Balancing the Wisdom Tree book launch

Book title: Balancing the Wisdom Tree: Anthology of FTII’s Women Alumni
Published by Publications Division, India as part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of FTII’s establishment
Edited by Gauri D Chakraborty
Book design: Anuj Malhotra

The book edited by IAWRT India chapter member Gauri D Chakraborty traces the journeys and work of women Alumni from Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII) since its inception. The publication is a collaboration between Publications Division, India and FTII, Pune.

Readers will get an opportunity to know the inspirations behind training in film from the first woman graduate Parvati Menon in 1966 to director Payal Kapadia, who was awarded at the Cannes in 2021. This range of experience sharing of women filmmakers is unforeseen in any earlier publication on cinema. 

Chakraborty, editor of the book is alumnus from the institution and conceptualized it. She was mentored by Reena Mohan, also an FTII alumnae and IAWRT Board member.

“The archiving of human stories carries the much-needed attention and significance to equate gender discourse on a larger scale. Therefore, it is also important that both practitioners as well as researchers indulge in the contents of this pioneering compilation. The book instigates thought to move beyond gender equity and towards creating gender balance – and hence the title Balancing the Wisdom Tree – Anthology of FTII’s Women Alumni,” shared Chakraborty.

Shabana Azmiji, internationally known actor and FTII Alumnae has given the foreword of the compilation. It adds the much-needed endorsement to the work. 

Arunaraje Patil, eminent filmmaker and FTII alumnus released the book at Kolkata along with the former director of FTII, Mr Bhupendra Kainthola (who is now DG, Press Information Bureau, east zone). The other alumni who supported the herculean were Gissy Michael and Dorothy Varma.

Work started in November 2020 and the book was formally released on 8th March 2022 as part of International Women’s Day celebrations at the 45th International Kolkata Book Fair.

The book celebrates and acknowledges the contribution of women alumni who were part of this institution. As a premier film education institute, established in the early 60’s, FTII has the impeccable record of producing some of the most varied and diverse storytellers in the country. The content registers and celebrates the insurmountable contribution of the alumnae of the Institute as pioneers, innovators, creators, storytellers and, above all, achievers in their chosen careers.

The book has three segments which include conversations between alumni, personal reflections but, most importantly, it details the work of approximately 503 women who graduated from FTII between 1965-2016. FTII is the premier training institution in Asia.

The first segment of the book, Conversations creates the dialogue on the choices, pathways, commonalties, individual trajectories and politics of the alumni who engage with each other beliefs and work.

The second segment is personal memoirs titled as Reflections. It uncovers the nuances and shades of these girls being at film school and the learnings.

The last segment Bionotes lists down the work of 503 women alumni over sixty years with a short profile of their work and contribution to the media and entertainment sector of India and as participants of its evolution. The significance of this publication is that it includes all women who ever graduated in the last six decades.

“This publication registers and celebrates the insurmountable contribution of the alumnae of the Institute as pioneers, innovators, creators, storytellers and, above all, achievers in their chosen careers. Their diverse trajectories correspond with the simultaneity of the evolution of the medium itself. The unique journey of each confirms the need of cumulating memoirs and data on alumnae from the most prestigious film training school in Asia, my own alma mater – Film and Television Institute of India, Pune,” said Chakraborty.

She said the book will initiate innumerable research possibilities for future scholars in gender studies.

“The passage through its 60 years of existence is not only revealing of the socio-cultural dynamic in India but has the potency to inform the coming decades as well. A series of conversations and reminiscences uncover this transformation,” she added.

Quantitatively, a brief insight into the number of alumnae reveals another important narrative. In the 35 years between 1965–2000, 150 women graduated while approximately 350 women were trained between 2000–2019, the data being a clear indication that in recent years far greater numbers of women have enrolled at the premier institution for formal training in film and television.

Yet these are on a significantly lower scale considering far more men trained from the Institute have entered the multi-structured film, media education and training landscape.

Read the Review on Scroll by Nandini Ramnath:

The book is available on Amazon and can also be sourced by emailing  [email protected] with cc to [email protected]