What went unnoticed during a 55-minute meeting of a 10-member delegation of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) alumni and students with Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday was an alleged veiled warning that if Bollywood was indeed the second biggest film industry in the world, why shouldn’t it take over the institute.
A press note issued by the FTII students’ association said Jaitley hinted that if students did not “cooperate” with the ministry to resolve the stand-off over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the FTII governing council, it could lead to FTII’s privatisation.
“When brought to the minister’s notice that an institution embodies a vision which the present society was not in a position to provide, he indicated that if students persisted in their demand for reconstitution of the society they might have to face the bleak prospect of shutdown and eventual privatisation,” the press note said.
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I&B Ministry officials present in the meeting said it was a “passing reference” by their minister. The alumni have also been opposed to the idea of handing over the institute to the film industry, an idea which first came up in late 1990s.
Vikas Urs, a spokesman for the students’ body and member of the delegation, said: “Although the minister did not use the word ‘privatisation’, his point was that FTII students should help the ministry in resolving the matter. If they don’t do that, privatisation could be an eventuality.”
According to I&B Ministry officials, the Geeta Krishnan Report (Expenditure Reforms Commission Report) had clearly recommended that both the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) and FTII be handed over to the film industry. The ministry, however, while not having implemented this recommendation, has been endeavouring to support these institutions to become centres of excellence and has even prepared a legislative framework towards this end.
When contacted, D J Narain, director of FTII, emphasised that the reference to “privatisation” was never made in the context of the ongoing strike but in the context of Geeta Krishnan Report.
“The ministry said that though it (privatisation) was recommended long back by the report, the government did not implement the recommendation,” he said.
Multiple National Award-winning director Girish Kasaravalli, who along with Resul Pookutty was part of the 10-member delegation that met Jaitley and other I&B Ministry officials, said he strongly disagreed with the Geeta Krishnan report.
“Once privatised, FTII will be out of the reach of students from average income families. Since a course in filmmaking does not ensure a job, unlike other professional courses, parents would be hesitant to spend so much money on them. Then it will become the domain of students whose families belong to the film industry, corporate world or upper-class society.”
Bina Paul, an alumnus of FTII and another member of the delegation, said, “FTII is an institute of national importance which has contributed a lot in the field of cinema without running under the aegis of a private company. It should continue to run the same way.”
“The government should understand the students’ concerns and come up with an appropriate solution so that the students can also go back to the classes without wasting their time,” said Kasaravalli.
The Ministry pointed out that it should be a cause of concern that the oldest batch of 2008 is still pursuing its course, particularly when the cost of education, that too funded by the state, is over Rs 10 lakh per student. Another issue of grave concern was the inability of FTII to hold a convocation since 1997.
It told the delegation that despite eminent persons on the governing council of the FTII, the academic curriculum could not be restructured.
Jaitley also assured the delegation that FTII would have complete academic independence and any untoward interference of any kind by anyone would neither be encouraged nor allowed.