Bollywood films are probably not the favourite genre of faculty at the New York Film Academy but a branch of the acting school is to open next year in India to groom a new generation of filmmakers.
Opening a film training school in India is a no-brainer. There are few such institutes in the country, which explains why 100 Indian students enrolled with the academy in Manhattan last year. One of India's biggest stars at the moment is Imran Khan, who studied there.
India has a gigantic number of young people; around 35 per cent of the 1.2 billion population is under the age of 20. They all love Bollywood. And they would do anything to get into the industry. Sensing a market for its training, the academy is opening a branch in Greater Noida, just outside New Delhi. 'The building is ready but we need time to do the interiors and the studios. We will start with around 100 students and we are already getting a lot of interest,' says Kitty Koo, the academy's Hong Kong-based president of marketing and business development. The school plans to offer its regular curriculum; the only concession to Bollywood is a course on singing and dancing.
Started in 1992 in Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Centre, the New York Film Academy began by offering an innovative curriculum and intensive hands-on filmmaking programmes. Later, it expanded to Los Angeles. It also has a campus in Abu Dhabi, and two in Australia.
'Frankly, we need good acting classes,' says film buff Satish Verma. 'It's time for Indian actors to put away those silly glycerine drops they use for tears and do it properly.'
Manish Ahuja, an industry analyst with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, agrees that the academy is needed. 'People in the industry complain that they have to spend 18 months training new entrants because they aren't familiar with the latest technology or techniques. And the industry desperately needs more good scriptwriters,' he says.
The academy boasts guest lecturers such as Steven Spielberg and Kevin Spacey, and it plans to fly out famous Hollywood celebrities to its Indian campus. But it will not have any Indian faculty. News agency IANS quoted Koo as saying they approached some Bollywood actors but 'their philosophy is all about money'. Koo says: 'We follow a philosophy of giving back and sharing with students. Hollywood celebrities enjoy teaching, they want to share what they have.'
But, speaking to the South China Morning Post, Koo says: 'I hope that once we open, the attitude will change and they'll want to give back to their industry and their country.'