Friday, December 03, 2021

Studying cinema: NFAI film studies research fellowships gradually gains momentum

In February 2014, the Estimates Committee of India had presented a report in the Lok Sabha which pointed out infrastructural and functional requirements of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI).

Written by Garima Mishra | Pune |
March 14, 2016 1:28:22 am
NFAI759 The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) campus on Law College Road in Pune

In February 2014, the Estimates Committee of India had presented a report in the Lok Sabha which pointed out infrastructural and functional requirements of the National Film Archive of India (NFAI). One of them was the neglect of ‘film studies’ on the part of NFAI.

After a long gap of seven years — since when the fellowships were discontinued from 2008 to 2014 — the film studies research fellowship programmes were reintroduced in June 2015. And so far, grants have been awarded for four research fellowships, three monographs and one audio-visual history project on Indian cinema.

Director of NFAI, Prakash Magdum, said, “There’s a significant increase in the grant amount as well. As against earlier, when the sanctioned amount for research fellowship was at least Rs 35,000, it is Rs 85,000.” The research fellowship programmes were started by NFAI in the year 1983.

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The developments since June 2015 have been significant given the fact that between the year 2003 to 2013, a period of 10 years, the number of research fellowships awarded was just seven. The reason for the lack of significant number of research works on India cinema, given by the MoIB as mentioned in the 2014 report, stated, “The subject of ‘film studies’ in India is not given much importance in Indian Universities. Only a handful of universities like the Jadavpur University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Milia Islamia University offer research work on cinema with low grants. This is one of the reasons which contributes to insignificant research work on Indian Cinema.”

Commenting on the low number of research fellowships given by the NFAI in the past, KS Sasidharan, who was associated with NFAI from 1987 till 2008, holding different positions, said, “The applications of research fellowships would go for approval to the advisory committee that was constituted by the I&B Ministry. Ideally, the committee members should meet at least in six months, to discuss various matters, that included matters related to NFAI as well.”

“The frequency of these meetings was very low and that delayed decisions on various important matters, one of them being approval of research fellowships. There were times when the meetings were postponed a number of times and didn’t take place for more than a year. I recollect that during my time, only research fellowship was approved once a year,” he added.

Sasidharan joined NFAI, Bengaluru as the regional officer and took over as deputy director and curator at NFAI, Pune, from 1994 to 2002, followed by the post of director from 2002 to 2008. “Ideally, to rule out this delay, the Ministry should have empowered the director of the institute to approve the application,” he added.

Pointing out other reasons for less number of research fellowships, Sasidharan added that unlike today, when there is no dearth of budget at NFAI, earlier, the institute struggled for funds.

Currently, the director of NFAI is on the advisory committee. Magdum said that in order to promote research on cinema, more and more institutes in the country should come forward for offering research work on cinema with grants.

“And NFAI, as an institute, would like to support them in whatever ways we can,” he added.

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