Creative documentary course

The course announces a collaboration with Thinking Film and Goethe - Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, commencing 2017.

Thinking Film initiative supports pedagogical interventions and enquiries in film and other forms of image making. Goethe -  Institut /  Max Mueller Bhavan is a cultural organization, active across the world. In collaboration with various local partners, the institute promotes a wide spectrum of cultural, artistic and reflexive programs and projects.

The Creative Documentary Course (CDC) at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts & Communication (SACAC) New Delhi is the first of its kind in India. Initiated in 2013, the course offers an intensive filmmaking experience with an integrated approach that opens out the world of cinema to students, enabling the participants to search for their own voice. Designed for students from diverse backgrounds, CDC has had three editions so far.

The curriculum is dynamic and responsive to the learning curve of students, with sustained mentoring and detailed conceptual and technical inputs in all the modules. Through rigorous exercises and projects the students delve into all key aspects of filmmaking- ideation, research, scripting, shooting, sound recording, editing and sound design. Mentored by some of the most eminent names in documentary filmmaking from within and outside India, our students have undergone an intensive creative process of learning through consistent exposure to screenings, discussions, lectures and workshops that are formulated to develop a larger understanding of cinema and the world around us.

Our student films have travelled across the world, but more importantly, the students speak of a journey that has changed them significantly and created a new understanding of life and of representation. A vital aspect of the course is individual mentoring, and so our student intake is deliberately kept low – to allow for detailed, personal sessions with faculty at each stage of learning.

At the core of the course is you, the curious, enthusiastic student of cinema and we are committed to mentoring your journey into this unique, fascinating world of documentary filmmaking by offering you a strong, steady foundation. It has been three wonderful editions of the course, filled with learning and exploration, and we keenly look forward to the course in 2018.

How will you benefit from the course?

What comes to your mind when you think about documentary films? Have you ever thought about the different story telling styles that documentary filmmaking allows for? Is documentary different from fiction or do the boundaries between the two blur constantly, creating newer and wider ways of looking at our realities? We at the CDC strongly believe in moving beyond fixed categories like ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ films. And we welcome our students to partake of this journey.

By being a part of the course, you will benefit by acquiring-

  • Balanced set of theoretical and practical knowledge of documentary filmmaking.
  • Extensive exposure and learning from some of the most experienced contemporary documentary film makers.
  • One on one mentoring with faculty to discover your own language and cinematic expression.
  • An opportunity to direct and edit your own, individual student film production

The students in our course embark on an adventurous, meditative journey of filmmaking with one primary focus- that of searching for their own voice. We work with the belief that all narratives, themes and subjects have been addressed by someone, somewhere, sometime. True originality lies in the filmmaker’s own perspective, her/his own unique position, reflections and perceptions.

Gone are the days when the word documentary only evoked images of people being interviewed, hand held camera movements or heavy god-like voice-overs. The form of documentary has outgrown these older and limited definitions several decades back, in India and across the world. It was in the 1920s that John Grierson defined documentary as ‘ a creative treatment of actuality ’. For us today, in whatever way we choose to interpret this definition, a documentary remains a creative act. It is a cinematic expression – subjective, and rich in potential.

Eminent Visiting Faculty for the Course

Our students have had an opportunity to interact with and learn from eminent practitioners, artists and scholars from India and abroad. Some names are -Amar Kanwar, Amit Mahanti, Anirban Datta, Anugyan Nag, Anupama Chandra, Aparna Sanyal, Asheesh Pandya, Avijit Mukul Kishore, Bhamati Sivapalan, Gargi Sen, Gustav Hamos, Ira Bhaskar, Iram Ghufran, Kersti Uibo, Kislay, Laura Di Nitto, Maya Rao, Nilita Vachani, Nirmal Chander, Priya Sen, Priyanka Chhabra, R. V. Ramani, Rahul Roy, Rajula Shah, Reena Mohan, Ritika Kaushik, Saba Dewan, Samreen Farooqui, Shabani Hassanwalia, Shubha Mudgal, Sherna Dastur, Subasri Krishnan, Yousuf Saeed and Udit Khurana.

Awards and Festival Screenings of our Student Films

Our holistic and comprehensive approach to pedagogy prepares our students to emerge as creative and confident individuals, with excellent command over the various aspects of filmmaking. Our student films have been shown and awarded at various important national and international film festivals such as-

Delhi International Film Festival
Delhi Shorts International Film Festival
Dhaka International Film Festival
Dharamsala International Film Festival
IAWRT Asian women’s film festival 2015
India International Film Festival of Prayag
Kolkata Shorts International film festival, 2015
Laadli Film Festival 2015
Nashik International Film Festival
National Student Film Awards (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India)
Pärnu International Film Festival, Estonia
Students Film Festival of India
The Bangalore Queer Film Festival
Vibgyor International film festival
We care film festival
Women Making Films
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan 


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What is a Documentary?

The understanding of documentary and the forms it can inhabit has been severely constrained for various reasons, particularly in pedagogy – resulting in a strange anomaly between the practice of documentary (that has an immense range and richness) and the teaching of it. We try to make a small move to start correcting that. And so we look at documentary as being capable of much more than is commonly imagined, and suggest that the constraints just may be of our own making.

Our aim is to nurture a re-understanding, a re-interpretation of cinematic practices where the reality around us becomes our ground of creation and expression. The course equips you with skills that are equally useful for `documentary,’ `fiction’ and anything in between or beyond!  But most importantly, your learning at the CDC propels you to reexamine and reflect on your relationship with the world within you and outside. How do we engage, as human beings and as filmmakers to our personal, social and political realities? How do we perceive the world? How does our perception influence the perceived? Does our gaze not affect that which is looked at? How do we understand what we see? The CDC is a place to learn not just filmmaking, but a little more about who you are.

