Between January 1993 and 2013, only three women have been appointed as full-time faculty at the country’s premier establishment, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Information sought under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has also revealed that the 21 full-time faculty members currently working at FTII don’t include a single woman.
FTII Director D J Narain said: “The positions at the institute are open to all. We would love to have more women faculty here but since we don’t get enough applications (from women), it doesn’t translate into appointments. Considering that the number of woman students is growing gradually but steadily, I feel the number of woman faculty members should also rise in the coming years.” The three women who worked as full-time faculty between 1993 and 2013 are Rajani Ratnaparkhi, Jayashree Kanal and Smita Pawaskar. Kanal, who served from 1975 to 2005 in the television wing, says though the male-female ratio among the faculty members during her tenure was far from 50:50, the women did not face discrimination and enjoyed a strong say in all matters.
Virendra Saini, dean of the film department who passed out in 1976, feels the reason for fewer number of women faculty at FTII could be less number of women applying for full-time teaching posts. “During my time as a student, there was just one woman faculty in the acting department, but she too was not on a full-time basis. As compared to direction, the number of women students pursue sound and cinematography courses is very less. It reflects in the related teaching posts too. For instance, when the FTII recently invited application for teaching post in the sound department, out of the eight to nine applications received, only two were from women candidates,” he says.
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However, according to the women who have worked at FTII, even for a short duration, the atmosphere at the institute is “not very positive and conducive” for long-term tenures for women. Rajula Shah, who worked on contract basis at FTII till April 2013, says she was the only woman faculty member at the institute during her over two-and-a-half-year stint. “While I did not face any discrimination being a woman, it was a disturbing, bizarre and unbalanced situation to work in. It cannot go unnoticed. It needs an in-depth probe,” says Shah. Citing another probable reason for the situation, she says: “Since the whole teaching method at FTII is workshop-based, not much importance is given to classroom teaching. In that sense, having an in-house faculty is not very useful.”
Shah studied direction at FTII and passed out in 2000. She is an independent filmmaker based in Kolkata. “I had quit because I was a bit disturbed with the dead bureaucracy at the institute, where there was no possibility to change or introduce anything new. It was a big letdown and very disheartening,” she says.
Theatre, film and television actor Meeta Vasisht, who headed the acting department from May to October 2013, said, “My association with the institute goes back to 1987, when I came here as an actor to work in a student’s film. From 1991 onwards, I was a visiting faculty here. However, when I started working as a head of the department, I realised that my struggle was not with the place but with the mindset of the people, who were resistant to any kind of change in the name of ‘FTII tradition’. It is a pity that FTII has no full-time woman faculty. I don’t think it is a question of men-women, what the place needs is a flexible attitude to positive change.”
Chandrashekhar Joshi, who has been associated with the institute for the last 32 years, finds it difficult to recall names of the full-time women faculty members he came across during his tenure. “The count has always been very low,” he says.
As far as male-female ratio among the students is concerned, those associated with the institute say it’s only now in the last one decade that more and more women have started enrolling. “Till about 10-15 years ago, the number of woman students at the institute used to be very low,” says Joshi.
On the contrary, the number of women visiting the institute as guest faculty to conduct lectures and workshops has been quite impressive. As many as 79 eminent personalities from the country and abroad, such as Renu Saluja, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Iboloya Fekete, Helga Reidmiester, Vijaya Mehta, Suman Kalra, Shama Zaidi and Shobha Gujar among others, have visited the institute multiple times between 1993 and 2013. “They say ‘Never say never’. If I ever get another opportunity to join the institute, I might take it up. Having worked at the institute for a period of six months, I will have a better understanding of handling things,” says Vasisht.