Beyond the strike: FTII has been a picture in slow motion for years now

In November 2010, FTII had appointed a Group of Experts (GoE) to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the revitalisation of the institute. Newsline analyses the interim report presented in 2011.

Written by Garima Mishra | Pune | Published: June 24, 2015 12:17 am
ftii, ftii chairman row, tom alter, actor tom alter, ftii strike, ftii protest, ftii student protest, gajendra chauhan, ftii chairman gajendra chauhan, ftii gajendra chauhan, narendra modi, arun jaitley, india news, pune news Actor Tom Alter addresses students at FTII on Tuesday. He had come there to express his support to students. (Source: Express Photo by Sandeep Duandkar)

BEATING BACKLOGS

The report by the GoE, which included P K Nair, Shama Zaidi, Saeed Mirza and Kundan Shah among others, states that with three-year course taking nearly four-and-a-half to five years, the institute, has struggled with backlogs year after year. In order to improve the situation, the year 2010 and 2014 were declared as zero years. As of now, there are 242 students in the campus, out of which nearly 100 are those who should have cleared the course long back. While most students with backlogs are from 2011 batch, the rest are from 2008 and 2009.

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D J Narain, director of the institute, says delays were caused due to old syllabus which took more time to complete than the stipulated three years. Referring to the report, he says, “All this will be a story of the past. For three long years, we have worked on the new syllabus in such details that there is no possibility of delays and backlogs.”

Correlating all the problems raised in the report, Shaji N Karun, one of the members in GoE, says FTII needs to strive hard to maintain its status of being one of the biggest institutes of cinema and a benchmark for other film institutes that have cropped up over the years. He says that conferring an autonomous status will help FTII address most of its problems. “We need talents from FTII to cater to the world cinema. Only visionaries at the helm can lead to such aspirations with high thoughts on Indianness than Hollywood grammar of films. Europe always resisted and won. Now, it is India’s position.”

FACULTY FILES

Among many problems, the report talks about “unavailability and inaccessibility of faculty at crucial junctures”. It further says, “It is found that the regular faculty members, including heads of departments, are absent from their departments and offices for long periods. They arrive late, take half days off and remain absent for many days at a time. Administrative decisions sometimes remain pending due to the absence of these faculty members. Particular mention must be made of the film acting course, whose head (appointed on contract) remains unavailable to students for more than half the days of every month, with no other faculty appointed as second-in-command to oversee day-to-day running of the department.”

Admitting that the problem exists, the director says it is due to the fact that finding a good faculty, especially for acting department, is tough as well as a long process. “But this too will get resolved with new syllabus, which has hour-wise planning and will attract experts in the field,” Narain says.

Manoj Kumar Nitharwal, a student who passed out in 2014, says, “Students come here with an aim to study for three years and then make a career in the related field – direction, acting, cinematography etc. The faculties blame us for not finishing projects but we as students literally have to struggle for each and every thing at FTII, be it equipment or workshops. Barring a few good faculties, most are complacent, especially who are permanent and holding key posts. Then, there is inter-departmental politics because of which students suffer.”

The point is raised in the report too. “Students, who are still learning, work unsupervised and experiment alone with equipment, learning on the job. Functioning without guidance, they keep making errors and become used to taking more time to complete their work,” the report says.

Anjum Rajabali, renowned screenplay writer and a visiting faculty at FTII, says the institute has been dogged with myriad problems for a long time now, which need urgent and decisive redressal. “The most important one is lack of sufficient faculty. Moreover, the existing ones are underpaid and undervalued, with no scope, incentive or support for upgrading their knowledge and skills, while cinema and television evolve at a scorching pace. All this has left them bitter, cynical and unmotivated. This, combined with the lack of adequate infrastructure and resources, causes critical slippages in the time-table of assignments, ending up with three-year courses extending to five, or even six years,” he says. “Then, the institute needs a committed hands-on academic leadership. The director is a civil servant, usually with no past experience in cinema or TV, and a two-three year appointment. By the time he grasps FTII’s long-standing systemic problems and formulates initiatives, he is transferred. The entire system needs overhauling if FTII is to be made a centre of national excellence,” Rajabali says.

STUDENTS SAGA

Another problem pointed out by the report is ‘academic inactivity and lengthy periods of students’ absence”.

It says, “With the year-round routine disrupted and lack of organised academic activities during the periods of delay, students are left to their own devices for weeks at a time. As an outcome, an anomalous situation has developed over the years on the campus. Some go home for extended periods. Many seek professional assignments outside as assistants for monetary benefits. When they get such jobs, they tend to give these priority over their FTII schedule. Work schedules are often revised or projects put on hold to wait for crew members to return from their outside jobs. It appear that a consensus has developed among students that the only meaningful learning activity at FTII is embedded in the coordinated student exercises. Film screenings, reading, participation in discussions and other activities are relegated to a second place. Even when visiting filmmakers address the students and special workshops and seminars are held, the attendance is sparse. This indifference indicates serious underlying problems in the teaching-learning process at the Institute.”

Narain says he is aware about the situation and has often discouraged students from such practices. However, he says, he hasn’t taken any strict action against any student so far.

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