The other side of FTII Imbroglio

The other side of FTII Imbroglio

By : Rahul Tripathi
Review By : 

Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Amrish Puri , Satish Kaushik, Shyam Benegal, Rajkumar Hirani and Gajendra Chauhan… WHO!! Who is this Gajendra Chauhan? Is he someone who is enough qualified to run such a reputed institute like Film and Television Institute of India? What kind of roles has he done?

Everyone has an opinion about this and people are coming out with their own version of theories. Gajendra Chauhan has been appointed as the Chairman of FTII and this has become the talk of the town as he has been associated with BJP for two decades. Mr. Chauhan formally joined the party in 2004. He extensively campaigned for the BJP in Haryana during the Lok Sabha elections last year. His appointment as FTII chief on June 10 sent ripples across the film fraternity, with many viewing it as an instance of political largesse. People are raising questions over some other appointments which point towards the Sangh coonection. Anagha Ghaisas, who has a strong RSS background and whose husband was a long-serving Sangh pracharak, has made documentary films supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and about Ayodhya. Narendra Pathak had been the Maharashtra president of the ABVP for four years, Pranjal Saikia is an office-bearer of the RSS-linked Sanskar Bharati, while Rahul Solapurkar admitted he was in contention for a BJP ticket in last year’s state Assembly elections.

But is this the real issue with FTII? FTII surely has much bigger problems than having a “not-so-distinguished” Chairman.  Its academic curriculum is outdated; several students linger there for years with backlogs; strikes and protests have been a routine for decades; there are reports of film industry complaining about the quality of FTII products.

Government of India spends 12 lakh a year per student for the quality education in FTII. The expense on a FTII student is 3 times higher than an IIT student which is around Rs 3.4 lakh a year. Spend on an IIM student is a shade higher at roughly Rs 5 lakh a year as compared to the IITs.

The government spend on medical education at Rs 6 lakh a year per student is only half the money spent on budding filmmakers. 

There is a long history of protests in FTII starting from 1971, when students were protesting to introduce a specialization course in direction. There has been 39 protests and 5 hunger strikes till date in FTII where studies have been affected. What comes as a shocker is the fact that there has been uncountable cases of non-completion of courses of those students who are studying in the institute. While the actual course duration is 3 years, students from 2008 batch are yet to complete the course.The problem becomes bigger with the fact that they have to pay the fees of only 3 years and not of the actual duration and the government keeps on bearing all the expenses.

And yes all this happened when Gajendra Chauhan was not there. Right now FTII needs a proper administrator who can devote ample amount of the time to the institute. The students at FTII have not allowed the classes to go on as scheduled. How can anyone pre judge the performance of the Chairman without giving him proper time?

You have to see the patterns of strikes in FTII to realise how it all works. A Director who had relinquished charge of the FTII in 2002 disillusioned and disgruntled said that he had noticed a pattern that students first go to the director, then to the governing council and then to the Ministry and when no one ‘listens’- agrees with them- they go on strike. There has been many incidents where the image of this prestigious (at least it was aimed to be prestigious) institute has suffered a setback.

Gajendra Chauhan is not their problem as there have been many other people on this post, who had some or other kinds of political inclination. Mrinal Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, Girish Karnad, Vinod Khanna, and UR Ananthamurthy are among the eminent personalities who have served as Chairman of the Governing Council in the past.

Mrinal Sen was involved with the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. He was associated with the socialist Indian People’s Theatre Association – an association of leftist theatre-artists under the Left parties. Mahesh Bhatt has been a Congress supporter. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he even campaigned in a Karvan-e-Bedari (caravan of awareness) asking people to vote for Congress and defeat BJP. Girish Karnad has been an opponent of BJP. He had opposed Narendra Modi for Prime Minister post in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. UR Ananthamurthy was quiet vocal about his opposition to BJP. He even made an unsuccessful run for the Lok Sabha in 2004 in which he stated that his prime ideological objective in opting to contest the elections was to fight the BJP.

I think it’s high time that government should think about not giving the funds to FTII and let it run like other privet institutes as the kind of support they foster from government, makes them feel safe in the locked boundaries of FTII. We should raise the questions on the continuous backlogs, quality of education and more importantly the kind of people FTII is offering to the film industry. Have you heard of any popular FTII product in recent times? I haven’t!

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