FTII row: Govt invites striking students for talks on Friday

Pune: The striking students of prestigious FTII here have been invited by the Union Government for talks on Friday over their demand for cancellation of appointment of TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as its Chairman.

As the strike entered the 20th day today, the invitation marked an attempt by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to find a solution after the students refused to budge from their stand to remove Chauhan, who is best known for his portrayal as 'Yudhisthir' in the popular Mahabharata TV serial in the late 80s.

The students have agreed to take part in the talks. "We received an official confirmation of our appointment on July 3 in Delhi last evening through a communication addressed to Film and Television Institute of India's Director D J Narain by joint secretary of Information and Broadcasting Ministry," a spokesman of the FTII Students' Association (FSA) told reporters.

The students have been boycotting classes and abandoning academic work in protest against the appointment of Chauhan, who they allege lacks "stature and vision" to head the premier institution which is expected to give new direction to Indian cinema.

"The delegation comprising seven past and three current students will be led by Girish Kasarwally and a decision on continuing or withdrawing the strike will be based on the proceedings at the proposed meeting with the ministry," the spokesman said.

Asked whether the students would be suggesting any particular name to head the council, he said, "We do not have anyone in mind. But, we insist that the person selected for the post should be without political bias."

Chauhan's affiliation with the ruling BJP, too, has been in the focus of the students' association which had alleged that his appointment appeared "politically coloured" as he had no requisite "academic and artistic excellence".

While demanding a "transparent process of appointments" in the FTII, protesting students also indicated that they were equally firm on their demand of dissolution of FTII society since its members allegedly had no "artistic credibility".

"We are optimistic about our talks and a positive response from the Ministry," the spokesman said.

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