Gajendra Chauhan, whose appointment as chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in 2015 had triggered months of student protests, and his team had sought an extension of their tenure, according to information obtained under the Right To Information Act. Chauhan and his team had argued that due to the student protests, they had assumed charge late and effectively got a shorter-than-usual tenure, which came to an end in March 2017. However, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had turned down the request, citing FTII Society rules.
Documents from the I&B Ministry reveal that institute director Bhupendra Kainthola had written to it, two months before the tenure of the FTII Society, led by Chauhan, came to an end. In the letter, Kainthola said that a meeting of FTII Society in November 2016, headed by Chauhan, had resolved to send a proposal requesting the Ministry to count its tenure from the day the Society held the first meeting, instead of the day the three-year-block of the FTII chairman’s tenure started.
“In the 54th meeting of the FTII Society, held on November 8, 2016, the matter regarding the tenure of the present FTII Society was discussed at length under the section ‘item with the permission of the Chair’. After detailed discussion, the following was resolved: A proposal may be sent to the Ministry from the chairman, FTII Society, for counting of block of three years of FTII Society from the date of 1st meeting, that is January 7, 2016, instead of March 3, 2014,” reads the letter written by Kainthola to the then joint secretary (films) Anshu Sinha on January 3, 2017.
The letter further stated that if the request was considered, the Chauhan-led FTII Society would continue till January 6, 2019. The ministry, however, refused the request and decided to “relieve the non-official members on the Society” including Chauhan, of the charge.
“It may be mentioned that FTII Society assumed the charge from January 6, 2016 due to ongoing agitation of the students of FTII. However, Ministry’s order dated June 9, 2015 clearly stipulates that the society was reconstituted for a period of three years starting from March 4, 2014. Hence, it has been decided to relieve the non-official members of FTII society from March 3, 2017,” reads the notes on the relevant files.
Chauhan told The Indian Express that it was the Governing Council’s decision to write to the Ministry. “The Governing Council felt that we got only one year and two months of the three-year tenure, and we should request the Ministry to consider an extension… whatever I could in that limited tenure, I did, and I received a certificate of sorts from the CAG, which appreciated my work at FTII,” he said.
Information obtained under the RTI Act also shows that superstar Rajnikanth, actors Kamal Hassan, Danny Denzongpa, Aparna Sen and Rohini Hattangadi, directors Mani Ratnam, J P Dutta and Ramesh Sippy, along with Anupam Kher, were among the names proposed by the FTII director to succeed Chauhan. Kher was appointed as the chairman of FTII on October 11.
Interestingly, on October 10, only a day before the appointment of Kher, N K Sinha, Secretary in the I&B Ministry, had acted as the interim chairman of the body during a meeting of the Governing Council in Delhi. Despite Kher’s appointment, the FTII Society still remains incomplete and it can’t hold its maiden meeting as the Ministry is yet to appoint the non-official members on the society.
As per Rules of FTII Society, it has to have 11 ex-officio members, three experts representing activities of the central government in various fields, eight persons of eminence connected with films, television, journalism, performing arts and drama, and four alumni of FTII.