The course encourages students to work with image, sound, time and space in ways that are innovative and exploratory. It seeks to develop a keen sense of listening and observation, instill meticulous research skills and open up the mind to go beyond the tried and tested, and into the realm of new possibilities. Exposure to world cinema is an integral part of the learning. An active and engaged viewing culture coupled with one on one mentoring creates an environment that enables students to evolve their own practice. 

It is an exciting time to be a filmmaker, as the possibilities are infinite. As we move forward in our work, it is also important to look at our context and our history. What are we the inheritors of, who are our ancestors? Exploring this can help us gain another perspective, and a deeper understanding of our work and ourselves. As we make films, we also make history, our mark in this world.


Perceiving, experiencing and representing reality, we become the creators of narratives. What are the stories that are thus born? How do we want to tell these stories? The course creates a conducive atmosphere for these journeys. The students are encouraged to sharpen their own insights and articulate their own points of view, as a way of discovering their individual voice.  Therefore, we are geared towards providing our students with a strong grounding in all aspects of film craft.

The key features of our curriculum are

  • Integrated approach- Our pedagogical design breaks down the distinction between Content and Form– the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of storytelling; Theory and Practice- what we study and how we realize these concepts; the Creative and Technical – we do not look at the technical as merely acquiring software and hardware skills. Rather, technique is a carrier of meaning- it creates the very aesthetics which shape our films. Our students are encouraged to unearth and understand the links between these concepts and begin their journey as filmmakers who are open to exploration and experimentation.
  • Holistic filmmaking skills– In-depth, hands on, and holistic learning of all aspects of filmmaking is a unique aspect of our curriculum. Unlike most other film courses in India that offer a specialized learning in one area of filmmaking alone, at the CDC the students are mentored in all aspects such as camera, sound, editing, ideation, research, script and direction. These are dealt with in detail in our course through practical exercises and theoretical engagement. The practice of cinema (non fiction as well as fiction) benefits greatly from an understanding of all creative and technical aspects of the art. After completing the course, the students have a varied choice to pursue the skill they want- sound, editing, camera and/or direction. Further, given that documentary budgets are often small thus requiring multitasking, a detailed knowledge of all filmmaking aspects equips our students for their future projects as well. There’s also a freedom and inconspicuousness in working alone, or in a team of two, that can be important for some kinds of documentary work.
  • Intensive mentoring– We engage with students through individual and group mentoring in addition to exercises, lectures, discussions and participatory workshops. Along with collective classes, the course emphasizes on one on one  mentoring of the students across various projects that are designed for their learning. We believe that true learning comes from within; you are the creator of your ideas; we are only mentors who help guide your voice find its unique expression. Individual mentoring is critical to the learning curve of our students.
  • Practical knowledge– From the first semester onwards, the students undertake short individual and group filmmaking exercises and projects that address various stages of filmmaking- conceptualisation, research, pre-production and post-production. Through interactive, hands-on modules/ workshops with experienced filmmakers, students evolve their understanding of framing, sound, narrative devices and representational frameworks in documentary practice.
  • Student Productions– The course is a balance between collective and individual learning, since both these aspects are key to documentary practice. Filmmaking involves team work and therefore the students work in groups so that they can contribute in varied ways to their peers’ efforts and internalize the ethos of working together to realize an idea that is the ‘film’. Alongside, each student directs and edits her/his own film in the last semester of the course- an original short documentary based on a subject in or near Delhi.
  • Written self appraisal by students– Students reflect on their work, looking at their experiences, strengths and weaknesses so as to gain more from the course and develop an insight into their own learning curve. This process of writing brings to the fore experiences, learnings, problems, challenges, and how they were met.
  • Wide exposure to the world of cinema– Film screenings, discussions, conversations and talks which feature directors, writers, editors, cinematographers, sound recordists, sound designers, other artists and scholars are integral to the course and key to the learning process at the CDC.
  • Preparing you for the future– The learning methodology addresses the practical, professional scenario of documentary filmmaking, where more often than not, limited budgets and/or intimate shooting situations do not allow for large shooting crews. The students are thus trained in all filmmaking aspects so that they can be self-reliant and independent of other external constraints in their future professional lives as filmmakers.
Course Structure

The course follows a semester system and covers four semesters in all. Each semester comprises a balanced mix of theory and practice based modules and workshops with experienced filmmakers in the field. The last semester is an extended one as all individual students work on their final Diploma film project. It is mandatory for students to attend classes and participate in all course work, which includes research and readings.

Exposure and sensitisation to various facets of life, art and politics through site visits to screenings, film festivals, performances and exhibitions permeates the time spent in the course.

