As the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, complete 80 days of their strike and await a feedback from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry post talks, three FTII alumni share why this backlash was the need of the hour.
At the recently concluded three-day 4th Chandigarh Film Festival, renowned filmmaker and artiste Sudarshan Juyal, sound recordist Asheesh Pandya and award-winning filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney speak about the movement.
Juyal said, “Every other institute across India is facing such problems and it’s the students who suffer. The students have no say in this country in their education. We never take the children’s point of view. I am happy that these handful of students at FTII have registered their protest and concern and not accepting such appointments silently.”
It’s a strike that has awakened the nation and caused a ripple effect. The protesting students have been demanding removal of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan from the post of chairman of the Governing Council of FTII.
They have also demanded the removal of four members of the FTII body who allegedly lack ‘credentials and status’.
Sawhney said, “It is a protest that cannot be viewed in isolation. There have been others, for instance, the ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, an independent wing of IIT Madras. State appointments like Chauhan’s are a means to start a monolithic thought to drill some kind of ‘rashtrabhakti’ in students and to stifle liberal thought and attitude.” Sawhney’s film Izzatnagri ki Asabhya Betiyan made waves.
According to Sawhney, this is way of handcuffing an institute like FTII that is known to produce creative people who encourage free thought and make films and television to reflect the same. “This is a way to control cinema too. I am proud of the fact that these children, in spite of the efforts made to malign their names and reputations, have the guts and courage to continue with their protest and take on the government,” he added.
Pandya feels this has been a long drawn agitation. “Students in my time, the eighties, also never had any say in the administrative matters. The struggle remains as nothing has changed,” he said, recalling a futile meeting with Ajit Panja, of the then I&B Ministry.
Pandya said he fully supports the cause for “it’s not a matter of ego, it’s a matter of future of these children”.