Actor-director Riju Bajaj is the founder of the LIFFT [Literature Information Film Frame Television and Theatre] India festival that takes place in Lonavala every year. He has now started the LIFFT India Academy where various forms of arts would be taught. Currently, the admissions for the acting course are underway.
The academy is called Ram Gopal Bajaj Acting Studio after his father and film and theatre personality Ram Gopal Bajaj, who will be a faculty member.
The institute will be located at Malavli, which is located one station before Lonavala. “People might think studying in the jungles of Lonavala is a weird idea. It is a slightly out-of-the-box thing,” said Riju during a conversation with Cinestaan.com.
It will be a 12-month course in acting. “It will be a residential school. It’s a very dedicated tutioning for acting, in a very Gurukul style. As we grow, we will add the Bajaj Media Course under which we will teach writing, direction, editing,” he added.
There is a list of people as visiting faculty members as he feels there are a lot of other aspects of acting that they need to teach. “We have people like Nayani Dixit, Feroze Khan, Vidyanidhee Vanarase, Vani Tripathi, Shekhar Sen, Rujuta Soman, Girish Pardeshi, etc Visiting faculty members will be added as the institute moves forward,” said Riju.
He pointed out that the disadvantage of institutes in Mumbai is that students sleep late because of parties. “They don’t turn up for the classes the next morning. There is no boarding concept, so there is nobody to control them. Ours is not a fancy academy. We don’t want to make one because that is where the spoilsports come,” he said.
According to Riju, another disadvantage of teaching in Mumbai is that students continuously keep going for various acting auditions. “So they bunk classes for that. Education cannot happen like that. They should first learn and then do the auditions and all,” he said.
Ram Gopal Bajaj, who also spoke to us, added, “If money making was our primary motto, it would have been easier to do it in Mumbai not Lonavala.”
Ram Gopal Bajaj has an interesting take on acting, which, he believes, is a vast subject. “Everybody thinks we are actors. But in a way this is right too because we all act in our real lives. Even right now there is some acting factor in the conversation we are having,” he said.
He also stressed on the Gurukul method of teaching that would also be included. “We will take international as well as Indian methods in teaching. One method is Natyashastra. We just need to sensitize them. To do this is easiest as well as most difficult area. That’s why I am worried as well as excited,” he said.
The institute has started accepting applications and the classes will begin from April. Only shortlisted candidates will be eligible for admissions.
The space for the institute is provided by the NGO Sampark, which will rent out the property to Riju. He is glad to rent it out from them and not a company. “If it is going to Sampark, I feel happy because it is going for a good cause. It’s an NGO. They have an orphanage. That money will be utilized for the right purpose. It’s not going into the pocket of a landlord who will build another house,” said Riju who added that they will be conducting free workshops for the kids at Sampark.
LIFFT India also has a unit through which they make short films. The students enrolling for the acting course will get a chance to act in the short films. “It’s not like they come out of the academy and then they have to fend for themselves,” he added.
Coming to the other courses, Riju said that the music school would be called Khemchand Prakash Music Studio and the dance will be named after his mother Chandrakala Prakash. “It is a long roadmap. We don’t have the funds to do everything at one go. We are not like the bigwigs. So, I am taking very small steps,” he said.
The institute will also provide freeship to economically backward students who are not able to afford the course fees. Explaining this Ram Gopal Bajaj added, “For example, for every 10 students, we will not take a rupee from one candidate. He or she will just need to take care of his stay and food.”