Wednesday, August 12, 2015

60 days and counting… FTII has stopped rolling

For the last 2 months not a single class has been held in the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. The students have gone on an indefinite strike due to the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the institute, which is the only government funded film school in the country and holds an international prestige of producing famous film and theatre personalities of India.
The issue has turned political as congress VP Rahul Gandhi has also join the protests. The students’ body of FTII has met the MoS Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. But the deadlock still remains to this moment.
So, what is the fuss all about? Gajendra Chauhan is best known for his role as Yudhisthir in B.R. Chopra’s 1990s epic Mahabharat. He also worked in some b-grade movies after that. Then he went on hibernation. Working part time as a BJP member and becoming a full time member in 2004, he has been out of the industry for almost a decade now.
On June 9, the Information and Broadcasting ministry appointed Chauhan as the chairman of the FTII.
Soon, some students protested the appointment. The students questioned his contribution to liberal arts and film production; and his credibility to lead such a premier institute of international repute. Chauhan being the man, who never attends a film festival even in Mumbai, remained adamant to his position.
Even BJP biggie Arun Jatley is alleged to have given the protesting students an ultimatum that if they don’t go back to their classes, the government might transfer the reins of the institute to a private organisation.
Those who are in support of his appointment say that the whole issue is being politically diverted and he is being targeted for being a BJP supporter. On the other hand, eminent film and theatre personalities led by Mr. Anupam Kher, who is also a BJP sympathiser have condemned the appointed as a mistake by the government.
Prior to his appointment, the FTII has been chaired by eminent film personalities like Shayam Benegal, R. K. Lakshman, Ritwik Ghatak, Mahesh Bhatt, etc.
The students of FTII have alleged that Chauhan’s appointment is a step towards the saffronisation of the institute, where the right-wing moral police want to check the artistic freedom of the students. The government has already created an alarm by banning several words from being used in films including the word ‘Bombay’; and more recently banning 800 plus pornography websites across the country.