In less than 24 hours after he was appointed the Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India, actor Anupam Kher has already been written an ‘open letter’ by the students of the institute. In the letter, FTII students have raised as many as nine issues which, according to them, is affecting them, the faculty and the learning process in the institute adversely and have sought to know the new FTII chairman’s views on the same. They have also highlighted academic issues and have also questioned Kher about contractual labour and the rationale behind conducting short-term courses whose only aim, they allege, is to generate funds.
The text of the ‘open letter’ can be read below:
To Mr Anupam Kher,
Dear sir, while you must be busy taking congratulatory messages, we would also like to bring your attention to the following issues persisting in the iconic institute that you will be heading as the Chairman. Also, we are curious to know your take on these issues:
1. FTII, the premier film institute of the country started ideally to impart learning on different aspects of film-making, is now slowly being turned into an institute that runs short-term crash courses for generation of funds. We sincerely believe that the short-term courses being run can’t impart knowledge on film making in such a short duration. For instance, the new course launched earlier this month,‘Short Course in Fiction Writing for Television’, has a duration of 20 days. Every student is being charged Rs 20,000, which we find very expensive for such a short term course and also for students from certain sections of the society. A government institute that exists to provide education to students from all section shouldn’t be driven by the agenda of funds generation, which currently seems to be the aim of these courses which has also been the case with government-run institute/universities across then nation.
2. Over the past one year, the administration has spent lavish amount of money on events such as ‘Open Day’ and ‘Foundation Day’. We as students believe that the amount of money being spent on lights, erecting set pieces in front of the campus can be spent on the infrastructure and in buying and repairing equipment, which would only help us in finishing our projects on time.
3. The new syllabus (CBCSS) brought in place has its issues like workshops and classes being cut down from the syllabus during the course of the semester arbitrarily. , confusion existing even among faculties on the new credit based system. It has been a year since the syllabus has been in place so a proper audit of the new syllabus has to be done and such issues need to be rectified.
4. All the light-men have been reduced contractual labours although in the past the used to be permanent employees. The institute runs on five days a week. However, there are enough instances when they had worked for six or seven days a week. In case of the 6th day, at times, the light-men are not paid currently.
5. Like growing culture of having only contractual faculties in the universities and educational institutes across the country, FTII also now has mostly contractual faculties. They can’t get access of the benefits like a permanent faculties does. They are also working in such an environment where they have this constant fear of being sacked in the middle of the contract period if they don’t follow the administration. The faculty and staff in the institute are not even getting salaries on time. There has been instances where their salaries have been delayed by three months. The institute does not have enough number of faculties to run the courses and because of this implementation of syllabus is getting affected.
6. Students are being forced to sign undertakings to finish their courses ‘on time’. On the other hand, administration is not providing the necessary resources which are essential to finish their projects on time.
7. Limitation have been brought into exercise norms as part of the new syllabus like, the norms brought in place for dialogue exercise in third semester. These limitations are logistically not feasible, like the three-day-eight-hour shift has been reduced to a two-day-twelve-hour shift which would be exhausting and also inhuman to force the lightmen, carpenters, painters and make up artists and actors to work at such a stretch. Also this being the first co-ordinated exercise in a studio, students should be given enough time as primarily the students’ learning aspect should be prioritised rather than looking to finish off the exercise in a haste. When we the students questioned this new norm change we were said that the norms would remain the same and when it was decided that the students would boycott the exercise five students were suspended without any show cause notice.
8. In February, 2017 the students association received an email saying it has been decided in the Governing Council that the student representatives would be excluded from Academic Council discussion pertaining to issues such as academics, syllabus, discipline, fee structure, decision about staff members and faculties. Considering the fact that the students are the primary stakeholders and voting members in the academic council this move to exclude the student representatives is against the Constitution of the institute.
9. FTII has been producing filmmakers who are working at various platforms. Some choose not to work in industry and others find alternate ways. But students at various instances have been asked to look at the industry practice where cinema is just being looked at as a commodity and not as an art form which serves the larger human cause.
Robin Joy (President, FTII Students’ Body)
Rohit Kumar (General Secretary, FTII Students’ Body)