I’m for permanent ban…Pak actors are taken for extra market. Reason is economic, not creative: Gajendra Chauhan

FTII Director, Gajendra Chauhan in conversation with Express journalists at the Idea Exchange.

By: Express News Service | Updated: October 30, 2016 9:32 am
Gajendra Chauhan, FTII Gajendra Chauhan, FTII director, Pak artists, pakistani actors, FTII new syllabus, FTII Pune, India news, Idea Exchange, Indian Express FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan with The Indian Express Resident Editor, Pune, Sunanda Mehta. Pradip Das

Gajendra Chauhan claims the controversy over his appointment as the FTII chairman was an attempt to target Modi government, explains why he is good for the job, lists all the changes he has brought since taking over, and says that if ‘saffronisation’ is the charge against him, ‘entire Parliament is saffron now’

Sunanda Mehta: It has almost been a year since you assumed charge as chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). But you have visited the institute only once. Meetings which traditionally took place at the institute are now being held in Mumbai.

My first visit caused great disturbance there because of which I felt that the meetings should be held elsewhere. If the students are uneasy, it’s better to avoid going there. It’s also the prerogative of the governing council to decide on the venue of the meeting. I have, however, spoken to the institute director and the next meeting may take place on the Pune campus. I have tried my best to have a dialogue with the student representatives, but they are not ready for talks.

Garima Mishra: When the protests were on, you had repeatedly said that you should be given a chance and that you would prove your mettle within a year. How far have you succeeded?

Regarding proving myself, you will see that we have lined up many things. In the past eight-nine months, we have accomplished a lot. Earlier, students who had joined in 2008 and 2009 were still pursuing their courses in 2016. There were many lacunae — inadequate faculty, administration and infrastructure. We tried to address some of the issues by recruiting new faculty members through walk-in interviews. Because of this, we could begin admissions for the new batch. The 2008 and 2009 batches has completed their courses and left the campus, projects have been lined up for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 batches, and the 2016 batch has already arrived on campus. Preparations for admission for the 2017 batch will begin in November. And, we have finally implemented the new syllabus, which was in the making for 10 years. We roped in eminent academics to revise the syllabi, and finalised it after five-six months of work. We have started the choice-based credit system and a semester system with the option of electives.

There is another new initiative — open days. Until now, the FTII was a mystery for residents of Pune, they were clueless about the developments on the campus. During the open days, over 10,000 people visit the institute. We will take this initiative to the next level by inviting students from colleges across the country.

Watch what else is making news:

Partha Sarathi Biswas: On the one hand you are opening the gates of the institute to common people, but on the other, you are restricting the entry of the media. Why does a reporter coming to the FTII need to have the institute director’s approval? This wasn’t the case in the past.

I need to clarify this. We haven’t stopped them from coming inside, but they need to inform us of their entry. There were some incidents which made us take this decision. The director has to know if a mediaperson is entering the campus; he should be in a position to allow or deny entry.

Garima Mishra: Those who opposed your appointment to the post of FTII chairman saw the move as an attempt to ‘saffronise’ the institute. Have you managed to break that perception?

I want to know what saffronisation has happened at FTII? It’s been eight-nine months… Did I bring in a dress code? Did I install a saffron flag inside the campus? There has been no saffronisation of educational institutes, it’s not going to happen.

Alaka Sahani: But your appointment was seen as a political decision.

There’s a difference between saffronisation and political appointments. In the past, whenever a government came, it appointed its own people. You check the appointments in the past. It’s the prerogative of the government. If I was appointed, the I&B Ministry must have thought it through, it was not an overnight decision. I was interviewed for six months before they finally zeroed in on me. After that, I was interviewed three times in Delhi. I didn’t apply for the post, they asked me if I wanted to go to FTII as chairman. I agreed and I got an appointment letter on June 9, 2015. I am not paid, it’s an honourary post. All I get is travel and accommodation expenses when I go for official meetings.

Sandeep Ashar: The controversy arose because for the first time the merit of the appointed chairman was being questioned.

Shall I tell you one thing? Protests are good for a democracy. Agar protest mein dum hota to wo successful hota (If the protest had substance, it would have been successful). As far as credentials go, I have run the Cine and TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA) for 21 years. Not one person from the industry came and told me that I’m incapable of leading the association. CINTAA is a very big organisation, it has 8,500 members.

