THE third of the latest series of talks between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, took place in Mumbai on Wednesday. Like the earlier meetings, this too remained inconclusive and unsuccessful in breaking the deadlock. Another meeting between the two parties is scheduled for October 10 in Mumbai.
The fact that the government, unlike earlier, is engaging with the students is a positive development. Right from the beginning, the students have felt that at the basis of the crisis is the government’s failure to understand what FTII stands for and what its role is in promoting the art of cinema. This may have to do with the lack of cinema-sensitive intelligence in the bureaucracy.
The issue is larger than just the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, the TV actor and BJP member as the chairperson of the governing council. There are four other contentious appointments in the FTII society too, This raises critical questions about the transparency in the process of appointments.
There is also the issue of making FTII an institute of national importance as well as making structural alterations. These were being overshadowed with the mainstream media narrowing down the crisis to a `Chauhan versus the students’.
The bright side of the current series of meetings is that it minimises the communication gap between the students and the ministry. Seated across a table with representatives of the government, the students are now getting the chance to present a more nuanced argument. The discussions over the last three meetings have mostly reiterated these issues: the problem with the appointment of Chauhan and four other BJP members; the transparency in future appointments and how to make FTII an institute of national importance.
As reported by The Indian Express, the government is unlikely to remove Chauhan from the post as that will result in a loss of face for them. It is unclear how they are going to resolve the crisis without doing that.
However, there is some clarity and agreement on a few things, says Harishankar Nachimuthu, FTII Students’ Association President who was present at the meetings. “We are trying to explain to them how FTII functions and how it spends the allocated funds. The situation isn’t as bleak as it was before. At least, they are listening to us now,” he says.
There is a possibility of a meeting with the Minister of State I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore next week in Delhi. The students, alumni and faculty — all the stakeholders of FTII — have been asked to submit a blueprint of their ideas for making FTII an institute of national importance. It will be a “major input in taking the matter forward,” says the press release by the PIB.
There is no better way out of the current face-off than for the two sides to put their heads together. That can only happen if they talk to each other directly which is happening now. And that is good news.