The key strokes of the semesters are-

Semester I: Looking afresh. The beginning of practice 
  • Finding new orientations- an introduction to all aspects of filmmaking: ideation, camera, sound, editing.
  • Understanding and analysing the various media around us.
  • Documentary film history, with special emphasis on Indian documentary.
  • Study of critical ethical and aesthetic concepts related to documentary.
  • The appreciation of world cinema (fiction and non fiction) with a historical perspective.
  • Regular film screenings with contextual discussion.
  • Developing critical and analytical skills through conversations, presentations and written exercises.
  • Understanding the language of cinema through one’s own practice.
Semester II: Developing perspective and skill. Exercises, projects, presentations 
  • Examining the most commonly used element of documentary – the Interview.
  • Documentary and the different modes of representation of reality.
  • Understanding cinema, and taking forward the understanding into researched individual presentations.
  • Camera & Decoupage Exercises.
  • Discussion around the diverse uses and abuses of the Voice Over.
  • Intensive workshops by guest faculty on specific aspects of filmmaking- Camera, Sound, Editing and Direction.
  • A complete film exercise where the students explore a location in order to unravel various tangible and intangible facets of a familiar/unfamiliar space. The Location Film project, a 10 min film made by student teams.
Semester III: Expanding further. Understanding one’s own relationship to filmmaking 
  • An understanding of research techniques through hands on modules and workshops.
  • Relooking at the technical and aesthetic understanding of camera, editing, sound.
  • Sessions with practicing filmmakers in which they screen their films and share with the students their research trajectory and creative process.
  • Film festival attendance, exposure to a diverse range of national and international fiction and non-fiction cinema.
  • Practical exercises in the vérité mode. How do we film reality without actively interfering, and interpret it while filming and editing?
  • The commencement of Diploma projects (ideation and shoot) with intensive mentoring on –
    1. Idea development
    2. Primary and secondary research
    3. Conceptualization of script
    4. Shooting techniques
  • What does recci (reconnaissance) mean? How critical is this before the shoot and what experiences are to be had in the process, which would directly affect the filming.
Semester IV (extended semester): Taking stock. Working on one’s own film and beyond 
  • Intensive one on one mentoring discussions post film shoot on –
    1. How to view and relate to film rushes. Learning to hear what the material is saying to you.
    2. Narrative modes. What are the possible structures that can emerge? What is true to the material, what is false and imposed.
    3. Edit scripts. How to do an edit script, and to learn how to modify/reject it if new insights occur. The value of abandoning preconceived ideas.
  • Intensive one on one mentoring through the edit of the Diploma film with specialized inputs on structure; sound; story telling devices.
  • What really is a narrative? How many kinds of stories are possible with the same material?
  • What is the role of text in a film? How many meanings can textual interventions have?
  • Subtitling. The intricacies of this text invasion, and how it can work best for your film.
  • How to make a film trailer. International norms and how we work with them?
  • Familiarisation with sources and modes of funding.
  • How to pitch and propose your film for professional project funding?
  • Student film screenings with discussion. The outgoing students will have the opportunity to screen their films in an auditorium to an invited audience with wide publicity.
  • Post screening classroom learning. The experience of screening and discussion will be taken to another level that students can carry forward into their imminent professional forays.
  • Attendance at a film festival with an opportunity to interact with and interview eminent documentary filmmakers.
  • The above is subject to change, as the pedagogic requirements will be continually reassessed according to the development of the journey of the students. The curriculum structure and schedule are kept fluid to allow more intensive mentoring and monitoring.
  • There will be brief vacations (anything from 3 days to 7 days) in the extreme summer, winter and around major festivals. The information around these will be given approximately a month in advance, as far as possible.
  • Typically, students are given the next week’s schedule on the Friday of the previous week.

Mandatory course regulations
The course is full time and requires complete commitment. This should be considered before you apply. It is mandatory to follow the rules enlisted below to earn your final Diploma certificate.

  1. It is obligatory for students to attend all classes and participate in all course work, which includes practical work, readings, primary research, submissions and all other requirements as will be given to them on an ongoing basis.
  2. Students should be seated in the classroom at least five minutes before the commencement of any class, film screening, lecture, meeting, discussion or seminar. Students will be exempted from class if they are not punctual.
  3. Attendance will be noted at the beginning of every day. Students should aim for 90% attendance. A minimum of 80% attendance is required to qualify moving from one semester to the next.
  4. If a student is absent due to a serious illness, the student should submit or get a representative to submit an application immediately along with a medical certificate and medical bills to the Director. A fake certificate/ bills will invite strict disciplinary action.
  5. Failure to submit assignments on time will result in exemption from the entire project/module/semester/course. This will be at the discretion of the authorities.

SAMEERA JAIN, Course Director: Sameera has been a director and editor for over 30 years. She has edited numerous award winning documentaries and also fiction feature films. Her directorial ventures have been recognised for cinematic excellence at many national and international festivals. Participation in film juries and curriculum formulation have been part of her engagement. She has been mentoring film students and filmmakers on diverse platforms and has been invited to teach filmmaking at several institutions, including her alma mater the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

RUCHIKA NEGI, Core Faculty: Ruchika is a filmmaker/ visual artist whose practice lies at the intersection of film, research and art. Her works have explored questions of ecological transformation and sustainability, development and cultural practice. Her films, in collaboration with another filmmaker, Amit Mahanti, include ML 05 B 6055, Malegaon Times and Every Time You Tell A Story. She also researches and writes on gender and policy issues.

External faculty is invited for hands on workshops that deal with the technical and the aesthetic, as well as for film screenings followed by comprehensive discussion on various aspects of filmmaking. There is a jury procedure for selected exercises and projects, for which external jury comes in. These juries are learning experiences, and not merely meant to evaluate.

The Academic Council Members are

Amar Kanwar is a filmmaker and a visual artist. He is the recipient of the 1st Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art, Norway and an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, USA. His films have received several awards like the Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, the Golden Conch, Mumbai International Film Festival, and Jury’s Award, Film South Asia, Nepal. He has also participated at the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany in 2002/2007 and 2013. Recent solo exhibitions have been at the Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, and Haus der Kunst, Munich. Upcoming solo exhibitions in 2013 are at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Art Institute of Chicago, TBA 21, Vienna and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.

Avijit Mukul Kishore is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Mumbai. He studied cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune and has a bachelor’s degree in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi. His areas of specialisation are documentary films and collaborations with visual artists on film and video based installation projects. He is actively involved in cinema pedagogy and is co-curator of the ‘Movies in Museum’ programme at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai. His films as director are Electric Shadows, To Let The World In, Vertical City, Certified Universal and Snapshots from a Family Album. His films as cinematographer include An Old Dog’s Diary, Seven Islands and a Metro, John and Jane, Kali Salwaar, Made in India and Kumar Talkies.

Bina Paul graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) with a specialisation in editing. She has edited over 40 feature films and has worked with illustrious directors like G Aravindan, John Abraham and P N Menon. She is a recipient of two National Awards and numerous State Awards for editing. She was the Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala for fourteen years and has been instrumental in shaping it into an important international event. She has served on the juries of various international film festivals including those held in Locarno, Durban, Morocco and Berlin. Bina is a regular faculty at the FTII and CDIT (Science & Development Documentary Course). She is currently the Regional Director of the LV Prasad Film Academy at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Gargi Sen is a filmmaker, curator, film archivist, scholar and producer. She completed the International Clore fellowship (2011-2012), UK and spent 5 months for her secondment at the two Tate galleries in London. She is the founder and executive director of Magic Lantern Foundation, a registered not for profit, working with culture and rights since 1989. She is a founder and partner at Magic Lantern Movies, LLP; and a non-executive director of 4Cs, a UK based media company.

