The news of Anupam Kher taking over as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has brought a wave of happiness among the students of the institute as well as the film fraternity. The actor has been appointed as the chairman six months after former chairman Gajendra Chauhan’s tenure ended on March 3.
Chauhan was appointed to the post in June 2015, for three years, with retrospective effect from March 2014. However, following vociferous protests against him by the students, he could assume office only in January 2016, thereby getting only a 15-month tenure.
When Gajendra Chauhan was appointed to head one of the country’s premier film institutes, Film and Television Institute of India, it had irked many, primarily the students, who felt it was the government’s attempt to “saffronize the institute.” The institute has a history of reputed chairmen, including film veteran Shyam Benegal, R.K. Laxmam, Girish Karnad and U.R. Ananthamurthy. To have Chauhan, who had a seemingly poor film repertoire in comparison to the aforementioned greats, was not acceptable to many.
We take a look at the timeline of how things unfolded since the time Chauhan was appointed.
June 9 – Gajendra Chauhan is appointed as the chairman of FTII.
June 12 – His appointment triggered an outbreak of mass protests on campus by the students. Over 20 students were detained by the local Pune police. Actors from the film fraternity came out to support the students. While Rishi Kapoor said, “If they don’t want you, they don’t want you. Pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where. Let self pride play a role and retire,” Amol Palekar had said, “This is something we should be talking about and by this we will clearly know that it is a mistake and that he has no credentials…If I would have been in place of Chauhan and I would have seen that my fraternity does not want me, I would have withdrawn.”
September 10 – Students go on hunger strike. Five students are hospitalized due to fasting.
September 19 – The FTII strike completes 100 days. No sign of a remedy. The protest went on for 139 days since Chauhan’s appointment, which were eventually called off when the government assured the students that their demands would be taken into consideration.
October – Filmmakers Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan decided to return their National Awards, in support of the students’ protest.
January 7 – Chauhan arrived at the FTII campus for the first time and held his first meeting, although he was appointed as the chairman 7 months ago. In between, at least nine talks were held with the Centre, however students’ demands were not met. Invariably, fresh protests sprouted again when Chauhan arrived, leading to atleast 30-40 students being detained.
April 6 – There was a delay in the revised FTII syllabus.
June 23 – Chauhan was invited by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at the Sangh headquarters. Chauhan said that he considers Bhagwat to be a “father figure”.
July 5 – FTII’s Academic Council finally approved the new syllabus and aimed to introduce new courses. In the 129th Council meeting, it was approved that the institute would be transformed into “a holistic institute of cinema, television and allied arts, offering varied choice of subjects related to cinema and digital media”, according to the official release. It was also established that the institute will have “Choice-Based Credit System” instead of the traditional system of annual assessment.
July 6 – Despite the protests, Chauhan said that he was “determined to do the job I have been assigned” according to a IANS report.
October – When Karan Johar’s film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was embroiled in the controversy that it featured a Pakistani actor (Fawad Khan), Chauhan went on record to say that he supported the belief that Pakistani artists should be banned from working in India, saying that the country did not need talent from outside.
February 28 – In the midst of the uproar created around 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur, Chauhan supported the likes of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, saying that Kaur must apologize for her remarks supporting Pakistan.
February 28 – Following the controversy around CBFC’s refusal to issue the certificate for Lipstick Under My Burkha, Chauhan had gone on record to say that he hoped that the government would scrap CBFC’s Rejection Clause. In an interview with ANI News, he had said, “Censor Board is only for certifying the film. If rejecting a film is in their hands, then the government should take this matter into consideration and scrap the rejection clause completely. If not, how did they use this power to reject a film?”
March – In an interview with Hindustan Times Chauhan said that he hoped that students concentrated on their studies and stayed away from politics.