ON December 12, it was a proud moment for Adwaita Das as she received the award for Best Editing (Student) for her film Doctor Mandela Kaise Pagal Huwa at the Mumbai Shorts International Film Festival (MSIFF) 2015, held at a suburban Mumbai hotel. However, before she went to collect the trophy, she put her camera phone on recording mode and placed it on a table. Addressing the audience, she then spoke about how the person who handed her over the award had allegedly harassed her on the FTII, Pune, campus seven years ago.
Nilanjan Dutta, an associate professor of film editing at FTII, was guest of honour at the festival. “In 2008, the then FTII faculty member Dutta in a very drunken state had harassed me on campus on the pretext of ragging,” said Das, who directed Doctor Mandela Kaise Pagal Huwa, her FTII diploma film.
Das later posted the video recorded on her phone on YouTube. On December 14 morning, she wrote on Facebook: “When it was time to accept the memento from his hands I could not bear to keep quiet any longer… Everyday I try to forget and forgive. But it was time to at least put forward my side.” The post was removed by Facebook the next morning. “I have no idea why it was removed,” she said.
The incident, she said, happened during ‘Satsang’. “Ragging is Satsang in FTII. It is a nightly induction process which I was participating in with a new student’s trepidation. The freshers’ attendance was depleting every night. This was a cause of distress to seniors. So professor Nilanjan Dutta stepped in. At 1.00 am with two bottles of rum in his system, he sat down to discuss Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses with a very sobre me. Within an hour, the conversation had shifted to my “character”. For the next one hour, he repeatedly told me to ‘do sexual favours to my batchmates to make them come to ragging’ since I apparently ‘used sexual manipulation to get favours’,” Das said.
Following the incident, Dutta was asked to leave FTII. He rejoined the institute four years later.
The video shows Dutta responding to the allegation: “It’s interesting that you opened up… when you teach cinema, unfortunately there is an element of sexuality in it. There was a big misunderstanding and I did apologise,” he said.
Later, Dutta told The Indian Express that he was a member of the anti-ragging committee and was taking a round of the campus that night. He also denied being inebriated. “I had come to know that Adwaita had walked out of a screening of In The Realm Of Senses, calling it porn. Being a teacher, I thought I should explain her that there’s a difference between a porn and In The Realm of Senses. The film’s content is such that you have to use sexual terms while explaining it. There were three other (male) students there. She (Adwaita) did not express any objection. The next day, some faculty members apparently complained to the administration. Adwaita never approached the administration. When the issue snowballed, I thought it was better for me to leave as the issue would have affected the education of the three male students. I didn’t even press for an inquiry,” said Dutta.
Dutta rejoined FTII in October 2012. “When I joined again, Adwaita was still a student. She did not protest against my appointment,” he said. Das, on her part, said she didn’t have any problem with the film Dutta spoke about. She added that she was scared to protest when Dutta rejoined FTII.
“I was trying to concentrate on work. I couldn’t deal with it all over again. Now that this episode has resurfaced, it is in FTII’s hands what action they want to take,” she said.