Ira Bhaskar is Professor of Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She has critical interests in “historical poetics”, cinema and modern subjectivities, literature and film, and historical trauma, violence, memory and representation. She has co-authored Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema, and is currently working on a co-edited volume of essays, Ali Baba to Jodhaa Akbar: Bombay Cinema’s Islamicate Idioms, Cultures and Histories. She is also editing a volume of RitwikGhatak’s screenplays – Ghatak’s Partition Quartet and is working on her book on Trauma, Memory and Representation in Indian cinema.

Sherna Dastur is a visual artist. Her film Manjuben Truck Driver (2002) was screened at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and at several Indian and International festivals. Her recent design work includes Trace Retrace: Paintings, Nilima Sheikh (2013, Tulika Books), The Khoj Book (2010, Collins), and a wide range of interventions for social campaigns and films. She has been visiting faculty at the National Institute of Design, also her alma mater. She is currently working on an art project The Sovereign Forest by Amar Kanwar where she is experimenting with making paper, handmade books, and adapting the installation to museum and community spaces.

Shubha Mudgal is a Hindustani classical vocalist trained by acclaimed scholar musicians of the country. Equally at ease with khayal and thumri-dadra as with Indipop and contemporary cross cultural experiments, Shubha is also recognized as a composer, and occasionally writes music for films and television. She has been awarded the 1996 National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film Music Direction for Amrit Beej, the 1998 Gold Plaque Award for Special Achievement in Music at the 34th Chicago International Film Festival for her music in the film Dance of the Wind (1997), and the Padma Shri in 2000. She has also been closely involved with several projects related to music education in India and she serves as the Nana Shirgaokar Visiting Research Professor at Goa University.


Visiting Faculty for 2014 and 2015

APARNA SANYAL is a producer and director based in Delhi. As director, some of the themes she has worked on include Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, Mental Health, Buddhism and Dance. She has been recognised by the British Council for Creative Entrepreneurship, is a National Film Awardee and a Charles Wallace Grant recipient.She has been a jury member for the UNICEF Asia Pacific Child Rights Films Award in 2009, 2010 & 2014; and on juries and selection committees for the Directorate of Film Festivals in India in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
She is one of the founders of the creative collective 'The Carbon Union' and the co-founder of 'The Red Door', an initiative to promote Mental Health. She is also one of the filmmakers who run 'FD Zone Delhi', a monthly documentary screening at the India Habitat Centre.

AJAY BHARDWAJ has worked in the media for over two decades and has been making documentaries since 1997. His work has been screened widely and has won critical acclaim. Since 2002, he has been engaged with the state of Punjab and this has resulted in a trilogy- Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te, Rabba Hun Kee Kariye and Kitte Mil VeMahi. He is currently working on his PhD at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

AMAR KANWAR is a filmmaker and visual artist whose films have been awarded at various national and international film festivals. He is the recipient of the 1st Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art, Norway and an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, USA. He has also participated at the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany and held solo exhibitions in Switzerland, New York, Munich, Yorkshire, Chicago, Vienna and Athens.

AMIT MAHANTI is a filmmaker, cameraperson and editor, who has worked on documentary films and video installations that explore questions of ecological transformation, violence, development and cultural practice. His films include ML 05 B 6055, a biographical portrait of a bazaar bus that is the lifeline of villages in the East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya; Malegaon Times, that looks at the idea of performance within the working-class cinema culture of Malegaon in Maharashtra and Every Time You Tell A Story, a film on the Tsungkoteptsu shawl-making tradition in Nagaland. He has also been a part of art and film residencies at Khoj Studio, New Delhi, PAV Experimental Centre of Contemporary Art, Turin and Kran Film, Brussels, as well as several collaborative public art projects in New Delhi, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Uttarakhand.

ANIRBAN DATTA started his career as a screenwriter before he joined Satyajit Ray Film & TV Institute (SRFTI), as a student of Direction & Screenplay Writing.  His short documentary film Here is my Nocturne (2004), part of SRFTI, was screened in major Indian film festivals. Tetris, his diploma film from SRFTI in 2006, was premiered in Cannes’06 as an official selection and travelled to other important international festivals. Chronicle of an Amnesiac, received prestigious Rajat Kamal — Special Jury Award, it also received prestigious John Abraham National Award for best documentary in SIGNS’07, Kerala, for motion is his second film tracing India’s recent growth after the economic liberalisation and the information revolution vis-à-vis its effect on Indian populace. The film won prestigious Rajat Kamal Best film on environment, Indian National Film Awards 2009. Wasted, a 52 min documentary on waste and recycling is his most recent directorial work. He has taught as asst. professor, Direction Dept, for a year in Film & Television Institute of India, Pune.

ANUGYAN NAG is a film scholar and independent Filmmaker. He has served as jury at film festivals and participated in various national and international conferences on media and cinema. He is the recipient of 2004 Japan-South Asia Youth Forum Scholarship granted by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan and 2010 University Grants commission Junior Research Fellowship, India. ­He has formerly taught Film studies and Mass Communication in Kolkata, and Delhi at Sharda University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh and Asian School of Communication, Film City, Noida as Assistant Professor. He is also a visiting faculty of film studies at Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad. He is currently a senior research doctoral fellow at the School of Arts and Aesthetics finishing his Ph.D in Cinema studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

ANUPAMA CHANDRA is a film editor. She graduated with a diploma in film editing from the FTII, and holds degrees in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford, UK, and St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Over the last fourteen years she has worked as an editor on several documentary and fiction films, and has also edited the Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

ANUPAMA SRINIVASAN is a filmmaker who graduated from FTII in 2001. She has been making films for over a decade, often shooting and editing her own work. Her documentaries On my Own, I Wonder… and Nirnay (as co-director and editor) have won much critical acclaim. She has mentored at several filmmaking workshops, was Festival Director of the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival, and Associate Course Director at the Creative Documentary course 2013-14.

