Wanting to hire Pak artistes should go there: FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan

MUMBAI: Just a year ago FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan was in the eye of the storm. The dust from the FTII row has settled, but he is now fighting battles on very different fronts.

One of them is with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which has unanimously rejected Milan Bhaumik’s Danga, in which Chauhan has played Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. “If the Censor Board members do not know history, they should call historians…. but facts cannot be obliterated,” Chauhan told DNA.

Waiting to change into the attire of Ravana for the last scene of the Luv Kush Ramlila in the Capital with a picture of Hanuman before him, he spoke against the outright rejection of the film by the Censor Board.

The director has moved the Calcutta High Court against the CBFC refusing to clear his film, which portrays the Kolkata communal riots of August 16, 1946. The FTII chairman had even spoken to CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani last month, but was told that the decision of the Board was unanimous. Members of the Board felt the content of the film was too sensitive and could create communal tension. Chauhan recalls that he spent three hours each day getting the makeup done, after which he “resembled Mookerjee” and 45 minutes later getting it removed. “I belong to his ideology… He is a person who did not get his due but the government of the day follows his ideology… Jinnah wanted West Bengal to be part of Pakistan. Mookerjee took the support of the Muslim League and stopped Jinnah from doing that,” said Chauhan, who joined the BJP in February, 2004, the same day as cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu.

Chauhan said the Censor Board had objection to the word “ayash” being used in the movie for Jawaharlal Nehru. “I said Nehru was not the Prime Minister in 1946.” On the raging debate over Pakistani actors in India, Chauhan said well before the surgical strikes, he had suggested to the home ministry and ministry of external affairs to take steps to stop the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from giving work permits to Pakistani artistes.

“Directors who want to hire Pakistani artistes should go to Pakistan and shoot. I don’t know how permissions are given there,” he said. However, Chauhan has refrained from raising the issue with the government now as he was not with the Cinema and Television Artists Association (CINTAA) anymore.

The media is neither pursuing him nor flooding him with calls now. “It’s over a year now, but neither Rahul Gandhi nor Arvind Kejriwal have come to find out what’s happening in FTII. How has everyone forgotten what had become such a big issue,” he said.

Meanwhile at FTII, with life back to normal, his team has suggested making the institute financially self-sustaining. It has initiated short term courses in cinematography, screenplay writing and acting across the country to fund it. Besides, it is planning to make sets in the 32 acres of land it has in Pune and has also sent study teams to Ramaji Rao studios and Film City.