Updated: June 13, 2015 8:17:50 am
The Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s move to appoint BJP member and actor Gajendra Chauhan, who played Yudhishthir in the television series Mahabharat, as president of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and chairman of its governing council has kicked up a storm.
Students at the Pune institute have launched an indefinite strike against the “political” appointment, with noted filmmaker and FTII alumnus Jahnu Barua calling the appointment a “matter of concern”.
Chauhan was picked ahead of lyricist Gulzar and filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who were learnt to have been shortlisted by the ministry for the top job.
Chauhan, who has served as joint convenor for culture in the BJP, was appointed FTII president on June 9.
Actress Vidya Balan and filmmakers Raju Hirani, Santosh Sivan and Barua were named members of the FTII society and would work under Chauhan.
Chauhan’s name had also been in the reckoning for the post of chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification, which was eventually bagged by filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani.
At FTII, students boycotted theory classes, practicals and diploma film work from Friday morning. They expressed their disapproval through graffiti on the walls, which read: “Gajendra resign and leave”, “Dharmaraj Yudhishthir? No Way!”, “Politics or FTII, both can’t go together”. As the protest escalated, a group of 70-80 students went from office to office forcing officials to stop work.
Harikrishnan Nachimuthu, who heads the students union, said they will intensify the protests if the ministry does not revoke the appointment.
“This has also highlighted the need to fix the loopholes in the appointment process. It should be more transparent and free of political interference,” said Nachimuthu.
FTII director D J Narain held a meeting with student representatives Friday evening but failed to resolve the standoff. “The issue has to be resolved through dialogue and taking an extreme position will not help,” Narain said.
Noted screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, who teaches at FTII, said, “FTII is the best institute for cinema and is going through a phase where it needs a visionary. He (Chauhan) is an inappropriate choice. He has no experience, thoughts and vision about education in cinema.”
National Award winning filmmaker Barua said he had “reservations” about the appointment. “I have nothing personal against Chauhan… But his appointment is a matter of concern. All well-wishers of the institute expect it to be headed by a stalwart. If that doesn’t happen, people don’t like it,” he said.
He said he would share his views with the I&B ministry. “There appears to be a lack of understanding about the institute in the ministry,” Barua said.
Asked about the protests against his appointment, Chauhan said, “I got to know about it from social media and it seems that my appointment is being called political. But they don’t know that I have spent only 10 years in BJP and 35 years in the film industry.”
“I don’t understand the reasoning behind blindly protesting like this. If a ministry appoints a person on the basis of his capabilities, there has to be some reasoning behind it. Not anybody and everybody from the BJP can be appointed to such a post. I will go there, sit across the table with students and try to know what they are protesting against,” Chauhan said, adding that he was planning to visit the institute next week.
Meanwhile, an I&B official said that “there is a roadmap which is being put into place”.
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