ASHEESH PANDYA is a sound recordist based in Delhi. He graduated from FTII in 1988, and has since been practicing the art and technique of sound for films, theatre and music. He has worked on several award-winning documentaries and has travelled widely with some of the best names in the broadcasting industry in India and across the world. He has been visiting faculty at prestigious institutions across India and loves to engage with young minds.

AVIJIT MUKUL KISHORE is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Mumbai. He studied cinematography at FTII. He works in various genres of image-making and is actively involved in art, cinema and cultural pedagogy. His films as director are To Let The World In, Vertical City, Certified Universal and Snapshots from a Family Album. His films as cinematographer include Seven Islands and a Metro, John and Jane, Kali Salwaar, Made in India and Kumar Talkies.

BHAMATI  SIVAPALAN is a videomaker based in Delhi. Her work currently is around documenting social movements and community struggles through the medium of video. She is interested in the use of video as a political and evocative witness. She enjoys dabbling in design and animation. She studied film at AJK Mass Communications Research Centre, JamiaMiliaIslamia, New Delhi.

GUSZTAV HAMOS is a media artist, curator and author. He has held professorships and teaching assignments at DFFB Berlin, UdK Berlin, HFF Potsdam-Babelsberg, Merzakademie Stuttgart. His artistic work includes video, film, photography and installation and has been exhibited at Documenta, Biennale Venedig, ZKM Karlsruhe, Ludwig Muzeum Budapest. His videos and films were shown at Tate Modern London, SFMOMA, Videobrasil Sao Paulo, Palais de Tokyo Paris, Akademie der Künste Berlin, Ludwig Museum Budapest, Art Basel Miami. His work is included in the Collections of MOMA NY, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, NBK Berlin, ZKM Karlsruhe.

IRA BHASKAR is Professor of Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She has critical interests in “historical poetics”, cinema and modern subjectivities, literature and film, and historical trauma, violence, memory and representation. She has co-authored Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema, and is currently working on a co-edited volume of essays, Ali Baba to Jodhaa Akbar: Bombay Cinema’s Islamicate Idioms, Cultures and Histories. She is also editing a volume of Ritwik Ghatak’s screenplays – Ghatak’s Partition Quartet and is working on her book on Trauma, Memory and Representation in Indian cinema. She is a member of the Academic Council, Creative Documentary course.

IRAM GHUFRAN is a Delhi based filmmaker and artist working on moving image, sound and text. Her work has been shown in several international art and cinematic contexts. As a member of the Media Lab at Sarai CSDS between 2004 and 2011, Iram was part of several experimental and multi-disciplinary processes and collaborations. Her film, There is Something in the Air is the winner of several awards including the National Award for Best Direction and Best Editing

KARAN THAPLIYAL is a Delhi based cinematographer. He is an alumnus of the Department of Film & Video Production, SACAC. His student films and independent short films have been screened and awarded at various film festivals. He works with documentary, corporate films, travel shows and short fiction. In recent years he has extensively filmed ethnographic documentary films, and has a strong interest in travel and wildlife.

KERSTI UIBO is a filmmaker living in England and Estonia. Her films have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, at Cinema duReel, and at festivals in Mumbai, Tehran, Sydney, Montreal, Delhi, Boston, St Petersburg, Parnu, etc. and won several awards. She has taught and mentored projects in film schools across the world. She has also been a music producer with Estonian Television, and was involved in setting up the post-war Estonian Embassy in the UK.

KISLAY is a freelance filmmaker and a recent alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Before moving to films, he was extensively involved in theatre. He has made three shorts and is currently working on his first feature length film. He was one of the ten students selected for International Student Film Camp, in Serbia and the only Indian filmmaker who was asked to showcase his work in European League of International Arts (ELIA) in 2015

LAURA DI NITTO is an independent documentary producer and director with extensive work experience in Europe and India. She has been a producer-director at RAI TRE where she worked as a children and youth programme producer for over a decade. She currently works with Sri Aurobindo Society’s Auromedia and Aurofilms, and has been involved with media education, music production, and cross cultural and cross-arts communication.

MAHADEB SHI graduated from FTII in 1985. He has edited many national and international award-winning films including Voices from Baliapal and Eleven Miles, which won the Joris Ivens award in 1988. Tales from the Margins, Swapnabhumi, In search of Gandhi, The Other Song, and The Sun behind the Clouds, are other acclaimed films edited by him. His directorial work includes Om Mani Padme Hu, Kirtan of Bengal, A Journey Extraordinary and Kather Baxo.

MAYA KRISHNA RAO is an actor, director, writer, educator and activist of international repute. She received training in Kathakali, and studied politics at JNU and theatre arts at Leeds University. She has been active in theatre since the 1970s, taking up social and political issues in innovative ways. In 2010 she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She was Associate Professor at NSD from 1985 to 1990, and is currently Professor at the Shiv Nadar University.

NILITA VACHANI is a documentary filmmaker, writer and educator. She is associate faculty at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Her documentaries (Eyes of Stone, Diamonds in a Vegetable Market, When Mother Comes Home for Christmas) have been internationally screened and awarded. Nilita has worked as an editor on several documentary features and as Assistant Director on Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay. Her first screenplay The Banyan won the French government’s CNC-Fonds-Sud prize.

NIRMAL CHANDER DANDRIYAL has been in the field of documentary film making for 15 years. He has edited several acclaimed films, and has also worked for four years in Dubai as Senior Promo Producer/ Editor for Ten Sports channel. His directorial debut, All The World’s A Stage, has been to many international festivals and won five awards. His second film, Dreaming Taj Mahal, won a National award and also the Silver Conch at MIFF 2012.

