FTII Students Launch Agitation against Right-Wing Appointment

05 July 2015
STUDENTS of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII) have launched an indefinite strike from June 12 as a mark of protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhanas the new Chairman of the institute. All activities – classes, practicals, shoots – have been stopped till their demand is met. The student council’s immediate demand seeks for a different Chairman, who is qualified and promises – through his/her past records – to do justice to the Institute.

Not only does Gajendra Chauhan not have adequate experience and qualification for the post – his contribution to cinema in particular and art in general being questionable – he has been closely associated with the BJP for decades and been a party member since 2004. Chauhan’s popularity stands on his role as Yudhishtir in the mega serial Mahabharat aired on Doordarshan during the early 90s and, as critics say, has no significant work to even qualify as a footnote or a passing reference in the history and television.

The appointment of Anagha Ghaisas and Shailesh Gupta into the Governing Council has also shocked the film and the FTII student fraternities, for the two are known for their propagandist films for the Hindu right wing. “This makes the agenda behind these appointments clear, i.e. to colour the educational space saffron,” the students are saying.

FTII earlier has had the likes of cinema stalwarts such asAdoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, U.R. Ananthamurthyas Chairman. The list of chairmen who have served also includes Saeed Aktar Mirza following the end of whose term in 2014 FTII remained without one.

While the names ofJahnuBarua, Santosh Sivan, RajkumarHirani were floated as possible candidates following Saeed Akhtar Mirza by the Information and Broadcast Ministry, the final appointment – that of Gajendra Chauhan – came as a shock not just to current students and the alumni, but also the film fraternity across the nation. JahnuBarua is said to have resigned from the Governing Council and a few other FTII alumni who are members of the Governing Council are also, it is being said, considering resignation and are just waiting for the orders to reach them officially.

The student’s council has also demanded a new system to be instituted for appointmentof the Chairman so that FTII remains not just an institute but a space where not just students but a certain kind of culture is nurtured. A system where 51% of the Governing Council will be FTII alumni and the Governing Council will elect the Chairman, is being proposed by the students’ council.

As the FTII students’ strike continues, students from universities across the nation and film industry members have shown solidarity with the protests. Protest marches have been organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union criticising the government’s stance towards the FTII students. Jadavpur University along with students of Satyajit Ray Television and Film Institutein Kolkata marched in solidarity with the students in Pune. They shouted slogans demanding the resignation of Chauhan and supporting the student’s claim. Support has also started pouring in from the industry with people like KalkiKochelin, Onir and Santosh Sivan publicly stating their views against the ministry’s decision.
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