‘I don’t believe my credentials are bad…Let me perform,’ says Gajendra Chauhan

Actor and BJP leader Gajendra Chauhan, whose appointment as Film and Television Institute of India chairman sparked protests, talks to Sankhayan Ghosh.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Mumbai | Updated: June 18, 2015 9:30:17 am
Gajendra-Chauhan-l Gajendra Chauhan

Your appointment as the president of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and the chairman of its governing council, by the I&B Ministry, has sparked protests by students.
Some political parties are involved and they are behind the protests. The FTII students are innocent. They have been misguided by these forces. I would advise the students to stay away from this political game. These political forces are taking advantage of the students for their own agenda.

People have questioned your credentials.
I don’t believe my credentials are bad. I have been given a chance. Let me perform. I have been in the field of television and films for 34 years. I have worked in hundreds of TV serials in small as well as big roles. The students should talk to the ministry, which decided to appoint me. Why am I being made a scapegoat?

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Initially, the criticism was about me. Then, RSS-associated members on the FTII panel and the I&B Ministry were dragged into it. Now, it is back to me. The students are questioning my credentials. Am I answerable to them? Are we heading towards a future where students get to decide who their teacher will be?

What was the procedure for your appointment?
I was called for three meetings with the advisory committee until my appointment. I want to put this on record that my political ideology will remain outside the gates of FTII.

The FTII is said to have deep-rooted operational issues. How do you aim to address them?
I am aware of the problems, but before I could execute any changes, this controversy came up. The issue that needs to be addressed on a priority basis is the student backlog. Students from earlier batches have still not graduated — some from the 2008 batch are still there. This needs to be looked into and the admission process of new students needs to begin. Secondly, the equipment — cameras and other machines — need to be upgraded. We also have to make additions to the faculty. For instance, Danny Denzongpa and Asrani used to teach at FTII earlier. We should bring in experienced people from the industry to conduct classes.

Previous FTII chairpersons had almost no rapport with the government. Since I’m a part of the BJP, I can get work done faster. I am thinking of facilitating the screening of diploma films on Doordarshan, which will help the students financially.

You had said that the FTII hasn’t been able to produce a filmmaker of reckoning after Raju Hirani.
What I meant is that people on the streets don’t know those who have graduated after Raju. We have an Oscar winner like Resul Pookutty and even a lot of National Award winners, who have studied at FTII. They are very talented, but they are not known to common people. Artistic satisfaction is important but the financial aspect of cinema is also crucial.

Many of your critics have referred to Khuli Khidki, a B-grade film, you had acted in.
When you try to make it in the industry on your own, you do such films. There is no embarrassment in it. It was a hit and did good business.

Do you have any experience in administration?
I was national convener, culture, for the BJP and promoted the party’s ideology through cultural activities. I’ve been part of the Cine & TV Artistes Association, as an executive committee member and then as its vice-president for four years. I was also its president for a year.

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