The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, India’s premier film and television institute, has been witnessing protests by the students since early June over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the new FTII Chief kicking up a storm among the country’s film fraternity.
Chauhan, actor-turned-politician, was appointed as the FTII Chairman by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on June 8. Chauhan is best known as Yudhishira in the Mahabharata TV series aired on national television in the 1988-90. He is also a BJP member who has been associated with the party for over 20 years. The controversy that had hogged the limelight for a while has apparently disrupted the institute’s smooth functioning. The alumni as well as prominent figures in the film and cultural fields have come forward supporting the students. The Students Council has demanded an immediate appointment of another chairman who was “qualified with a significant body of work to do justice to the institute.” According to them, Chauhan was appointed as the FTII Chief due to his close association with the saffron party.The film institute comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and is aided by the Central government. The alumni have gone on becoming actors and directors in the Indian film industry. Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy and Saeed Mirza are few of the renowned film personalities who have served as the Chairman of the Governing Council. The protestors are therefore questioning the actor’s credentials to lead the institution. Marathi actor Pallavi Joshi, filmmaker Jahnu Barua and Cinematographer Santosh Sivan have also offered their support to the students by rejecting the government’s offer to be a part of the Governing Council.
The Centre which is in charge of appointing the FTII Chief has been adamant in its stand and is mulling over the closure of the film institute or handing it over to other private agencies. No constructive steps have been taken by the government so far. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has jointly prepared a report with FTII consisting of recommendations in this regard. The FTII which was started 55 years ago has seen 39 strikes so far. The report also critisises that an average of 10 lakh was being spend by the institute on every student. Going by the heritage and history of the prestigious film school, the institute has always stayed clear of political interventions. The future of the country’s leading cultural institution that determines the future of the film industry is at stake. Cultural and academic institutions should be kept away from politicization. No government would be able to move ahead focusing only on the technical aspects especially cultural sector. The unrest would adversely affect the ‘intellectual health’ of the film institute and therefore the government move should be strongly opposed.