Even as it awaits the arrival of newly-appointed chairman Anupam Kher to take charge, a fresh round of trouble, on an unrelated issue, seems to be brewing on the campus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). A day after it expelled five of its students from the hostel for one semester, the FTII faced protests from the students, who accused the administration of being “completely unmindful” of their careers. Following the sit-in protests by students in front of Director’s office, the FTII relented and said the five students could continue to stay on in the hostel. But the students, particularly those of the 2016 batch, were not pacified and alleged that the administration was only interested in completing the course within the three-year stipulated time, even if the actual learning process suffered in the process.
The 2016 batch of students, the first ones to be exposed to a new syllabus introduced last year, said they were being used as “guinea pigs” to experiment with the changed syllabus and evaluation system. They claimed that their exercises were being “modified or truncated arbitrarily” to finish the semesters on time, without giving students adequate time to complete the exercises as per the norms.
“They have changed the norms in the middle of the semester, after realising that the existing ones, as per the new syllabus, wouldn’t allow the exercises to finish on time,” said one of the five students who was expelled from the hostel by the administration on Wednesday. He also gave the example of a ‘DV exercise’ from the second semester which, he claimed, had been changed to an intra-departmental exercise although it was supposed to be a collaborative work between students from various departments.
FTII had introduced a revised syllabus, as well as a new ‘Choice Based Credit System’ (CBCS), in June 2016. Since 2000, the last time the syllabus was revised, students not finishing their courses on time had become a major issue in the institute. The administration had received a lot of flak for the delayed schedules, with some batches taking as long as seven years to finish their three-year diploma.
One of the objectives of the new syllabus was to eradicate this problem and ensure that students do not stay longer than three years at the institute. Students, however, claimed that the syllabus was implemented in haste and it still cannot be finished in three years. But, in its keenness to do so, the institute was arbitrarily dropping exercises and workshops or was rushing through modules, they said.
Students said that although they had brought these issues to the notice of Dean (Films) as well as the Director of the institute, and requested them to ensure that the learning aspect should be given priority over enforcement of timelines, they had been told that the norms would not be changed.
“It was then that the entire 2016 film batch decided to boycott one of the exercises, called the ‘dialogue exercise’. Instead of trying to understand our point of view, the administration decided to expel the five students for one semester,” said Robin Joy, president of the FTII Students Body and a second-year student .
“Throughout the second semester, we worked on weekends, we worked days and nights, only to finish the exercises on time because we too want to finish the course on time and go on to make our own films. The way the course is progressing, it seems we will finish the courses on time, but without learning anything substantial,” said Rohit Kumar, a second-year student specialising in film editing.
FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola denied the charges levelled by students but did not elaborate further. Meanwhile, the second-year students have written an open letter to Kher, raising several issues. In the letter, they claimed these issues affected them, the faculty and the learning process adversely. They also complained about the administration’s “lavish expenditure” on events such as ‘Open Day’ and ‘Foundation Day’, when the students were facing “shortage of resources”.
“We believe that the amount of money being spent on lights and erecting set pieces in front of the campus can be spent on infrastructure, and in buying and repairing equipment that will help us finish our projects on time,” said one of the students.