speak, i speak, we all speak and let there be noise. Noise is good. Silence, is on the other hand, something which exists only to be broken. Film students, ain't you all, should be knowing this, i presume?

The problem in detail is on Sreecheta's blog and Mainak Guha's open letter to Tanmay Agarwal