PRATIK BISWAS is a self-motivated and self-taught sound technician with over eighteen years of experience in studio and location sound recording. He has worked with reputed music labels such as Warner Brothers, Virgin Records, Music Today and Makar Records. He has done sound design for many award-winning documentaries, and won the 2010 IDPA Gold award for documentary sound design. He has also worked on many radio series, television serials, theatre and musical ballet productions.

PRIYA SEN is an artist and filmmaker based in New Delhi. She also works as an editor, sound designer and occasionally teaches experimental film. She works with video as poetry, essay and correspondence, and is interested in constructing video and sound structures and environments. Her work has shown at several venues nationally and internationally.

PRIYANKA CHHABRA is an independent filmmaker based in Delhi. She studied film at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Her film practice tries to delicately balance itself in the interstices of the imagined and the real. A Summer Flu had its German premiere at the 60th International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen, and also won the TOTO Award for Short Film, India.

RAHUL ROY completed his masters in Film and TV production from the Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in 1987 and since then has been working as an independent documentary film maker. His work has focused on communalism, labour and masculinities. His films have been widely screened internationally and won several awards.

R.V. RAMANI is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Chennai. He graduated from FTII in 1985. With more than 20 independent films to his credit, he has established a unique style acclaimed in India and abroad. Retrospectives of his films have been presented at many international film festivals. He also serves as a faculty member with several institutions and regularly conducts documentary film workshops.

RAJULA SHAH is a visual artist, poet and filmmaker.After a Masters in English Literature, she studied filmmaking at Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, specialising in film direction. Her film practice is located in the interstice of various arts practice, schools of thought and philosophies, through a close collaboration with people, their work and contexts. Working as independent artist-filmmaker for two over a decade, her works have explored the boundaries of visual arts, cinematography and text in multiform approaches. She has produced shorts and feature length films and developed scripts in collaboration with fellow artists, tribal/ folk artisans, specifically those who live/work in the interstice of practice and performance.Her films have been screened widely in festivals, museums and across Academic/ Artcontexts, earning critical acclaim. Among significant awards are the Horizonte Preis at Dokfest Munich Germany for Word within the Word, John Abraham National Award for the Best Experimental film in 2013 and Best Experimental film fiction for the short Jumbled Cans, 2014 for ReTold by Loknath. She has worked as a cinematographer with Arghya Basu on his recent film Exiles and Kingdoms, a film for Tibetan Opera in 2016. Her latest work is an interactive trans-media work, Pilgrimage in Nomad’s Land and can be only viewed online @ The manuscript of her poetry collection in Hindi, Parchhainki Khirki Se was awarded and published by Bharatiya Jnanpith for best New Writing in 2004. She also writes on cinema and has edited and published a selection from Vincent Van Gogh’s letters into Hindi as Mujh Par Bharosa Rakhna from Seasongray. She has been on the Jury for National Film Awards, on panels for seminars, talks and conferences for Cinema, Fine Arts and Social Media. For over a decade, she has mentored young scriptwriters and film directors in various film &media schools including FTII, Pune.

REENA MOHAN is an independent documentary filmmaker and editor who has worked out of Dubai, India, Kathmandu and London. She graduated from FTII in 1982 and since then has edited features, television serials and over 50 documentaries. She produced and directed her first award-winning documentary Kamlabai in 1991 and has, till now, scripted and directed more than 10 documentaries. She is the Managing Trustee of the India Chapter of IAWRT.

RITIKA KAUSHIK is a Research Associate at Sarai and a PhD scholar in the Cinema Studies Department at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research interest lies in the field of documentary historiography and she is currently working on the state funded documentary film practice at Films Division of India which also culminated into her M.Phil dissertation. She completed her Masters in Mass Communication from AJK MCRC Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and has briefly taught at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University as a Guest Lecturer. She also has a background in production and worked as an Assistant Director for the feature film Vicky Donor as well as in the making of educational shorts for idiscoveri.

SABA DEWAN’s work has focused on communalism, gender, sexuality and culture. For the past few years she has been working on a trilogy of films focusing on stigmatized women performers. Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi (2006) on the lives of bar dancers was the first film of the trilogy; the second being Naach(The Dance, 2008) that explores the lives of women who dance in rural fairs. The third and final film of the trilogy is The Other Song (2009) about the art and lifestyle of the tawaifs or courtesans.

SAMREEN FAROOQUI along with Shabani Hassanwali founded Hit and Run Films in 2005 an independent video production unit, which engages with changing socio-political-personal realities through documentaries, video art and intervention films. They work as directors, editors, camerapersons and writers. Their first feature documentary, Out of Thin Air, on Ladakhi local cinema, was an official selection at International Film festival of Rotterdam and was the opening film at Film South Asia, 2009, besides playing at numerous other festivals. Their second feature documentary, Online and Available, released in 2012, told a story of an India-in-transition through its online identity formation. It was produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust and was an official selection at Mumbai International Film Festival, 2012. Their most recent film Being Bhaijaan, is a story about masculinity in India, through Salman Khan’s fans. It played at New York Indian Festival, 2015 and has been broadcast on Channel 4, UK. They worked as associate directors and editors of Star by Dibakar Banerjee, as part of the Bombay Talkies omnibus in 2013, to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema.

SAUMYA VERMA is an alumnus of MCRC, Jamia Millia, and has been the Assistant Professor in Film & Cultural Studies there since 2009. She teaches Critical Media Studies, PR & Corporate Communication, Scriptwriting and Editing Principles. Earlier she taught at Lady Irwin College and IIM Ahmedabad. She has presented papers and participated in international conferences, and her work has been widely published. Saumya has also worked with Miditech Productions Ltd. and NDTV Convergence Ltd.

