Chaos reigned at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) campus in Pune when ‘Yudhishtir’ Gajendra Chauhan visited the campus for the first time after being appointed the chairman of the esteemed institute. Hundreds of students gathered to voice their protests and the police had to resort to lathi-charge to control the crowd. The Pune police however maintain that they dd not resort to lathi-charge but they did use force to evict the students from the main gate.
Govt Spends Twice on FTII Compared to Other Premier Educational Institutions in India
The Govt. of India spends almost twice on budding Filmmakers from FTII every year, as compared to IIT, IIM & Medical Students.
Does that come as a surprise to you?
Yes, that’s fact! And probably that’s one of the reasons why many in the government feel that they should not take charge of FTII.
When the students of the prestigious Film and Television Institutes of India (FTII) were protesting against the appointment of ‘Gajendra Chauhan’ as the new chairman of FTII, the government was also considering transferring the ownership of FTII to Bollywood, as it spends around 12L a year on every student, compared to around 4-5 lakh it spends on IIT and IIM students.
Here are more reasons why the Ministry for Information & Broadcasting (I&B) thinks that the government should wash its hands of the prestigious film institute, and hand over the institute to Bollywood – the Mumbai based film industry:
- The average cost of education incurred by the state for an FTII student is around Rs. 12 lakh per year. Its much higher than the Rs.3.5L spent on IIT students, Rs.5L spent on IIM students, Rs.6L spent on Medical students
- The students have a propensity to go on strike, and are ready to strike at the drop of a hat. There have been almost 40 strikes in its last 55 years of existence
- The three year postgraduate diploma course usually takes 4-5 years to complete, and the students continue to live in FTII hostels paying rent that’s far below market rates (most students also have huge arrears in their rent payments).
- Compared to what the government spends on the FTII, the the recovery through fees/hostel rent has decreased from 25% to as low as 11% over the last five years.
- The government had planned to spend over 100 crore rupees on upgrading FTII infrastructure (5 year plan), but many feel that the amount would be better spent in areas like primary education or health
So what does the country get in return by spending so much on FTII?
In its defence, an FTII alumni said that the prestigious film institute has given the Indian film industry popular cinematic names like Raju Hirani, Shyam Benegal and many more top class technicians.
Traditional diplomacy was about government-to-government relations. However, Modern diplomacy is more about people-to-people relations. And culture (including films) is central here.
These students help produce several Bollywood movies, which adds to the country’s soft power and helps the country to supplement diplomacy.
Although no agreement has been reached between the students & the government, the student’s decision to strike may have an unintended consequence…the Government is now thinking of closing FTII or transfer the ownership to Bollywood.
So although the government is in talks with the students, if the deadlock continues, the Ministry intend to accept proposals from the film industry regarding change of ownership.
So who is Gajendra Chauhan?
The row started after the government announced the name of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the FTII.
Gajendra Chauhan is best known for his portrayal as ‘Yudhisthir’ in the popular television ‘Mahabharat’ that was made by the late BR Chopra and aired on Doordarshan during the early 90s. Besides that, Mr. Chauhan has worked in other television serials and have done roles in not-so-well-known films.
And that is where the problem lies, as students feel that Mr. Gajendra does not have the experience, credentials and portfolio of work, to be appointed as the chairman of the FTII.
Students don’t want an administrative chairman
FTII is a place, where, besides students, a certain kind of culture is nurtured. No doubt, the students of FTIIs want the new chairman to be someone who is visionary and could also provide valuable inputs in the creative area, and not just take on the administrative responsibilities. FTII students would prefer someone like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad or Shyam Benegal to take up the new role.
Students were hoping for a better choice when names like Jahnu Barua, Santosh Sivan, Rajkumar Hirani were floated as the possible candidates, however, the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan has come as a shocker to not just the students but also those from the film fraternity across the nation.
The students feel that this appointment sets a wrong precedence for the future.
There are many who also feel that the BJP government is making it a matter of pride & ego now…
Adoor Gopalakrishnan says the Govt. should not make it an pride and ego issue
Noted filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, also a Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) alumnus, feels the students are right in protesting. He said: “This is no war against a party or government. Here we have some body who has nothing to do with filmmaking of the kind of cinema that FTII is associated with. Bringing in somebody like him (Chauhan) will neither be good for him nor for the institute…the students are right in their agitation.”
“The government can’t violate its own rules. Students are expecting a call from Delhi. If the government refuses to listen, if it becomes an issue of pride and ego, it will be a very sad situation,” said Mr. Adoor.
However, a Ministry official said, “The students were assured of complete academic freedom and total technological upgradation of the institute. The government wants to work with the students to develop FTII into an institute of excellence, but the students are not willing to listen. We value the students and alumni of FTII, but there is no way the government will go back on its appointments. Who is in charge of administrative work should not concern the students as long their academic freedom is not being disturbed”.