P K Nair, veteran film expert and archivist, has thrown his weight behind agitating students at Film and Television Institute of India and suggested that the I&B Ministry reconsider its decision of appointing Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the FTII governing council. Nair, 82, founder and former director of National Film Archive of India, has a long association with FTII, having been a member of his faculty.
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Nair compared the work of Chauhan, whose appointment is at the centre of the agitation, with the work of former governing council members such as Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalakrishnan who, he said, were of international repute. “Compared to them, he (Chauhan) is a nonentity. Some members in the FTII society are political appointments and have no background in films,” Nair said.
“The normal procedure of the formation of a new governing council and appointment of the chairman involves suggestions from faculty and experts. There are certain norms that are being followed since the inception of the institute. However, in the case of the current governing council, it wasn’t followed,” he said.
With the strike having entered its 26th day, he said, “The students should stick to their demands. The government should reconsider its decision and not view the demands of the students as a matter of prestige and take harsh action such as shutting down or privatising the institute.”
At the same time, Nair is worried that the current controversy will affect academic activities. “The ministry should delay the functioning of the governing council at least till the current batch of students passes out in December. I know the concern of the students (Chauhan’s removal) will remain where it is but at least the current batch will not get affected.”
In 2011, the P K Nair Committee had prepared a report that offered various suggestions on faculty, salaries, infrastructure, discipline and tackling backlogs. None of his suggestions was implemented, he said. One was that FTII should be granted statutory status and be run by the ministry. “However, after giving it statutory status, the government should continue to give an annual grant at least for a certain period, say 10-15 years,” Nair said.