From the day the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) launched the strike over a month ago, a giant question mark, an art installation made of wood and film reel, had found place at the entrance of the institute as a symbol of their protest. After a group of people vandalised the art installation, several question marks of different sizes made way to the entrance the next day. The caption of the same photo on the Facebook page of FTII read: Every question crushed will only raise more questions.
While there is nothing new about students going on a strike, there is indeed something new about this FTII strike as students who call themselves artistes are “protesting in an artistic way”. The ways of protest used by students – be it slogans, posters, videos, plays, poetry or songs – have something creative and innovative about them.
Sakshi Gulati, an FTII student, said there’s no single “creative team” behind all the protest material. “As the fight is all about freedom of expression, everybody is pitching in their own ways. Since we all are clear about our issues and demands, things are automatically falling in place and are in sync with each other. No art work is done by just one individual. A decent amount of discussion goes into the making of each protest material. The students meet every night to discuss important matters. But nobody ‘dictates’ who is going to make which piece the next day,” said Gulati.
A walk around the campus brings one face-to-face with such examples from the word go. For instance, the road bears the slogan written with white paint ‘The revolution introduced me to art, in turn, art introduced me to the revolution.’ As you walk further, you sight the wall of the men’s toilet that has a cartoon of a man holding a film camera (which also resembles a pointing gun), followed by words “Go back Chauhan.”
Quotes on freedom of expression by famous artistes like Albert Camus and Satyajit Ray adorn the walls of the institute. Go a little ahead and one sees a group of students sitting in a makeshift tent-like arrangement, holding different musical instruments busy jamming and crooning songs.
Every nook and corner of the campus has been utilised by students to express their anger and frustration in a creative manner. A garden area wears a look of the graveyard of art. A mutilated corpse of an artiste is flanked by graves of all things creative from art to cinema on all sides. With one hand amputated and barely on his last leg, the artiste who is taking his last breath is crying out for help ‘Save the Artists’.
It’s not just the campus but also the Facebook page of the institute that’s inundated with various innovative protest material – from photos to articles to caricatures. A few days ago, when actor Anupam Kher passed a comment on a news channel ‘FTII is gone to dogs’, the students responded with a creative video wherein a journalist is shown reporting – “We are at FTII, where the dogs dwell. Let us find the truth.
Dogs have been dwelling here since the foundation stone was laid. There are dogs of all caste, creed and breed. Every dog has its own way of expression.” Showcasing how the freedom of expression of each dog is at stake, the video also indirectly comments on ‘Rs 12 lakh’ that the ministry has been claiming to spend on each student of FTII.
Prateek Vats, a former FTII student, said, “We all are artistes and look for various ways to say what we feel. The irony is that while we are resorting to various ways, the government is following the same way that it has been using for ages.”
‘FIGHTING FOR LEARNING’
Though the strike is on and the classrooms are shut at FTII, there’s no break as far as learning is concerned. For the past one week or so, a day-long informal session is organised every day where students invite people from all walks of life to share their expertise. So from a workshop on origami to heritage to movement exercises by a dance troupe, the students are keeping themselves creatively busy alongside the strike. Open-air workshops have been conducted by various artistes such as Prof Lalitha Gopalan, Rajeev Ravi, Madhushree Dutta, Vivek Shah, Arvind Gupta and so on. From a workshop by a cinematographer to a lecture by a screenplay writer to screening of films, the students are constantly learning something new each day. “The fight is for learning and learning will go on alongwith the strike,” said Vats.
Students head to Delhi’s Parliament Street for protest
Around 75-80 students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), who are up in arms against the ‘unfit’ appointment of the chairman, left for New Delhi Saturday morning. They are scheduled to sit on a protest at Parliament Street on August 3. “The first batch of students have left. They took a train, and will reach Delhi late on Monday night. A few more will leave for the Capital on Sunday,” said Vikas Urs, a student.