news Monday, June 15, 2015 - 05:30
  The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, the premier media studies institution that celebrated its golden anniversary in 2011 had just recently got a fillip, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposing that FTII be accorded the status of national importance. A bill to this effect is pending in the Parliament. The syllabus is also being restructured, keeping in mind the technological advances in this arena. The committee is in the final stages of reforming the syllabus, as it is scheduled to be implemented for this year’s academic batch. With upgrading of infrastructure in full swing, the FTII that seemed to be finally devoid of students’ agitation over syllabus and infrastructure has suddenly been paralysed. Now, there is a "Mahabharat" over the appointment of BJP-member Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the FTII’s Governing Council. Chauhan, known for his role as "Yudhisthir" in the TV classic "Mahabharata" is being seen as a "lightweight’’ to occupy such a prestigious chair. More than his stature as an artist, FTII Students’ Association is miffed over Chauhan's alleged RSS connection. "Not only that," says Ajayan Adat, former President of the FTII Students’ Association and member of the core committee which is leading the agitation, "people who are known RSS members and have only marginally been a part of this creative industry having only made right-wing propaganda films have been included in the newly constituted FTII society.’’ Earlier, Saeed Akhtar Mirza was the chairman of the Governing Council of FTII, until his term was completed in 2014. Others who held this coveted post include Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, U R Ananthamurthy and Girish Karnad. The names of Santosh Sivan, Jahnu Baruah and Rajkumar Hirani were doing the rounds for this term's appointment. Ajayan Adat says that the announcement was out of the blue. "We came to know from the newspapers that BJP member Gajendra Chauhan has been appointed. This is very disturbing as it is for the first time that a political colour has been given to the appointment of chairman. Even during the NDA rule, when Vajpayee was at the helm, U R Ananthamurthy whose philosophy did not match with the governments’ was made the chairman. This is the first time that the government is misusing its democratic right to select a chairman, ignoring merit.’’ FTII is under a complete lockdown. All the 150 students are crying foul over this political appointment. Core members of the committee have deserted their hostel rooms and are sleeping outside the Director’s office. Classrooms have been locked, laboratories and studios have been shut, outdoor shoots have been called off and students are unrelenting. The campus is filled with posters and graffiti calling Chauhan Modi’s toy. Students say that while the centre has turned a deaf ear, they will not relent. "The chairman of the Governing Council has the powers to appoint the Director of FTII. The present Director D J Narain has now been posted to the Films Division and he would be gone in the next month or so. Hence, besides having a BJP man as chairman, it is likely that a RSS person would become the Director of FTII," says Adat. The students had pinned their hopes on MP Prakash Javadekar, who hails from Pune and had promised to improve the syllabus.  On Saturday, Harishankar Nachimuthu, President of the FTII Students Association, stated in his press release stated, "When the Finance Minister who also happens to be the present I&B Minster, announced that FTII would be made into an institute of national importance, students hoped that concrete and substantial measures will be taken to grant more autonomy to the institute and upgrade academic and physical infrastructure. The first step in the direction would have been to appoint a chairman of high artistic attitude, one whose values are in sync with the vision and ethos of the institute. Instead, bypassing all academic and institute requirements, the ministry has appointed Mr Gajendra Chauhan who lacks academic, artistic and administrative credentials in the field of Art and Film education.’’ But the government seems to be unrelenting. Will the agitation peter out, or will the government succumb to the pressure of the students?

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