Alaka Sahani: But CINTAA and FTII are very different organisations.

CINTAA runs the entire film industry. It comes with great administrative responsibility, just like the FTII chairman. Only the CINTAA head is not supposed to take lectures. But if I am called to do that, I can certainly do it very well too. I am a trained actor. When I wanted to pursue a course in acting, the FTII didn’t have one. So I joined a private academy run by Roshan Taneja sahib, former head of department of the FTII’s acting department. I see cinema from an actor’s point of view. As far as administration goes, I have tremendous experience. I have also done hospital administration before that. Although hospital administration is different, administration is administration. Rules are the same.

I have also done a paramedical course from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). I was among the first few to be trained in CT scan technology, which was very new then.

Atikh Rashid: Your administration proposed a hike which would have increased the fee of the acting course by 600 per cent. Even other courses would witness a 140 to 300 per cent hike. Do you think students can afford such high fees?

The hike proposal was nowhere near 600 per cent — it was hyped by the media. The fees had not been increased since 2010, the then chairman had in fact reduced it from Rs 2 lakh to

Rs 34,000. People are bothered by fee hikes. Why weren’t they bothered when the fee was reduced? Hence we calculated and came to those numbers. It is, however, the governing council that takes the final decision. The issue was debated in the council and finally, just a 20 per cent hike was put into effect.

Atikh Rashid: Do you think it’s right to even propose such a steep hike?

Do you know how many seats are there for the acting course? Twelve. Of which six are reserved. So there are only six seats left for the open category. Six students will definitely be able to afford it. And if they are not able to afford the fee, we can find ways to fund his or her education if they are promising candidates.

Dipti Nagpaul-D’souza: In such a situation, how will FTII be any different from private film schools?

You need money to run the institute. Where will the money come from? Why does Subhash Ghai charge Rs 20 lakh? The government spends Rs 45 crore every year on FTII. We are now starting short-term courses to make the institute selfsustaining.

Atikh Rashid: Proposals such as these invite criticism from sections that have been opposing your appointment. They say this is what they were afraid of — privatisation through the back door.

See, students have their point of view and the administration has its own. At the end of the day, the administration has to run the institute. They have to look after the accounts too, students are not going to do that. The decision to propose the fee hike was taken by the administrative body since it had not been done for many years. We accepted the hike that was ratified by the academic council.

Partha Sarathi Biswas: The Principal Director of Audit (Central) has pointed out many irregularities in the FTII’s functioning, including indiscipline. Do you think the students were given a free hand at the institute?

I can’t comment on this. You have to ask this question to administrators who were present when these things happened. Since I have come, I have tried to straighten things. Besides, I have always supported the students. For example, I can tell you that in the governing council meeting, someone had proposed that students shouldn’t be allowed to leave the campus between 11 pm and 5 am. I was the only one to oppose it. I said, ‘You are curbing freedom. If something untoward happens, law and order authorities are there to take care of it’.

Dipti Nagpaul-D’souza: During the agitation, the character of students was also questioned. What is your view?

I haven’t spoken a word against students till now. Creative students actually don’t behave like this. I can tell you now that there was a political force behind this (the student agitation). Rahul Gandhi had come there (the FTII campus), so had (Arvind) Kejriwal’s people. Yogendra Yadav visited, as did NCP leaders. Where are these people today? It’s been a year-and-a-half since the entire episode and not one among them has asked about what’s happening there. But Gajendra Chauhan is still here, fighting it out. This shows that there was a selfish motive behind all this. They weren’t targeting Gajendra Chauhan, they were actually targeting the Modi government. Because they were not getting issues to criticise the government for.

Sunanda Mehta: In the light of the students’ agitation and the fierce opposition to your appointment, most would have chosen to step down voluntarily. Did you ever consider the option?

If a soldier is sent to the border and he runs away from the battlefield, he will be called a traitor. The government gave me a responsibility and I, being a responsible person, had to fulfill it. I’m a strong person.

Sandeep Ashar: Do you think that since the controversy, you have been branded in a certain way? Does it affect you as an actor?

I have been an actor for the past 35 years. I want to ask people, ‘Have you seen just one film of mine — Khuli Khidki (1989)? Haven’t you seen my other big films Andaaz (2003), Barsaat (2005)?’ I’m the only actor to play Syama Prasad Mookerjee in a film. Khuli Khidki was made in 1989, it’s 2016 today. I have done a lot of work during this period. Why can’t they talk about that?

