FTII council member dubs protesting students 'goons'; calls for strike to be crushed

Daggers continue to be drawn in the row over the controversial appointment of little-known TV actor-turned BJP politician Gajendra Chauhan as the new Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Last week, FTII governing council and Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS) propagandist Anagha Ghaisas, dubbed the agitating students 'goons' and called for the 75-day strike to be "crushed".

Ms. Ghaisas' remarks have drawn criticism from students and political organisations alike and have been condemned.

The remarks were made during a debate in a Marathi TV channel on August 19, when Ms. Ghaisas upbraided the students for allegedly mentally harassing and confining FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe to his cabin for several hours.

"She referred to the students as goons at least thrice during the course of the debate. I have the tapes," said noted activist and lawyer Asim Sarode, who represents the students' after the shocking midnight crackdown by the police where five protesting students were arrested.

"It seems that Ms. Ghaisas’ highly insensitive views on what the FTII agitation is all about perhaps echoes that of the Central government's, which probably wants to crush the strike," said Mr. Sarode, speaking to The Hindu.

Ms. Ghaisas did a rapid volte-face, stating that her comments were distorted and that she meant that the students' actions in 'harassing' Mr. Pathrabe smacked of hooliganism. She further claimed that the students had allegedly shown 'disrespect' to the national anthem last week by kicking a rumpus when the anthem was being played.

"The students' criticisms do not affect me. I have records of their past misbehaviour. They need to be disciplined. No one talks about this part," she commented.

Ms. Ghaisas, who only has several documentary films of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to her credit, has come in for withering criticism from both students and several eminent filmmakers. They earlier castigated the I & B Ministry for appointing Mr. Chauhan and four other RSS intimates, including Ms. Ghaisas, on the panel of the Governing Council.

"Her comments merely serve to illuminate her sheer inconsideration towards the problems plaguing students. Has she ever bothered to view the films that so many talented students have made here? Besides what is her conception of art besides making a few propaganda films for the ruling party," said Ranjit Nair, spokesman, FTII Students' Association (FSA).

Mr. Nair said that the students were firm on the removal of Mr. Chauhan from the post of Chairman and the dissolution of the Governing Council and had articulated this clearly during the visit by the three-member delegation from the Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Ministry team last week. While the recommendations to be submitted by the delegation may take a while, there is optimism that it could help defuse the tension.

Here's a look at the FTII limbo that has been going for weeks now:

FTII Limbo

Gajendra Chauhan, an actor-turned-politician, was appointed as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on June 9, 2015. His appointment triggered an >indefinite strike by students of the institute on June 12.

Who is Chauhan?

Mr. Chauhan is best known as 'Yudhisthira' in the Mahabharata TV series aired on Doordarshan in 1988-90. He has been associated with BJP for over two decades but formally joined the party in 2004.

Why protest?

Students of FTII have questioned Mr. Chauhan's body of work and "creative credentials." The students doubt if Mr. Chauhan can fill the shoes of predecessors like R.K. Laxman, Syam Benegal, Girish Karnad and U.R. Ananthamurthy.

Political vendetta?

Students claim that Mr. Chauhan's appointment is an attempt of the ruling party to foist its right-wing agenda upon the Institute.


Besides, prominent film personalities, All India Students' Association (AISA), the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film Institute, and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are all coming out strongly in support of the striking students.

  • If they don't want you, they don't want you. Pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where. Let self pride play a role and retire

    - >Rishi Kapoor

  • FTII needs to be in safe hands. Students need somebody who they can trust and look up to. It's their future which is at stake here.

    >- Rajkumar Rao

  • This is something we should be talking about and by this we will clearly know that it is a mistake and that he has no credentials...If I would have been in place of Chauhan and I would have seen that my fraternity does not want me, I would have withdrawn.

    >- Amol Palekar

  • Don't think what the students are asking for is illogical, don't think they are asking for the moon. They are just asking for a fair chance, a fair opportunity, correct faculty, correct syllabus.

    - Ranbir Kapoor

  • I have neither been approached by students nor by authorities. But being an alumnus of this institute to which I owe my film career, I am more than willing to step in and sort out matters if given the chance to do so.

    - >Shatrughan Sinha

Prominent chairmen

Anwar Jamal Kidwai
(1974 - 1977)

First chairman, founder of Mass Communication Research centre at Jamia Millia Islamia.

>R.K. Laxman
(1977- 1980)

Legendary cartoonist, Padma Bhushan, Vibhushan. Known for creating the character "Common Man".

> Shyam Benegal
(1981 - 1983)
(1989 - 1992)

Known for pioneering parallel cinema. Recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award among others.

> Mahesh Bhatt
(1995- 1998)

Award-winning director, screenwriter, producer in mainstream Hindi cinema.

>U.R. Ananthamurthy

Eminent author, Padma Bhushan. Pioneered Navya movement in Kannada language.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:40:29 AM |

Next Story