Exactly 50 years ago, Frenchman Michel Wyn arrived in Pune to teach cinematography to students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), and ended up making a film that won FTII its first international award. Now 81, he remembers FTII as a tiny building in the middle of nowhere, with just 25 students — back here today, he feels the institute is grander than ever.
Wyn recalls, “I was an alumnus of and professor at the French film school L’Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) (Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies), and was sent on a year-long tour to India to teach cinematography.
Just a couple of months into lecturing, I decided that I needed to speak less and shoot more — and that’s how the short film One Day was made, with an entirely student crew.”
A view of 1963’s Pune, the film depicts timelessness, traditionalism and modernism in a typical Indian town and the life of a common man here — shot in just a day. “It came as a sweet surprise when this film bagged the Golden Gate Award, San Francisco, for it was not just the first international award for FTII, but for me too!
After he returned to France, Wyn remembers that he stopped teaching and got into filmmaking. He started off as an assistant director to renowned French filmmakers like René Clément, Henri Verneuil, and Christian-Jaque among others.
“When you work as an AD, life’s less about earning money and fame and more about learning, experimenting with genres, imbibing styles from veterans, travelling, and seeking influences,” Wyn told Mirror.
Eventually, he found his calling in television and directed known shows like La Demoiselle d’Avignon, La Cloche Tibetan, Fabien de la Drôme and Felicien Grevèche. “I played my best game on television. My first series was so popular that the streets of Paris used to literally be deserted every Monday, no jokes!
I saw no difference between cinema and television, for back then there were no ads, and I enjoyed complete freedom to control the script and cast the actors that deserved it. Without this freedom, one is not a director, but a mere technician.” Wyn added, “I choose work like the way I chose my wife — I have to fall head over heels in love with a script.
For instance, I worked in various genres with some of France’s best scriptwriters, but somehow, comedy was never my cup of tea.” When Wyn visited FTII on Tuesday, he was greeted warmly by professors. “I hoped to run into someone I knew, but it was wishful thinking.
I still remember the first time I arrived here, I was taken to a huge studio — bigger than any I had seen in France, with opulent sets and wonderful projectors — but just one bulb being manually shifted from one spotlight to the other! Today, FTII is grander than ever. I wouldn’t be lying if I say I haven’t seen any cinema school as wellequipped as FTII.”
Comparing Paris to Pune, he shares, “Paris still has traces of its older days. But when I landed in Pune, it seemed like a totally foreign city. I had to come to see what had become of the quaint little film school I had so adored — like a pilgrimage.”
Wyn also visited the AgaKhan palace, and is headed to Mumbai next. He added, “Today, 200 films are made in France every year. I don’t know Indian cinema too well, but I’m sure numbers here are way higher. I believe television may suffer from the Internet, but the magic of cinema — watching life unfold on the big screen — will never die.”
►►► The first time I arrived here, I was taken to a huge studio — bigger than any I had seen in France, with opulent sets and wonderful projectors — but just one bulb being manually shifted from one spotlight to the other
- WYN, Remembering his trip to FTII in 1963