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FTII – Should the Tax Payer subsidize delinquency in the name of Art ?

Author: Niticentral Staff
Publication: Niticentral.com
Date: June 16, 2015
URL:   http://www.niticentral.com/2015/06/16/ftii-protests-not-gajendra-change-318283.html

The present controversy over Mahabharat fame Gajendra Chauhan being appointed as the Chairman of the prestigious Film Institute FTII is not about him “lacking the vision and stature of the past chairpersons” as is being tom-tommed by the “student body” and being parrotted by the media. It can be a bit about his political leanings but that is also not the full story.

It is about the much-required change in curriculum and administration discipline which the FTII students who linger there for years on subsidized facilities have been protesting against.

Student Anarchism in FTTI did not start last week and definitely not with the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan.

After the term of last president Saeed Mirza Akhtar ended in March 2014, the Government appointed a president only last week.

Earlier, responding to question on the FTII vacancy in an interview to the Economic Times, I&B Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore had said:

“Minister Jaitley and I in the past many months have held interactions with many people in the industry and have realised that the standards of FTII needs to be improved drastically. The idea is to revamp FTII with the industry’s help. It was important for us to study problems in these centres and identify people who can rectify them.”

As a result of continued student protests against any attempt to revamp the curriculum at FTII in the past, the quality of training and education has been suffering here. Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

An FTII student Fatema Kagalwala, in an interview in November 2014, explains her experience at the FTII:

“This place is nothing from inside as its image is outside. It’s a tough place to be in. There is a lot of fragmentation. It is disillusioning as well in more ways than one academically as well as culturally.”

It was not until last year that a curriculum revamp was planned as a student representative at the academic council of FTII Sakshi Gulati acknowledged:

“The way of film making is changing rapidly with the emerging technology and digital revolution. A new look at the syllabus is need of the hour… Courses need to be reformed radically. We are shifting from analog to digital format and creating a brand new syllabus, which will be at par with the time and technology. It’s not just the syllabus that is going to get changed, but the entire learning process too.”

Another crucial issue is the backlogs. It is believed that some students from as far back as the 2009 batch are yet to finish their diploma. This has put a huge pressure on the institute’s infrastructure.

This raises a big question on how long the government can afford to subsidize the film institute and the lingering students!

On top of that, sources suggest that the film industry has been complaining about the quality of the FTII products.

These are the facts despite the institute being run all along by the eminent personalities with supposed “vision and stature”.

Unlike celebrities who don’t have time to get into the day-to-day affairs, the Institute needed someone as the chairman who not only had the required expertise but also the commitment to devote his/her full time.

FTII’s Culture Delinquency has long been Institutionalized by the Left

Mrinal Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, Girish Karnad, Vinod Khanna, and UR Ananthamurthy are among the eminent personalities who have served as Chairman of the Governing Council in the past.

Mrinal Sen was involved with the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. He was associated with the socialist Indian People’s Theatre Association – an association of leftist theatre-artists under the Left parties.

Mahesh Bhatt has been a Congress supporter. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he even campaigned in a Karvan-e-Bedari (caravan of awareness) asking people to vote for Congress and defeat BJP.

Girish Karnad has been an opponent of BJP. He had opposed Narendra Modi for Prime Minister post in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

the late UR Ananthamurthy was quiet vocal about his opposition to BJP. He even made an unsuccessful run for the Lok Sabha in 2004 in which he stated that his prime ideological objective in opting to contest the elections was to fight the BJP.

All the former chairman of FTII mentioned above had not mere political leanings but were well known for their Leftist Activism. With the exception of Vinod Khanna, who was made the Chairman during the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre in 2001, it seems hatred for the BJP must have been an added advantage for those looking for the chairmanship.

Commenting on the present controversy, former Chairman of FTII Shyam Benegal said:

“The person has not even taken charge and students cannot pre-judge anybody. If the person tries to impose his political views, then the students have the right to protest.”

Gajendra Chauhan has been associated with the entertainment industry for 34 years now.

His appeal of being given a chance to hear his case has fallen on deaf ears:

“Without knowing my background, without knowing me, without knowing my capabilities, they (students) have decided on their own (to protest). I would request them to have a meeting across the table, sit and talk over. If you still feel (the same) then we will go for another option.”

Perhaps it is high time the Government raises the tough question on why exactly it must continue to be in the business of running a Film Institute ?

Perhaps it is also high time that the Film Industry and those invested in Film Making put their money where their mouth is.

FTII needs to be run like any other Private Film Institute rather than the Tax Payer subsidized Haven for Delinquents that it has been reduced to, all in the name of “Artistic Vision”.
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