What is the FTII imbroglio?
Students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the country’s premier film education centre, have gone on an indefinite strike since June 12 protesting the Information & Broadcast Ministry’s surprise appointment of television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman of the institute.
Who is Gajendra Chauhan?
He is best known as Yudhishthira in the hugely popular Mahabharata TV series produced by B.R. Chopra and aired on Doordarshan between1988-90. Other than this, Mr. Chauhan has appeared in numerous television soaps, generally of inferior quality, and several ‘B’ grade Bollywood ventures.
Associated with the 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.
How do students see the appointment?
Given his limited artistic abilities and dubious capabilities in helming an institute as prestigious as the FTII, students are disappointed about the fact that their new Chairman is a BJP party worker.
The students at FTII have sharply questioned Mr. Chauhan’s “creative credentials” and whether he has the requisite vision in guiding the institute that has been earlier helmed by internationally-renowned luminaries such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad, U.R. Ananthamurthy, and Shyam Benegal, who have graced Indian theatre, cinema and literature.
Many view the appointment as an attempt by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government to foist its right-wing agenda upon the institute.
“There are so many eminent personalities who could have been chosen for the post. While we have nothing against any party, we cannot accept this appointment on creative grounds and have accordingly submitted our demands to our Director and are awaiting a response from the I& B Ministry,” said Harishankar Nachimuthu, president, FTII Students’ Association.
How has the controversy thickened?
Apart from Mr. Chauhan’s appointment, students and progressive filmmakers have looked askance at the choice of the reconstituted FTII panel where four of the eight are RSS propagandists. These include Anagha Ghaisas, who has made several documentary films of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Narendra Pathak, a former president of the Maharashtra ABVP; Pranjlal Saikia, an office bearer of an RSS-linked organisation; and Rahul Solapurkar, who is intimately associated with the BJP.
Who are backing the students’ fight?
The battle has brought the ideological contest between the right and the left into sharp relief, with left-wing students’ organisations like the All India Students’ Association (AISA), the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film Institute and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) all coming out strongly in support of the striking students.
Besides, eminent personalities such as filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and academic-politician Yogendra Yadav have visited the FTII campus in Pune to express solidarity with the students and register their protest against Mr. Chauhan’s appointment.