SHABANI HASSANWALIA is a writer and filmmaker, but now, mostly a filmmaker. She wrote for First City Magazine for over a decade, and edited books on film, music and art for the First City Volumes. Alongside, she co-founded Hit and Run Films in 2005 with Samreen Farooqui. She went on to receive the Inlaks Scholarship in 2009-2010, to research documentary funding and support structures across the UK and US. Shabani and Samreen’s first film, Out of Thin Air, was the opening film for Film South Asia, 2009 and was the official selection at International Film Festival of Rotterdam. Their work has dealt with a country-in-transition by recording its stories around online identity formation (Online and Available, 2012), gender (Bioscope, 2013) and masculinity. Their latest film investigates masculinity in India through Salman Khan’s fans, and is the closing film for PSBT’s Open Frame in 2014. It’s called Being Bhaijaan. She was the associate director and co-editor on Dibakar Banerjee’s Star, which was part of the Bombay Talkies’ omnibus to celebrate the 100 Years of Cinema.

SHERNA DASTUR is a visual artist. Her film Manjuben Truck Driver (2002) has been screened at several Indian and International festivals. Her recent design work includes Trace Retrace: Paintings, Nilima Sheikh (2013), The Khoj Book (2010), and a wide range of interventions for social campaigns and films. She is currently working on the art project The Sovereign Forest by Amar Kanwar. She has been visiting faculty at NID, also her alma mater.

SHUBHA MUDGAL is a Hindustani classical vocalist trained by acclaimed scholar musicians of the country. Equally at ease with khayal and thumri-dadra as with Indipop and contemporary cross cultural experiments, Shubha is also recognised as a composer, and occasionally writes music for films and television. She has been awarded the National Film Award in 1996, the 1998 Gold Plaque Award for Special Achievement in Music in 1997, and the Padma Shri in 2000.

SUBASRI KRISHNAN has been a documentary filmmaker for the past 10 years. She also heads the Media Lab of the Indian Institute for Human Settlement (IIHS). Her first documentary film, Brave New Medium, on internet censorship in South East Asia has been screened at film festivals, both nationally and internationally. The award winning, This or That Particular Person produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) looks at the idea of official identity documents, and in that context, the Unique Identity number. The film was adjudged as the Best Short Documentary Film at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK), 2013. Her new documentary film, ‘What The Fields Remember’, explores ideas of memory, violence and justice through survivors’ narratives of the massacre. As a part of the Media Lab at IIHS, she teaches and curates the Urban Lens film festival. Prior to going to film school, Subasri worked for the academic journal Seminar from 1998-2000.

UDIT KHURANA  is an independent cinematographer. He started working professionally in 2013 after completing his diploma from L.V. Prasad Film and Television Academy, Chennai. His work includes fiction films like 'Hairkatha Prasanga' which premiered at Busan International Film Festival-2016 and 'For the love of a man' a documentary feature which premiered at Venice Film Festival-2015.

VISHAL CHAUHAN is an alumnus of the Department of Film & Video Production, SACAC and is currently working as a freelance editor in Delhi. Prior to this, he worked in Mumbai on programmes for channels such as ZEE, Star, Sahara and NDTV, and then had a stint with the creative team of UTV Network in Delhi. He has edited corporate films, advertisement films, as well as nationally and internationally awarded documentaries and short fiction.

YOUSUF SAEED holds a Master’s degree in Mass Communications from MCRC, Jamia Millia. He started his career in 1990 with the TV science series Turning Point and moved on to direct several documentaries including a series on Ladakh and the poet Amir Khusrau. His feature-length documentary Khayal Darpan has been screened at numerous international film festivals.

Student Experiences
Accommodation guidelines for out of town students

There are a few hostel facilities at walking distance from the SACAC campus. There are also rentals available in nearby areas where students have stayed in previous years. SACAC can help students access information about these lodgings. The rent is in the range of roughly Rs. 8000 for one person.

Some accommodation options, based on students’ experiences are

  1. Rajhans Hostel in Katwaria Sarai     Phone: (011) 2653 7191 
    Some of our students shared that this hostel provides for a nice and comfortable stay with basic amenities like bed, table, chair, cupboards, geyser and AC. The rent in 2015 was somewhere around 8,500 INR per person (with electricity bill extra), though these rates may have been revised in the subsequent months. Usually a room is available on a twin share basis. The same agency also has newly renovated hostel facility where rooms are furnished with television sets as well, but these are available for a marginally higher rent.

    A student who had availed of this accommodation had this to say- “…The area felt safe even at late nights and is quite populated.”
    Connectivity: SACAC is a 10 minute walk from Rajhans Hostel.
    Metro Feeder buses for Hauz Khas Metro station plies every 15 mins or so. Auto rickshaws and other public buses are readily available as well. 

  2. Aurobindo Apartments, Adhchini
    This is an apartment complex situated right behind SACAC. Independent flats comprise a small one room kitchen apartment with attached bath and a balcony. Geyser, bed and a table is usually provided for by the landlords, though this may vary on an individual basis. The rent is 2015 was about 8,500 INR (electricity+ water extra @ 300 INR each). 

    A student who stayed in this accommodation shared- “The place is very comfortable and sufficient for one person. For food, the lady who runs a general store below offers home cooked meals. Also various tiffin services can be availed, who deliver food tiffins at home daily. Contact numbers can be looked up online or are posted in and around the society and on streets. The neighbours are also nice and warm. I have never had late night parties or loud music in my house so I don’t know my neighbours’ or the landlord’s reaction to such events. This society is very peaceful and calm. I would recommend this for others”
    Connectivity: SACAC is a 6 minute walk from Aurobindo Apartments.

  1. Many more accommodation options would be available on
    Areas that can be looked for on these websites are Katwaria Sarai, Adchini, Malviya Nagar, Khirkee village, Sarvodya Enclave, parts of Begumpur village. These areas are near SACAC. In a student’s words:
    “It’s a very useful app and has genuine information about places that we can rent. So it takes a little hard work and roaming around to find a good place. Also, try searching for places which are put online by the house owner themselves, there are many agent operated listings also, and the agent commission is equal to a month’s rent which can be avoided. One last but not least option to search for places is to just take a walk around in these areas. Many houses will have boards hung on their gates `To Let’. I have walked into many such houses looking for a room and they readily show the room.”
Future Prospects

Students will be awarded a diploma at the successful fulfillment of the course requirements.