Sunanda Mehta: What are your views on the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversy?

The question is not about the film, it should get a good release. The question is about Pakistani actors working in India. As president of CINTAA, in 2014, I had raised this issue. At the time, Pakistani artistes would come here on a work permit for cultural activities. I wanted them to mandatorily register with the organisation (CINTAA). The CINTAA vigilance committee had also caught these people by visiting film shoots. Many of them (Pakistani artistes) would be overstaying in those days. The case that comes to my mind is that of Ali Zafar. I had procured all his papers, which showed that he had to leave India on November 14, 2014, and we followed up and made him leave. He left because of us and then returned to finish the shoot with a new permit. Sadly, this issue did not gather much steam at the time. Today, due to this film (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil) and the tension on the border, it has become such a big issue. But I was the first to raise the point.

Atikh Rashid: Are you seeking a temporary ban or do you want a permanent one?

My stance is a permanent ban. Why do you need them here? We have about 10,000 actors enrolled here who are struggling for work. Why should we invite Pakistani actors here instead of offering our own employment? There are many reasons a producer chooses a Pakistani actor. One important reason is that he may get an additional territory for marketing. It’s more of an economic choice than a creative one.

Shaji Vikraman: When you talk of Bollywood as a global film industry, why are you restricting this inflow of actors from other countries?

I’m only opposed to actors coming from Pakistan and not from any other country. That is how people of the country feel at the moment. It would be plain wrong if we entertain Pakistani actors in this tense situation. A person is coming and beating you up and you are saying let’s go to his house and have food. How is this possible?

Sunanda Mehta: Let’s talk about your films. Has the FTII controversy helped your film career?

No, I don’t have too many films with me. I enjoy the best of cinema at my level. After Mahabharat, I did hundreds of serials, big and small. I worked on 1946 (a Bengali film) which is stuck with the Censor Board. The case is in the high court now so I won’t comment further. I’m also doing another Bengali film and a Hindi film, Kisan ki Beti, which deals with issues faced by farmers and their daughters. I’m playing the main character in the film. I have survived in the industry without any godfather. I am aware that I won’t be cast in big films. So I do big roles in small films. I also do big shows on TV. I do cultural shows because of my image as Yudhishthira (the character he played in the Mahabharat serial). I also do programmes for my party, the BJP. I became a member of the party on February 17, 2004, along with (Navjot) Sidhu. He has left, I’m still here.

GARIMA MISHRA: Now when you look back at your career, do you regret doing films such as Khuli Khidki?

No. Do you know Khuli Khidki had Amjad Khan, who worked in Sholay? Aruna Irani, Satyan Kumar, Tiku Talsania were there too. There were many big names… Khuli Khidki was a remake of the English film Bedroom Eyes. And whatever you might say, it was passed by the Censors. It was a silver jubilee hit. It contains no vulgarity. There’s only one scene which is between a husband and a wife. Where will a husband and wife get intimate, if not in the bedroom? It’s a neat and clean film.

Sunanda Mehta: You mentioned the new syllabus at FTII, but students have complained about not being provided the entire syllabus.

We are giving them the syllabus semester wise. They are now studying in the first semester, how can we give them the syllabus for the sixth semester?

Sunanda Mehta: But it’s being denied even under the RTI as though it’s a secret document.

Why would we give it to anyone? It’s the institute’s property. But I will note down your suggestion.

Sunanda Mehta: Decisions such as these, of not revealing the syllabus, might once again feed allegations that there are efforts to saffronise the course. Those who have been opposing your appointment may put two and two together.

I assure you that there will be no saffronisation at FTII. I said this on day one and I’m repeating it now. What’s saffronisation? How do you define it? The entire Parliament is saffron now: 282 (BJP MPs) are sitting there. The country has supported saffronisation. But I would still say that there will be no saffronisation. It’s a cooked-up thing. Some time ago, asahishnuta (intolerance) had come up. I had never heard of this word. Same with award wapsi. Now there’s so much tension on the border but nobody is returning awards. Nobody is saying there is intolerance.

Sunanda Mehta: FTII, JNU and recently Ashoka University — we suddenly hear a lot of instances of authorities clamping down on students. Why is it so?

