Bollywood folk react to the FTII controversy
Ever since Gajendra Chauhan, best remembered for his role as Yudhisthir in the mythological television series Mahabharat (1988–90), was appointed chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the country's premier film school has been embroiled in a controversy that is thickening by the day.
Policemen escort the arrested FTII students to court, which eventually granted them bail. pic/PTI
In a crackdown late on Tuesday night, police entered the FTII campus and took five students into custody on charges of rioting and unlawful assembly. An FIR was filed against 15 other students. Police action followed a complaint from the institute's director, Prashant Pathrabe, who was gheraoed by the students on Monday evening for resolving to go ahead with the assessment of diploma projects made by the striking students of 2008 batch.
The arrest came hours after news trickled in about Information and Broadcasting ministry officials visiting the institute soon to resolve the ongoing imbroglio. By yesterday evening, the students were granted bail. hitlist speaks to a few Bollywood folk about the latest crisis engulfing the FTII...
Subhash Ghai, Filmmaker and FTII alumnus
It is sad that the whole thing is turning ugly. The government must take immediate steps for the well-being of FTII. After all, the institute has produced the best talent in Indian cinema. FTII is, and will always remain, my mother school in cinema.
Nikhil Advani, Filmmaker
It is extremely tragic that students are not being able to protest peacefully for what is pretty obvious to everyone — a justified demand. On my part, I completely support the students as I feel arts and culture should be devoid of any kind of politics.
That the police had to come to the campus is a shame. If as a teacher, you honestly care for students, then you will never call the police to resolve an issue. It is not that the students turned violent. They are getting cornered in every way. It is ridiculous that the government is considering it as an ego issue. It has been more than two months that the institute has not been functioning. The students are suffering and the government doesn't care. If I were in Gajendra Chauhan's place, I would have resigned out of shame. How can you be the head of an institute where nobody wants you? We are a democratic country and have elected representatives, so how can he be so insensitive? The problems need to solved, but the major issue is: Who is going to head the institute? Who is going to treat the students with love and protect them? Who is to care for their future, instead of sending them to jail? The students are observing democratic way of protest which we adopted during the independence struggle. It is non-violent. They did not deserve to be arrested; they are getting frustrated. Students have always been important to shape the nation's future. All political parties have students' wing and now they are saying they should not get influenced by political parties. I am not saying they may have not made a mistake, but sabotage is not the solution.
The FTII is a creative place where minds are nurtured and where there is food for thought. There should be discipline, but along with that freedom of expression must exist too. A creative mind needs freedom to grow and nurture. The system should protect a beautiful institute like the FTII and not restrict anyone.
Zeishan Quadri, Writer-filmmaker
Arresting students is not an answer to the questions of these FTIIans. It is the right of these students to raise their voice if the faculty of their institution is not up to the mark. They need an answer to this and justice has been denied to them.
Umesh Kulkarni, Marathi film director and FTII alumnus
I condemn the arrest. The government is ignoring the entire issue and they have definitely taken a wrong step. The strike was the right way to mark their protest. All of a sudden when the officials decided to do the assessment of the 2008 batch, students had the right to ask questions to the persons concerned. They were pushed to the brink, but the allegations they have made while arresting the students is wrong. For the past two months, they have not abused or hit anyone. They have called artistes to register their protest. It is democratic. All they were doing is ask logical questions. They have victimised a few students to end the protest forcibly.
Hansal Mehta, Filmmaker
They are trying to assert authority through force. The matter could have been solved between the students and the institute, but it has escalated. I know the students have committed some mistakes and there is no denying it, but at the end of the day, treat them like students and not political prisoners. Without understanding the situation, they are just following diktats to silence the students. I stand by them although I don't necessarily agree with the way they are protesting. I am against the idea of involving politicians like Rahul Gandhi thinking that it will take them anywhere. They should not politicise the matter. At the same time, you need to give them some benefit of doubt since they are students.
Vivek Agnihotri, Filmmaker
I have always been against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, but that doesn't mean the students should get involved in politics. I am also against politicians like Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and Yogendra Yadav hijacking the issue. The students damaged government property. How can you form a human chain around the institute's director? It is wrong. The students are being instigated by politicians with an agenda. All political parties are thinking about scoring brownie points; they don't feel for the students. Arvind Kejriwal had no business to invite students to Delhi and say that he will give them space to hold classes. It is unfair to say that the government is not doing anything when a student delegation will be meeting the officials today. We always like to believe that the bigger party is at fault. They should sit down and have a dialogue. If you want Gajendra to be ousted, convince the government that the appointment is wrong. Ultimately, things will turn violent, like the way it has now happened. Politics should end first. It is wrong to say that they were pushed to the edge — every criminal will use that excuse to justify his acts. People are only talking to students and asking for their point of view. They have become a victim of politics and the government is also doing politics — both parties have a lot to answer.
June 9: Gajendra Chauhan is appointed as chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) governing council
June 12: Questioning his “creative credentials” and body of work, students launch an indefinite strike; few board members quit shortly after the surprise appointment. Students perceive as the BJP government’s attempt to “saffronise” the campus; support pours in from FTII alumni and renowed film personalities
June 13: All India Students’ Association, Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film Institute and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, pledge support to the striking
June 15: Chauhan urges students to give him “just one chance” to prove himself. Controversy thickens with the choice of a reconstituted FTII panel where half of the eight members are “RSS propagandists”
June 24: Controversial Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani sides with Chauhan, says “nobody has questioned why Congress nominees are on board or part of the panel”
June 28: Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley appeals to students to resume classes
July 16: FTII director J Narain warns students of administrative action if they don’t resume classes
July 24: Policemen deployed on FTII campus
July 31: Rahul Gandhi meets 250 FTII students in Pune, states government is “systematically promoting mediocrity”
August 2: RTI reveals industry stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Rajkumar Hirani, Ramesh Sippy, Jaya Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Anupam Kher, etc were considered for chairman’s post, but Gajendra’s one-para CV got him the job
August 3: FTII students hold protests outside Jantar Mantar, New Delhi; invited to meet I&B officials for a dialogue for the first time since the strike
August 19: In a pre-dawn crackdown, police arrest five students from the campus on charges of rioting after they gheraoed FTII director Prashant Pathrabe, protesting against the assessment of the incomplete diploma projects; Govt forms three-member team headed by SM Khan, Registrar of Newspapers for India, to assess ground situation