Over the past few days, filmmaker Jahnu Barua, cinematographer Santosh Sivan and actor Pallavi Joshi have quit the 12-member governing council of Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. They have expressed their displeasure over the way the government has been handling the crisis at the institute, where protests by students entered the 26th day on Monday.
Talks between an FTII delegation and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Friday failed to resolve the protests against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of FTII’s governing council.
Sivan and Barua resigned some days ago — both refused to divulge the content of their letters to the I&B Ministry and the day they sent it. Joshi quit on Sunday. Barua has criticised “the lack of transparency and democracy” in the appointment of Chauhan while Sivan hoped his decision of not joining the committee “would send a strong message to the government”.
“Ten years ago, I was in the governing council when Vinod Khanna was heading it. I didn’t have any problems at the time. Unlike then, the current situation is getting political,” Sivan said. He emphasised ending the students’ strike and hoped for an amicable resolution soon. “Whenever a strike happens, the students get affected. I hope the students get to finish their courses soon.”
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Barua, a National Award-winning Assamese filmmaker, and an FTII graduate, said, “Contrary to some people’s beliefs, the students are not seeking the right to decide who should head their institute. They are trying to impress upon the fact that the decision of appointing Chauhan as the head of the institution should have been taken by following proper procedure.” He said the ministry “hasn’t followed certain procedures that need to be followed before making the appointment” and suggested a more democratic process. “We need to think of FTII as a national institution, that should be headed by a visionary stalwart from the field of cinema. Chauhan, in that respect, doesn’t fit the bill,” he said.
Joshi said, “I am not happy with the fact that the government is not listening to the students. One can have certain oversights, they can even appoint their favourites. But when the students raise an issue, they should be seriously considered. The government’s stand on this can’t be so stern that they won’t budge, come what may… There doesn’t seem to be a vision or plan of action in their mind regarding how they are going to help the institution. One can’t go about just asking to be given a chance to perform.”
Among other members of the council, Assamese actor Pranjal Saikia said, “This morning, Jahnu Barua called me and told me he is resigning. It is certainly difficult for us to work in such an environment. Personally, I have not yet decided about what step I will take because I have been too busy with organising Nat Surya Festival which begins from August 1.”
Documentary filmmaker Narendra Pathak, yet another member, is staying on. “The I&B Ministry has reposed faith in me and it would be a matter of pride for me to work on the FTII society. I will be dedicated to the wellbeing of students and the institute.”
Inputs by Atikh Rashid in Pune