Students are like kacchi mitti (clay). It’s easy to manipulate them. Whenever they want to target the Modi government, they are using the students to do that. You see the students who talk the most come from political backgrounds. I told you in the beginning that if the students’ agenda was right, it would have succeeded. I have video recording of students abusing Prime Minister Modi, then I&B minister Arun Jaitley and Gajendra Chauhan. Who is responsible for this? Is this freedom of speech?

Partha Sarathi Biswas: If you don’t go to Pune, how will you break the ice and work with students?

Although I don’t go there physically, I’m there everyday over phone. And very soon, we will hold a meeting in Pune. I am ready to meet the students tomorrow. They don’t want to meet me.

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    Abhinav Gour
    Oct 30, 2016 at 3:20 pm
    Why only Pak artistes, ban players, ban trade , ban the word Pak
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      Ali
      Oct 30, 2016 at 4:45 am
      Ramesh, MP is not angry but just starting that you are illogical and when you are naive about few things don't give your expert comments. How is art instrument of state by just banning Porki artists. Aren't you taking it too far? Have we banned Muslim Sunni artists even though they have an affinity for stan and deep down they don't like Hindus in a Hindu country yet they are Indian citizens. You saying that the state must rise to defend the state in war by then you argue that time has not come for it yet. When will the time come? Can you go and tell the kids of families whose fathers sacrificed their lives for you to write this stoppid comment. Why don't you say this freedom of speech concept to 70 Muslim countries who don't even allow their own citizens who are minorities rights what we don't want to give Porki terrorists.
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        Amit C
        Oct 30, 2016 at 6:48 am
        Agree, on both sides. I am sure you will be part of our soldiers soon.
        Reply
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          Amit C
          Oct 30, 2016 at 2:49 am
          Creative fields like Sports, Art, Innovations have no boundaries. People watching/using deserve the best. Yes Govts can deny visas if relations are really bad between two countries. Our govt is more interested in making noise for political reasons with citizens suffering on unemployment, corruption, inflation, black money (15 lac), atrocities on weaker sections etc.
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            anon
            Oct 31, 2016 at 12:10 am
            Johar give chance to Indians first or maybe Persons of Indian Origin (Legally).
            Reply
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              Anuradha Kalhan
              Oct 30, 2016 at 8:14 pm
              What else can you expect, from this BJP hero called Gajendra, given his deep knowledge of film making and acting and creative work in general !
              Reply
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                Cyber m@n
                Oct 30, 2016 at 5:07 am
                who is this ch00tiya! why cant such people raise voice against actors visiting pak. such as pooja bhat and etc. why cant these guys being fed properly both financially and intellectually. seems a drought esp the latter one. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;went gaga about pak in all their pak visits. hypoc at its peak
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                  rameshnk
                  Oct 30, 2016 at 4:49 am
                  Ban the artists. No need for them. Does such a lrge country lack talentthat we have to import from stan.
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                    lafanga
                    Oct 30, 2016 at 7:58 am
                    A nuclear armed country of 1.2 billion people with inferiority complexes and insecurities of a mouse. Tsk tsk tsk.
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                      RS
                      Oct 30, 2016 at 10:25 pm
                      BAN RSSlt;br/gt;BAN VHPlt;br/gt;BAN BAJRANG DALlt;br/gt;BAN HINDU EXTREMISTSlt;br/gt;BAN HATElt;br/gt;Return India to its communal harmonious days. Live and Let Live. Declare India for Peace and Love. Not isolationism and hate.
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                        One more
                        Oct 30, 2016 at 9:15 am
                        And how much will you suck up to Modi? It shouldn't take so much, considering he doesn't come across as well endowed.. I'm hoping you get the reference. I meant the 56inch chaati, you fool... (Wink, wink)
                        Reply
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                          Mukesh Kaushik
                          Oct 30, 2016 at 5:40 am
                          Mr Gajendra Chauhan is the Chairman of FTII, not the director, as you have written in the intro. Director is Bupendra Kainthola. The error shows non seriousness on your part.
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                            mathimathi
                            Oct 30, 2016 at 9:51 am
                            is this is the chairman of censor to south Indian films. then only purana films will be released. bad luck days ahead to an Indian film industries.
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                              mathimathi
                              Oct 30, 2016 at 9:53 am
                              why cannot U join urs children in ours Indian Armed forces s bhaktas of Jumlavi Party
                              Reply
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                                Ramesh Nittoor
                                Oct 30, 2016 at 1:40 am
