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Subhash Ghai: Whistling Woods is going to stay alive

Last updated on: April 13, 2012 17:08 IST

Subhash Ghai: Whistling Woods is going to stay alive

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Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

"Whistling Woods is going to stay alive," Subhash Ghai assured the media at a press conference organised by the students and faculty members of Whistling Woods International held a suburban hotel in Mumbai.

The educational institution -- a joint venture between Ghai's production company Mukta Arts Ltd and the Maharashtra Films, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation -- ran into trouble, when the Supreme Court ordered Ghai to vacate the 14.5 acres property on April 4, as it will be taken over by the state government.

The remaining 5.5 acres, where the institute is constructed, would be taken over by the government on July 31, 2014, after all the ongoing courses at the institute are completed.

At a press conference, Ghai expressed his disappointment over the Supreme Court ruling and said, "It is a sad moment for us to see a labour of love, Whistling Woods, being asked to vacate the land that over 1,000 students have home for the past six years. Whistling Woods will continue operations in Mumbai and other states (Whistling Woods has a branch in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh). We remain firm in our commitment to education and will bring the best of training and teaching to aspirants and students, who want to make a mark in the media, film and television industry."

The filmmaker claimed he had full faith in the judiciary and was certain the government would come out with a better solution. "I have the highest regard for judiciary; I respect the law. It is unfortunate that this thing happened with no fault of ours. We are sure that the government will look into it and find a way. That is my appeal to them," Ghai said.


Image: Subhash Ghai
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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Subhash Ghai: I have the highest regard for judiciary

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The institute is located on land that has been allotted to Ghai by the government inside Film City, Goregaon, a western suburb in Mumbai.

The campus hosts films, television and advertising productions, and students can regularly visit these sets as part of their course work.

Apart from this, students have access to temporary sets and outdoor locations within the campus to make their films. From the latest sound mixing equipments to the best editing devices, the institute offers state-of-the-art technology to everyone.

Ghai explained that the government had allotted the land to him without any auction. "The land was not auctioned. When the government got to know about the project, they said there wouldn't be any need to auction the land, as it would be a joint venture with the government. Now, they say after evaluation of the land that it was given to us at a very cheap rate."

Will Ghai now buy the land from the government to rebuild the institute? "I haven't thought about it but I am sure I will be more vigilant as to where I buy the land, whether it's private or from the government."


Image: Students of Whistling Wood voice their opinion over SC verdict
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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Shabana Azmi: We will turn this crisis into an opportunity

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Film personalities like Ketan Mehta, Amol Gupte, Govind Nihalani, Nagesh Kukunoor and Boney Kapoor were also present at the press conference to support Ghai.

Shabana Azmi, who is one of the members of the academic advisory board at Whistling Woods since 2003, expressed her concern over the issue.

"In Chinese, the word for crisis and opportunity is the same," she said. "We will turn this crisis into an opportunity. I do believe Whistling Woods is filling a huge gap in providing training to students in departments of filmmaking. I would like all film students aspiring for training to get that opportunity."


Image: Shabana Azmi and Subhash Ghai
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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'A lot of careers are at stake'

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Various courses based on motion picture studies in theory, practical exercises and hands-on producing are offered at the institute. The average fees for most of the courses are Rs 5 lakh per year.

Justifying the fees charged by the institute, faculty member Rabia says, "A student does five to seven projects during the course, which is done on the latest technology available. If you bifurcate the cost, the tution fee comes to around Rs 2 lakhs. At the end of the day, the fee that we take from students is given back to them."

First year student Panakaj Sabnani agrees: "I have paid Rs 6.5 lakhs for the two-year course and I think every penny is worth it. I don't think any other institute in India can match the kind of infrastructure and facilities provided here. Also, people from the film fraternity teach us."

He added that the Supreme Court decision would affect his career in the long run. "The decision cannot be ignored as a lot of careers are at stake. Companies, who would offer jobs, will ask the credentials of the institute and if the institute does not even exist, it is a serious concern," he explained.


Image: Subhash Ghai talks about Whistling Woods
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani

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'The institute wants to educate and give opportunities to talented individuals'

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Journalism student Shreyjay Mishra felt it was a sad day for students, who were planning to make a career in filmmaking. "Quite a few veterans from the industry teach us. Just recently, the producer of Mission Impossible had a session with the students. How many students get a chance like this?" she asked.

Raghu Naik, a student of an editing course, claimed it was because of Whistling Woods that he could pursue his dreams. "I have been given substantial scholarship by the institute to be able to complete my education. That shows it wants to educate and give opportunities to talented individuals who have dreams like me," he says.

The students are also gathering support online through various social media platforms and online petitions.

Will Whistling Woods win in its fight, and continue to open its doors to aspiring filmmakers? Let's wait and wait.


Image: Faculty memebers of Whistling Woods talk about the SC verdict


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