Interview by Yash Panchal
Mrs. Akkineni Amala is currently the Director at AISFM. She completed her education from Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts, Chennai. She toured extensively with the Kalakshetra Dance Troupe both in India and abroad, under the leadership of Rukmini Devi Arundale, before joining films. Her career in Indian cinema (1985 – 1992) had her complete 50 films as leading lady in five Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi). In the last couple of years, Amala returned to films, playing roles in Telugu and Hindi films and has recently completed a Tamil tele-series ‘Uyirmei’ for Zee Tamil.
As a film personality, she constantly brings into focus social and environmental issues through media interactions, speaking at public forums in both rural and urban communities, at educational institutions, and on popular television shows, to increase understanding and motivate social change. 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.
Mrs. Amala has worked for over the last two decades in South India through various non-governmental and governmental organizations in animal welfare, wildlife protection, child welfare, rural women’s empowerment, HIV awareness and for the protection of the environment. She is the co-founder and chairperson of Blue Cross of Hyderabad, a registered non-profit animal welfare organization working for the welfare of animals in Hyderabad and extending support to other groups in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Mrs. Amala’s experience in the education industry
My schooling, college, and start of a professional career was all at Kalakshetra, Chennai. Having trained in the performing arts, classical dance to be specific, performing was my line. Had I known at the time that there was very little scope for a classical dancer and cinema would be my future, I would have opted to do film-related course. But it was unheard of at the time. So, I learned on the job when I joined films. Film line has been an extremely satisfying career for me. However, as a woman and an actor, I have limited scope as I age due to the kind of roles available. Had I done a specialized Film and Media course like what AISFM offers, my prospects would have been much different.
I was fortunate to have invested my earnings wisely and moved on to do multiple things in the NGO sector for social service, and educating myself continuously to adapt and expand my horizons. That's my story.
The entertainment industry caters to every walk of life, without distinction. Everyone wants to sit back and enjoy good creative content, be it music, film or TV. And now with digital platforms delivering an individual choice of creative content when, where and how one prefers it, the job opportunities are immense. It's a great time to work in this industry, for anyone with the creative bent of mind, who is passionate, innovative, adaptable, and has a skill or craft to be noticed. The rapid speed at which one can grow and achieve one's dreams is what sets the education industry apart from any other.
Significant challenges faced as the Director of Annapurna International School of Film+ Media
Well, we are a small institution with big dreams. The challenge is always to spread the word out there to students across India and the world - that we exist and we offer a great educational experience.
Curriculum of AIFSM
We have a panel of reputed Industry advisors who review the curriculum and suggest changes annually bringing in best practices. We also ensure student work is reviewed by industry professionals and critical feedback is given. Taking feedback to improve is as important as learning your skill.
Goals in mind for Annapurna International School of Film+ Media
Honestly, we make 5-year goals as the world and its needs are changing so fast. Our goal is to be the best, offer the best, be a supporting force for the industry. We want to influence the future of cinema and provide highly trained, well rounded creative professionals with refined sensibilities for the industry. We want to explore and expand the horizons in our respective fields and connect with educators across the globe. And most of all, we want to make it a great place for women to study and work. We are already almost there!
Mrs. Amala on how she ensures the quality of education in her institution
Well, to ensure the quality of education, we choose to focus on faculty development. Carefully chosen faculty who have constant exposure, upgrading their skills and current pedagogies, industry practices, needs, ensuring best results and making the whole experience of learning a joy. We build the environment to experientially grow and constantly improve this. It's the dynamics that improve every day and every member of team AISFM is committed to this.
Mrs. Amala on how to build a positive school culture or climate
Our approach is to acknowledge the combination of achievement and learning. We discuss failure with as much enthusiasm as success and give equal weightage to passion, professional behavior, teamwork and social responsibility. The culture extends to both employees and students and this ensures a very positive climate. We encourage efforts that lead to both mistakes and success without discrimination. Mistakes are our greatest teachers and it's better they learn how and why mistakes happen here before they go out into the world.
Establishing a relation with the students
We have faculty who constantly mentor and guide them. As Director, you will often find me in classes sitting with the students to experience life as they do, this way we all connect and discuss issues, we share lunch in the cafeteria and such. The college’s student council meet the management regularly and students’ clubs are very active giving many opportunities for students and management, faculty to interact informally. We have academic counselling on a quarterly basis flagging students who need support and providing them with it. The course is not easy and from day one, they are expected to engage. I believe it's best to keep them engaged if we want to establish a healthy relationship.
Views on the growth of students through placement opportunities available at AISFM
Every student with potential is given the opportunity to intern and his/her performance here is the stepping stone to their job opportunity as well as their overall results. A series of preparatory workshops, industry guest lectures and visits prepare them for internships. We provide students a wide exposure to a variety of professional skills they will require to succeed. At AISFM, we do our very best to knock every door possible to ensure our students have a good start. But I do advise them to keep their dream job on hold until they gain sufficient experience to make that step unless they are very blessed to land it on day one.
Mrs. Amala’s philosophy of leadership
My leadership comes from years in the NGO world, team building and creating solutions needed for issues faced in a city. I am proactive, I never give up, I come from a place of hope, I always look for an opportunity to renew and refresh my outlook and I value people most of all. Nothing else really matters.
Suggestions to the current youth
Be open to learn as much as you can and practice relentlessly. Always be ready for an opportunity. Learn to listen and communicate powerfully. Learn to focus and stay away from distractions as this can drain your energy. No one wants a distracted member of a team who is closed minded, works in isolation and has not made effort to perfect their skill. Attitude cannot be taught, everything else can. Finally, it's not the gold medal that will make you succeed, it's your attitude.