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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.



Jyotrhi Venkatesh

The launch of Shift Focus – A School for Cinema and Life by my dear friend and National Award-winning filmmaker Arunaraje Patil held virtually recently was a mega-success. Gracing the video via audio on Google Meet, award-winning celebrated actor Shabana Azmi spoke on a wide range of topics from resources for acting to the future of cinema.

“The entire initiative is also a learning, and life is to me the most important thing you can do, and not just for an actor but for any artist – life must be its resource base because what happens in the process of becoming a star, which will happen if you become a successful actor in the Hindi Film industry – you start losing the contact of ever one, then you never get into a rickshaw, you never travel by bus, you never speak to the grocer. You don’t speak to anybody apart from your verified stream of people who surround you. So you get more and more isolated. So in the process of becoming a star you lose what it is to be an actor, which is basic connection to life. You have to develop the humility that you are not the center of the earth.”


The 2-hour event, hosted by Anku Goyal, was graced by father-daughter duo Subhash Ghai and Meghna Ghai-Puri, who reminisced about working closely with Arunaraje while setting up their own school Whistling Woods International. “Shift Focus is looking beyond the obvious,” Subhash Ghai said, as he greeted his audience.Kavita Khanna reminisced on her association and close friendship of decades with Arunaraje.

The two spoke of Kavita’s late husband, iconic star Vinod Khanna, and his generosity – that Arunaraje witnessed first-hand on the set of Rihaee. “I am so full of emotion and admiration. I love the spirit of Shift Focus,” Mrs Khanna said. Leena Yadav, director of award-winning drama Parched, praised Arunaraje for her new initiative and enthralled all when asked what cinema means to her: “Once you start making films, cinema is life and life is cinema and both blend into one another. Making Parched was my Shift Focus moment and I realised how enriching that can be!” Yadav said.

Arunaraje who is also a writer, editor, director and producer, passed out of the Film Institute of India with a gold medal and was the first trained girl technician to come out of the Institute and the first woman technician in the film industry. Advertising films, documentaries, television serials and features – she has done them all.

Her feature films include (the first three as a part of the duo Aruna-Vikas) Shaque (Vinod Khanna, Shabana Azmi), Gehrayee (Dr.Lagu, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri), Situm (Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah), and Rihaee (Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Naseeruddin Shah), Patita Pavana & Patita Pavani (Sukanya Kulkarni, Raju Khandagale), Bhairavi (Ashwini Bhave, Sridhar), Keh Do Na (Simone Singh, Parveen Dabas), Tum (Manisha Koirala, Rajat Kapoor) and Firebrand in Marathi produced by Priyanka Chopra and released on Netflix last year in 2019.

Her television work includes Bhakri ani Phool and Shaadi Ya __ Many of her films have strong women themes and she has represented women in many forums. She has been passionate about empowering women and men too to create a new equation of gender equality where they can live harmoniously, their relationships based on mutual love and respect.

Actively involved in film education, she has been a part of decision-making bodies and teaching the subjects of Screenwriting, Direction, Editing & Production in many film schools including Film & Television Institute of India, Pune and Whistling Woods International Film School, heading the Academics as Vice-President, as well as the Direction department in the past. She has been a strong voice for documentaries and has headed the Indian Documentary Producers association as President, twice..Her autobiography called Freedom – My story published by Harper Collins was released in 2017.

“Our aim is to leave the participants with more than knowledge and know-how! Passionate as we are about Cinema, we would like to leave the participants at the end of our courses equally passionate about living a life that they enjoy, riding both the high and low waves of life that are inevitable!There is no dearth of information on the net. We believe in the quality of teaching that would make the biggest difference.

Our intention is to create the future not just for cinematic expression of the people in our courses but for lives well lived. Our school will be a school committed to the highest quality of teaching, creating accesess for every kind of person to discover their unique self-expression in the medium of Cinema and communicate with confidence to the world, inside of an extraordinary-life”, signs off Aruna Raje.