The FTII chairman discusses his appointment and plans with The Indian Express
Did your appointment come as a surprise?
When I got a call from the Ministry of I&B, I was a bit surprised as I was not expecting it. Yesterday, I was promoting my upcoming film Ranchi Diaries and had a motivational lecture in Raipur, when I was told that they would be very happy if I can take up this role. So, I said yes, as it would be the most amazing and humbling feeling. Also, FTII is my alma mater and I would be going back there as a chairman. I studied there for six months as part of my National School of Drama training. However, I did not know that I would be hearing the news while doing a Facebook Live event for a portal as part of the promotions when someone congratulated me.
Every time there is a sense of achievement in me, it takes me back to my roots — when I started my life as a son of a forest department clerk in a small town. [It] also reminds me about studying at NSD on a scholarship and moving to Mumbai without anything. Today, God has given a lot of things. For that point of view, it is a great feeling. At the same time, it makes me nervous and gives me a sense of responsibility. For the last four decades, I have been in this field as a student, drama teacher and a person who has acted in over 500 films in Hindi, in different Indian languages and abroad. I am doing a lot of work even now. I am not a retired person.
This post has been surrounded by controversy.
It is too early for me to think how to go about it. I don’t know that. The only thing I know is that I will be working along with the students. They are my source of learning and inspiration. I would like to be a healing touch to them. They have a felt a sense of disappointment with the earlier appointment. They are a little hurt. It is very important to make up for the lost time. It is little presumptuous for me to go there as a veteran who knows exactly what to do. It has to come from the students, the teachers of FTII and the governing council members. I would be a facilitator. I want to listen and then make sure that we do together whatever is possible. After all, every student goes to an institute to learn and make their life better. They don’t go there to find an agenda. I don’t want to go there as a person of authority, but [as one] who understands what they want.
On your Twitter handle, you call yourself a teacher. Will you be taking classes?
I’m a teacher. Teaching is my passion and I would love to take some classes, maybe hold masterclasses. Sometimes teaching can be the best learning for oneself. I am not in a hurry. First, I want to listen and understand. I would like to bring some established names in the field of theatre and cinema from abroad so that we can have an exchange of ideas.
Are you expected to do some troubleshooting there?
I’m very optimistic. I am a doer. I am not anticipating any problems. The FTII already has staff and a set of teachers. I don’t want to go there as a boss. At the end of the day, I am a working actor, teacher and motivational speaker. It is very important for me to be a contemporary person to be able to help the students.
What’s your reaction to the perception that your appointment is a political one?
That does not matter. There are people who would like to say what they want. For me, that does not take away the joy of this. If I had listened to all the critics and criticism, I would not have been able to do 508 films so far. Coming from a lower-middle class family, studying in a drama school and making it as an actor was not a path that was a bed of roses. Life has people who inspire you. Life also has people who pull you down. I don’t have time to look at people who pull me down or anyone down. I am happy with this appointment and I would like to make a difference. That’s it.