Think of A R Rahman, Resul Pookutty, Naseeruddin Shah and Javed Akhtar. Now, imagine those names fading out, being replaced by Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak, Rahul Solapurkar and Shailesh Gupta.
This is what happened to the original list of society members and president of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) proposed by its then director D J Narain and sent to the I&B Ministry on December 2, 2014, according to information accessed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act.
While the FTII debate has been all about Gajendra Chauhan being picked as president, ahead of stalwarts such as Amitabh Bachchan, Jahnu Barua, Govind Nihalani and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the I&B also chose four other lesser-known names, all of them with known links to the RSS or the BJP, over luminaries in cinema and art on the list of society members.
Apart from Chauhan, RTI queries filed with the ministry and the FTII administration confirmed that the names of documentary filmmaker Ghaisas, ABVP leader Pathak, actor Solapurkar and cinematographer Gupta were missing from the original list of FTII society members and president sent by Narain (see box).
The notings on the files related to the appointments also show that the FTII director and I&B officials — under Secretary S Naganathan and Joint Secretary (Films) K Sanjay Murthy — revised the list at least twice, between December 2014 and May 2015, to include the names of Chauhan and the others, as the ministry kept asking for “more names”.
Even in the last shortlist, Chauhan’s name appeared among those to be considered for appointment as FTII society members while Barua’s name figured among those in the running for president.
However, the final list approved by I&B Minister of State Rajyavardhan Rathod on May 25 elevated Chauhan as president and named Barua as member. Also, director Rajkumar Hirani, whose name was originally proposed for the post of president, was finally appointed as a member, the file notings show.
The ministry issued the order announcing the names on June 9, following which the students started their protests. Three of the appointees — Baruah, Santosh Sivan and Pallavi Joshi — subsequently resigned from the post expressing solidarity with the protesting students.
Incidentally, Narain’s tenure ended on July 17, and Prashant Pathrabe, director of Press Information Bureau (PIB), was handed additional charge as the institute’s director.
Apart from the post of president, the FTII administration originally sent a list of 19 names, including that of Rahman and Shah, in the category of “eminent persons from the field of cinema and arts” to become its society members — eight names were to be chosen.
Shah’s name also figured among the 10 proposed originally for the four posts of FTII society members from the institute’s alumni.
Pune-based Ghaisas, who has said since that she was “a proud RSS member”, is known for having made a documentary film titled Gatha Asamanya Netrutva Ki in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The brief profile attached with her name in the revised list stated that she is a “director and producer known for films such as My Flag, My Life and Ram Mandir – Adalat aur Aastha”. The latter is a documentary chronicling the “battle of Shri Ramjanmabhoomi”.
The one-line profile of Pathak, the Maharashtra president of the ABVP for four years, identified him as “educationist/principal Somaiah Vidyavihar, Mumbai”.
Gupta, an FTII alumnus, had made a five-minute campaign video Shapath Modi Ki ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha election. His profile stated that he was a “cinematographer known for working on films such as Vaastav, Sarfarosh and Kambdi Kalaai”.
Solapurkar was in contention for a BJP ticket in last year’s state Assembly elections. He is “an actor known for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, The Story of Balgandharva and Hanan,” his profile said.
The two-line profile of Gajendra Chauhan stated: “An actor who is known for his portrayal of the eldest pandava ‘Yudhishtir’ in the TV serial Mahabharat. He has worked in around 150 movies and over 600 TV serials.”