Amala Akkineni: Educating and Organising the Film Education Space in India

Movies are often considered as the gateway to reality. The current geographical, political, cultural, and spiritual landscapes are beautifully portrayed in the movies through the director’s vision. However, making a movie is never too easy, as it requires more than just hard work and perseverance.

Films have given the young generation a platform to express their art form and tell their stories to the world. In India, despite having more than a century-old history in filmmaking, there are very few institutes that teach filmmaking. Education about films and television is lacking in the country and is yet to reach the aspiring filmmakers of tomorrow.

Identifying this need and being an impacting figure in the film industry, Amala Akkineni, the Governing Board Member and Director at Annapurna College of Film and Media, has taken up the responsibility to educate and train the young generation about different aspects of filmmaking and culminate the long-cherished dream of the legendary film actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao.

Prioritising Education Over Career as an Actor

Amala Akkineni has had an impactful career as an actress in the Indian film industry. Despite working in social welfare for 20 years and having a successful career in the film industry, she took up the task on request from her family to educate and train the upcoming filmmakers at Annapurna College of Film and Media.

She is a student of the esteemed Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts. She has ingrained the culture of discipline, artistic practice, and spiritual values in her teachings and governing at the Annapurna College of Film and Media.

Integrating a Classical Dancer’s Discipline with the Vision of a Legendary Actor

Amala Akkineni is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and being part of the Kalakshetra troupe, she was deeply inspired by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale who was known for catalysing the renaissance of the Bharatnatyam dance form. Despite being a great dancer, she was also an educator, a Member of Parliament, and the founder and director of Kalakshetra.

“She (Rukmini Devi) believed there was no better way to truly learn than through the University of Life. She questioned teaching history without the effort to visit the place where the monuments of the civilisation stand and to experience those civilisations through their art, poetry, and literature. Hers was a living education, and it was an adventure studying under her leadership. Most of all, she knew how to draw out a student’s potential. She never gave up on you,” says Amala.

Another prominent figure that inspired Amala was her father-in-law, Shri Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, who shared a similar belief as Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale. Despite having no formal education, he was gifted with immense wisdom and worked hard to develop his talent and career.

“I am so deeply inspired by and grateful to both stalwarts who have contributed immensely to my success at Annapurna College,” says Amala about her inspiration to join the education sector.

Carrying Forward the Legacy of Akkineni Nageswara Rao

The Annapurna College of Film and Media is the brainchild of Mr Nageshwara Rao with a vision to bring professionalism to the unorganised film industry. Being a visionary and successful actor himself, he brought together infrastructure, technology, and education to strengthen the foundation of the film industry in India. His respect towards technicians, artists, and educators allowed him to shape the college and make it what it is today.

Mr Akkineni Nagarjuna, a film actor, and producer, strongly believes in education for being the basis to revolutionise the film industry. “Learning by doing is the best way, and when empowered by education, the knowledge can be transformative to the individual and the industry,” believes the chairman of the institute Mr Akkineni Nagarjuna.

The Annapurna college provides hands-on experience to its students along with the theoretical knowledge that enables the students to be ready for industry.

On a Visionary Mission to Professionalise the Unorganised Film Industry

Since its inception, the Annapurna College of Film and Media has included value-based learning in its ecosystem. Under the guidance of Amala Akkineni, the college has not only taught but also practised esteemed values like Integrity, Empathy, Social Responsibility, and Adaptability. This provided flexibility and created an inclusive environment at the campus for the overall development of students.

With an extension of the founder’s vision, the college aims for:

  • Providing holistic education on campus to stimulate inquiry, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Excellence.
  • Mentoring for aesthetic applications of craft.
  • Explore and experiment with entrepreneurial skills and business acumen.
  • Nurturing students to be global citizens who encourage diversity by moving into the world to practice.

Committed to Educational Excellence

Amala, following the founder’s footsteps, has made Annapurna College a hub of educational excellence. She has the vision to inspire a new generation of filmmakers. There has been a continuous revision and update in the college curriculum that matches the current trend in the industry.

“Cinema is an interdisciplinary process and learning at the campus begins from day one. The industry’s experienced faculty at the campus are instrumental in delivering technical subjects. Every theoretical concept is followed by practice, projects, and creative feedback to map the student’s growth and improvement,” says the director.

The common love for films has brought students from different cultures, backgrounds, and languages together under one roof at Annapurna College of Film and Media. The director of the college has recognised that academic rigour is not enough to improve learning outcomes. This is the reason that constant creative feedback is included in the curriculum. Along with that, the course objective also includes understanding concepts, developing creative practice, experience, exposure to technology, etc.

Changing with the Change in Conventional Education

As W.E.B. Du Bois believed, ‘Education must not simply teach work, it must teach life.’ She has understood the impact of interactive digital space and has blended the medium to support creative learning, innovative teaching, and foster the students’ individual potential.

During the lockdown, with the aid of technology and tools, collaborative discussions, projects, and assignments were conducted for the students. Along with being the audience on the digital platform, students also got an in-depth insight into creating engaging content.

Amala believes that “the real world offers an equally rich dimension to their education. They are encouraged to experience life around them, face and navigate real-life challenges and learn from them. The virtue of being pragmatic, passionate, and constantly evolving is imbibed in them.”

Overcoming the Digital Challenge

“We have a lost generation before us and misinterpreting them or alienating them is a danger. Every technological shift has both positive and negative repercussions. While technology has its merits, it also has far-reaching consequences on geopolitics, the state, societies, families, and individuals. Even though the next generation knows the benefits technology has to offer, to teach them to be mindful of it and not be subservient to it is a challenge that we as educators face today,” says Amala Akkineni.

Overcoming this challenge, the institute director constantly consults with and inspires the team to navigate and evolve. With the backing of an industry-ready team, the college was online during the pandemic and delivered a productive and vibrant semester. Sixty-eight industry professionals, including top filmmakers from India, took masterclasses and provided proper guidance to future filmmakers.

Enlightenment for Future Film Educators

The concept of education has undergone many changes over the years. It has constantly evolved with the demands in the industry and drawing out a roadmap in the film education space is extremely important. Amala advises the upcoming entrepreneurs in the film space to get the right team of academicians who prioritise learning. She also believes that it is the first step in the right direction.

“Any form of education deals with shaping a generation of individuals who perform their functions within the frame of a society,” says Amala. “The institution as an entity should foster and enable democratic dialogue, intellectual fervour, and a quest for knowledge. Drawing from our example at Annapurna, all the practices mentioned above help us produce and encourage cinema in its purest form,” she added.

Roadmap For the Future

For film students and professionals, working in an actual film studio gives a hands-on experience of working in the industry. The new state-of-the-art campus with production floors, post-production facilities, sound and editing studios, amphitheatre, and screening halls, is the next big step for Annapurna College of Film and Media.

“Virtual productions are the next big thing in Film, and our Alumni are already working with India’s first Virtual Studio in Hyderabad,” added Amala Akkineni.

Along with that, the college is planning to increase collaboration through the CILECT network to give the faculty and students a diverse exposure to a variety of educational approaches and films. However, the immediate goal of the college is to spread the word about Creative Education and the much-needed recognition and encouragement to creative careers.

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