FTII row: Anupam Kher among others lend support to students

New Delhi: On a day that the FTII students agitating for the removal of Chairman Gajendra Chauhan received support from more film personalities like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Anupam Kher, the body leading the strike on Thursday hinted at moving court to secure their objective.

As the strike at the premier institute in Pune entered its 28th day, the FTII Students’ Association (FSA) said they are keeping the option open of moving court to secure the removal of TV actor Chauhan as the chairman of its Governing Council since the Centre has failed to “respond positively” to their demand. Calling upon the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to initiate a second round of talks to discuss their demands, FSA representative Rakesh Shukla said, “We are also exploring the option of approaching a court of law on the issue as judiciary is another platform available to us.”

Talking to reporters, the FSA representative, however, said they prefer a solution through dialogue and were seeking a second round of talks with the I&B Ministry after failing to resolve the issue of Chauhan’s appointment during the July 3 parleys in New Delhi. Referring to the Centre’s “rigid” stand on the Chairman’s appointment, Shukla said while it was the government’s prerogative to select a person for the job, the students, too, had the right to protest if they felt the choice was not right.

FSA has alleged that Chauhan, best known for playing Yudhisthir in mega TV epic ‘Mahabharata’, lacks “vision and stature” to head the renowned film institute. “We are not asking the government to nominate a particular person. We are only contesting the present appointment,” said another FSA representative, Ranajit Nair. Shukla demanded an apology from actor Mukhesh Khanna, head of the Children’s Film Society, for a statement reportedly by him that if the students did not like the government’s choice of chairman, they were free to quit FTII.

“This is an insensitive and autocratic approach and indicates the government’s future strategy of suppressing the agitation using undemocratic methods,” he added. Meanwhile, celebrated filmmaker Gopalakrishnan and veteran actor Kher backed the striking FTII students.

Gopalakrishnan, a former FTII Chairman, said in Delhi that he would personally request Chauhan to step down from the position as he feels his appointment will only harm them and everyone concerned.
Kher, on the other hand, felt that the training institute needed somebody who is “much more qualified”. Film personalities like Resul Pookutty, Kiran Rao, Sayeed Mirza and Piyush Mishra have expressed their displeasure over Chauhan’s appointment. Earlier this week, noted actress Pallavi Joshi and Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua resigned as members of the FTII Society in support of the striking students.

Gopalakrishnan criticised the government, saying, “An institution like FTII cannot be closed in a day at the behest of a minister and higher authorities. If the government has made the wrong choice then it is for them to correct it. “I would personally request him (Chauhan) to decline to take up this position because it will not do him any good. It will not be good for students; in fact, it will harm everyone concerned,” said the 74-year-old ace director.

Kher for his part opined that FTII needs a “much qualified” person at the helm and said that he also supports the idea of turning the government institute into an autonomous body. “I personally feel that FTII represents a certain art form … it does need a person who has a great body of work.

Certainly, FTII needs somebody who is much more qualified than whatever Gajendraji’s qualifications are coming across,” the 60-year-old actor said during an event in Chandigarh. Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui said ideally a pass-out from the institute should be appointed as chairman because that person is aware of the curriculum and problems.

“People who have passed out of the institute know the ground reality and they should be at the helm of things as they know the place, the problems, the curriculum, the running of the institute,” the actor said in a video posted by FSA on YouTube. Meanwhile, DJ Narain, Director of FTII, when contacted, confirmed a visit to the institute by BJP MP and actor Shatrughan Sinha two days back. “He met me and offered his help in resolving the issue,” Narain added.

However, the FSA representatives said the lawmaker-actor, an FTII alumnus, held no meeting with the striking students and left after spending two hours with the director. FSA has also claimed that Chauhan will be heading the panel for selection of the new director of the institute and has objected to the same. The term of the present director, D J Narain, is due to end this month.

Reacting to the matter, I&B ministry sources on Thursdand said that the process of selection of the director — which has been followed over the years — was as per standard norms and procedures. The apprehensions of the student community were misplaced, they said while assuring that the Centre was fast-tracking the process of establishing FTII as a Centre for Excellence.