The Creative Documentary Filmmaking Course will provide a strong grounding in all aspects of filmmaking. Students will carry with them a film culture that is inclusive and well rounded, with inputs that enable them to direct, shoot, edit and record sound as well as look at sound design—learning that they can expand as they go forward in life. While the focus is on documentaries, the course will instill in students a deep understanding of cinema, open up multiple approaches to making films and impart skills that they can use in any form of filmmaking. Many students would go onto apprentice with senior filmmakers, at least early in their careers and later embark into independent practice, or jobs. Freelance professionals can pursue direction, camerawork, sound, editing and allied fields of practice.

Varied career options will open out to them, as well as strong possibilities for independent filmmaking. In terms of jobs, there are possibilities in many arenas such as:

  • Film & Video Production houses
  • Television channels
  • Multimedia production houses
  • Research & Documentation centres
  • Interdisciplinary art and media collectives
  • Experimental video and audio centres
  • NGOs
  • Training and Workshops in community video

The course will equip students to move into professional practice and make significant contributions. They will also have the confidence, skills and knowledge to begin to influence the predominant modes of expression that they encounter. This journey does not have clear and predictable outcomes, and that is inherent in the nature of this interest, in fact this is precisely what makes it more rewarding.

Admission Requirements
We welcome students from diverse backgrounds, with the condition that they approach the course with seriousness and complete commitment. No prior knowledge of filmmaking is strictly necessary.
  • Minimum age for eligibility, 20 yrs. There is no upper age limit.
  • Graduation preferred. (Graduates in any discipline, including those awaiting their final year result/equivalent qualifications/working professionals)
  • We particularly encourage individuals who have a keen interest in the arts. Formal training/ certification in creative arts is not mandatory.
  • Since the course is extremely rigorous, a student admitted into this course will not be allowed to pursue any other course, job or activity that is not directly related to the course.
  • A creative and innovative bent of mind
  • Proficiency in at least one language-English or Hindi
  • Strong writing skills in English or Hindi
  • Keenness for research
  • Commitment & motivation for a long term engagement with the film medium
  • Qualities of self-motivation, patience, dynamism, perseverance
  • An aptitude to work in a team environment
Equipment and facilities
  • Students are required to have their own cameras (specifications below) for the entire duration of the course.
Camera Specifications
1. DSLR camera with a full frame, APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensor, with zoom lens, or a set of zoom or prime lenses.


2. Memory-card based video camera with 1/4 inch, 1/3 inch, or 1/2 inch sensor.

Important note: Before admission, students will please write in with the exact details of which camera they have. Once this is ratified the admission process will be taken forward.
  • Students will be entirely responsible for the safety and maintenance of their cameras, as well as the buying/rental of all accessories that they may use, such as cards, batteries, lenses or any other.
  • Students should own a personal laptop, which they would require for work that they do in their own time, including completion of assignments.
  • Students should have their own 1 TB hard drive with a USB3 port.
  • Travel, lodging & boarding expenses for study tours, if any, would have to be borne by the student. The facilities provided would be basic, clean and reasonable.
  • SACAC will provide tripods, sound and editing equipment during the entire duration of the course
  • Student Aid: There are three seats where aid can be offered in the form of the use of in-house cameras (Canon 600D), memory cards and batteries.
Admission Process

SACAC believes in a holistic method of assessment. The selection process is therefore based not only on a candidate’s academic record, test scores and intelligence, but also his or her level of awareness, commitment and willingness to learn.

The admission process is as follows:-

  1. Submit duly filled Application Form with all the relevant documents.
  2. Appear for Entrance Exam
  3. Appear for Panel Interview


Essays (You may choose to write this section in English or Hindi)

  • What matters the most to you and why? (word limit: 200)
  • What has been your biggest achievement so far and why do you consider it to be so? (word limit: 200)
  • A film career is often self-made and structured very differently from many other careers. In this context, please write a statement of purpose giving strong reasons for choosing the field, and your reasons for joining SACAC. (word limit: 600)
  • Send copies of any creative work that you might have done. These could be photographs, scripts, poetry, plays, lyrics, music and/or short film in print/CD/DVD/URL along with the form and essays.



  • Crossed DD for Rs. 2000/- in favour of “Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts & Communication”, payable at New Delhi.
  • Two photographs of size 3cm X 4cm.
  • Self attested photocopy of mark sheets of graduation and other relevant academic certificates. Admit card/examination ticket, if you are appearing for your final graduation examination.



  • An application form once sold/issued in the name of a candidate cannot be returned and/or transferred.
  • SACAC reserves the right to call applicants for interview.
  • An application form should be complete in all respects.
  • Rights to admission are reserved with SACAC.
  • Fees, once paid, are non-refundable and non-transferrable.
  • All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Delhi courts.
Tuition & Fees
Creative Documentary18 MonthsINR 3,25,000/-

Applicable GST extra

Payment Structure
The payment of course fees has been broken into four installments for convenience during the course.
At the time of admission1st Installment40%
After completion of 4 months2nd Installment20%
After completion of 8 months3rd Installment20%
After completion of 12 months4th Installment20%
Terms & Conditions
  • Students need to pay an additional refundable caution deposit of Rs. 10,000/-
  • Fees, once paid, are non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • A fine of Rs. 50/- per day will be charged for the first 30 days, post which the student may be barred from attending classes.
  • Students who will have to appear for re-examination due to failure to secure mandatory marks, will have to pay Rs. 1000/- as re-examination fee for each paper they have to re-write.
  • Students failing to clear their dues will not be allowed to appear for the final examinations and participate in diploma projects.
  • Creative Documentary  students need to have a Camera, laptop and HDD of 1 TB (minimum) with a USB 3 port.
  • The courses require the students to go on study tours, film festivals, exhibitions, etc. The students are expected to bear the expenses of necessary transport, lodging and boarding.