Leading Powerfully in the Education Space
Amala Akkineni
Amala Akkineni , Director, Annapurna International School for Film and Media

Henry Kissinger, one of the greatest statesmen of America said that leadership is to “bring his people from the place where they are to a place where they never have been”.  At AISFM, we take it a step further. We believe that leadership is to facilitate a journey where our students learn to explore and creatively narrate and present fascinating universe(s) that they and their audience have never been to.  This exploration is experiential. It grows out of experience, requires patience and a lot of time, and its leadership can be enjoyed only in the long run.

The long run has never ever been so worth it. The Indian film industry reached INR 158.90 billion (US$ 2.47 billion) in FY18.  Advantage India – There is a strong demand for good and relevant film and media – a growing young population that looks at the industry as a space where they can grow and make careers.  It’s a space that leverages the increased usage of 3G, 4G and portable devices to offer content that is relevant to a global audience across generations.  There could never have been a better time for AISFM to lead the space of film and media education.

Walking around the vibrant campus of Annapurna Studios where AISFM is housed, I see youngsters busy filming their semester projects. The higher education system in India has been transforming along with the landscape of life itself.  Students are expected to attend day long classes; and life demands many of them to take on part-time jobs to pay their fees. It is hence, that we not only work towards creating educated and skilled young professional for the industry; but also,  search for ways to provide them with an opportunity to create memories and networks they will cherish for life.

Film and media education is heavily dependent on technology. It demands a creative approach and a process-oriented academic rigor. The film and media is a sector that is slowly and surely seeking order – in an environment that is competitive, creative and risky; an industry that demands an astronomical level of expertise coupled with discipline.  Needless to say, the best and only way to get ready to excel in this environment is through rigorous training and education early on. Our children do not have the privilege of time like us. They do not have the time to spend half their life on apprenticeships or only working on the job to “learn the ropes”. Professionalism is a demand from day one, and we at AISFM, have met that demand through the rigor of attending to its students on all three fronts – Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.

So what is it that sets AISFM apart is our sense of purpose. Our purpose is to open young, impressionable and energized student minds by exposing them to a wide range of possibilities and equip them well to take on these opportunities along with positive re-enforcement of life skills. Our aim is to encourage them to think, understand, enquire, question and debate ideas. It is to encourage them to understand, that to conform for the sake of conformity is unavailing. It is to reinforce the knowledge that competence is about being curious, about listening, understanding and then staying engaged in the journey towards development -both self and society. Our purpose is to see our students grow into global citizens who are socially responsible, empathetic and adaptable

AISFM is about recognizing and leveraging opportunities to work in teams to understand human dynamics – a ground work essential to excel in the industry as professionals. Beyond the curriculum and Annapurna studio campus, we ensure talented and committed faculty closely lead and mentor student growth. The student experience is a non-negotiable FIRST.

And it is this sense of purpose that is the driving factor for me. As the Director of AISFM, as a successful artist, and as a successful woman leader in the education space, my role has been to enable the synthesis of AISFM vision and its goals, the fusion of students’ dreams and the harsh reality of the outside world and most importantly bringing together different minds to one table that will co-create a learning space.  As a leader, I have found joy in watching students create between the words ACTION and CUT. My role as a leader has been to enable these students to have access to the people who will help them create well. My purpose has been to give purpose to all in AISFM and to keep the purpose alive.

The creative space is a mystery for many, yet creativity is the essence of life itself. Each of us has creative energy and when we experience it we come alive, we connect to our inner strength. Some of us are fortunate to do this early in life and others not so fortunate. Whether your creativity manifests as narration, oration, imagining, writing, performing, playing a sport, building, transforming, repairing damaged things, healing people or animals, designing, leading, educating, envisioning, these are all creative energies. Participating in the process is immensely satisfying no matter what field you choose. Creativity is good for you and good for the nation.

I recently did a cameo in a Hindi film called Karwaan, produced by Ronnie Screwallah, directed by Akarsh Khurana. The story had a young man played by Dulqure Salman, trapped in a job he hates, for a boss he hates, in a life without meaning. His life gets a spark of hope through the tragic event of his estranged father’s death and a mix up of coffins, giving him reason and courage to quit his job to go on a journey. He teams up with Irfaan Khan and Mithila Palkar who help him see life differently and push his horizons to new boundaries. He finally understands that there is nothing to prevent him from following his dream.

The story struck a chord with many who have struggled with the dilemma of doing what their family thinks best or follow their dreams. All that is new or different seems dangerous or non-productive, causing parents to shun change. But change is our only guarantee. Whether one embraces it and adapts or resists and resents is a choice.

No one can create alone and one certainly needs a patron. Nagarjuna, my husband-actor-producer, along with a host of eminent advisors from across the globe co-creates along with us. At AISFM we have a strong team of educators and professionals and it is our proud privilege to be leading new voyages to promising destinations in the galaxy of education.

About the Author

Amala Akkineni is an award winning Indian film actress, bharata natyam dancer, and an animal welfare activist. She was awarded the ‘Nari Shakti Puraskaar’ by the then President Pranab Mukherjee on the occasion of International Women’s Day in New Delhi at Rashtrapati Bhavan on March 8th 2017. Amala has acted in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Bollywood films. Amala is also the co-founder of The Blue Cross of Hyderabad, a non-government organization (NGO) in Hyderabad, India.

Her substantial background in films and television and her social commitment led her to be appointed as Director, Annapurna International School for Film and Media. In this role, Amala seeks to fulfill Dr. A.N.R’s dream to guide future generations on a skilled and educated path for professions in film, media, and animation.

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