                                It is necessary to distinguish state from the nation. Art is concerned with nation, and further it is removed from affairs of the state, more authentic it becomes. A free state enjoins this free speech be considered sacred, and not be bridled in any manner by the state or non-state actors. A reciprocal response implies judging by their standards, an avoidable comedown. Indian films have a wide reach within stan, is liked and affinity to Indian m aers is real. To inject animosity amidst such finer sentiments is jarring. Yet there is a case to be made for a strong response to terror onslaughts from stan. One of the ways is to make them see reason. Here the reach of Indian cinema is pretty useful. This matter deserves deeper deliberation, and severing ties with artists in stan is not the answer when the intended outcome of the end game is kept in sight.
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                                  Ramesh Nittoor
                                  Oct 30, 2016 at 2:33 am
                                  MP, your anger on me conveys something, which is worth listening. State does accord freedom and security, if state is weak, nation becomes unsafe. Concur freedom comes with responsibility, hence arts do have responsibility to defend the state. Bu making it as an instrument of state, as totalitarian states do, is surely not the answer. The two formidable states need arts as a medium to reach other. Arts , can express the predicaments, the strife, the tragedies and brutalities which is the common outcome for both nations. There is an argument that a nation must rise as one to defend the state in war, that stage has not been reached yet, and when that happens Indian state will make such laws. It has mot happened yet, the visas are still being given. This pretense to be more loyal than the Home Minister must stop.
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                                    Ramesh Nittoor
                                    Oct 30, 2016 at 1:54 pm
                                    Surely I do, and to win honorably, you must win the hearts and minds of the people with fairnes and just approaches. It is for this reason I think Indian state can win this low intensity war, and protect the integrity of India, provided the integrity of the Consutional values and no less critical integrity of artisitic expression is not compromised. stani state is instigating religious warfare, this shall be defeated by superior emerging capabilities of Indian state. What is at the stake is development and prosperity of the region, the political arrangement which wins this for the region can be negoated in a win-win manner. However if there is gamesmanship on stani side, then the ensuing threats can be overcome and J and K regain via strategically thought out options. The South and West Asia can, with right Indian policy, regain peace and stability, and be as prosperous as Europe, which for centuries had been subject to even more brutalities than found in the nations you listed.
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                                      Ramesh Nittoor
                                      Oct 30, 2016 at 12:44 pm
                                      To think like an Indian citizen, you must think of w India and security of the w nation. Security matter should not be politicized, for internal divisions weaken the nation. If the policy framework is thought out properly, if checks and balances are worked out properly, an end to this low intensity warfare shall be in sight. It will create right capabilities and legitimacy to regain w of Jammu and Kashmir, and at the same time create conditions for abiding peace and friendship with stan which will have to reconcile to live within its legitimate territories. Your kind of misguidance can be forgiven once, but if repeated has to be dealt with a heavy hand when it emanates from instruments of the state, for ordinary citizen such expressions get protected by free speech rights.
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                                        Ramesh Nittoor
                                        Oct 30, 2016 at 5:42 am
                                        Your instigation is unwittingly fanned by articulation of instruments of state, which people like Mr. Gajendra Chauhan are. It is necessary that all those who are in position of responsibility, got to think properly and be in consonance with the policy of the state. In such a charged atmosphere, it is easy to fall prey to conflagration, and the instability it cause harms social unity within India and hurts development. This plays into the hands of not only Isalmist terroirists but also more spohiticated play makers acting against Indian interests. When leaves are dry, to start a forest fire all you need is a match stick, but to put it out requires supreme effort. This difficult context which Indian security personnel face, and which Indian diplomats face need to be understood in depth. Not clear who this Ali is, either a misguided communal minded person or a smart terror inflicter fanninf flames. Either way, weakness in policy framework, or indiscipline in subscribing to it. as Mr. Chauhan here has shown, creates avoidable vulnerabilities. India has to acquire capability of being a hard secular state to meet such challenges.
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                                          P C
                                          Oct 30, 2016 at 5:22 am
                                          So he should say he wants to ban Sunni stani actors. Buffoon
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                                            P C
                                            Oct 30, 2016 at 3:31 am
                                            On one hand he says he helped Ali Zafar come to Bollywood and on the other he wants a permanent ban ! BJPee bigot spotted ;)
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