The students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) have gone on an indefinite strike over the appointment of TV actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman. The Students Council has also written to the Information and Broadcast Ministry asking for another person to be appointed at the post.
Gajendra Chauhan, best known for his role as Yudhishthira in the ‘Mahabharata’ series that aired from 1988-1990, has been associated with the BJP for around 20 years. He asked for a chance to prove his worth.
But Chauhan, who joined the BJP formally in 2004, doesn’t seem to have the creative credentials to be at the helm of FTII. Apart from his ‘Mahabharata’ stint, he has appeared in rather B-grade ventures. He campaigned for the BJP in Haryana during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Apart from him, 4 of the 8 chosen FTII panelists are RSS propagandists.
Anagha Ghaisas made documentary films on Modi; Narendra Pathak is a former president of the Maharashtra ABVP; Pranjlal Saikia is an office bearer of an RSS-linked organization; and Rahul Solapurkar is intimately associated with the BJP.
Harishankar Nachimuthu, president, FTII Students’ Association, said, “We have informed the Ministry that we cannot accept a person whose competence and artistic credibility is in strong doubt.” Some film-makers, organizations and other student bodies have spoken out in support of the students’ strike.
Anand Patwardhan, documentary film-maker, said, “It is a blatant attempt by the BJP to saffronize the institution.”
Patwardhan went on to question the appointment of Pahlaj Nihlani as Censor Board chief and Mukesh Khanna as Chairman of the Children’s Film Society of India. He added that Chauhan “pales into insignificance when compared to luminaries such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Karnad.”
Meanwhile, students of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India (SRFTI) boycotted their classes and took out processions on Monday in a show of solidarity.
But the BJP seems to have its own show of solidarity as the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has also rewarded those who support Modi. Shailesh Gupta, an alumnus of FTII, is on the governing council. He made a 5-minute documentary on the rise of Modi – ‘Shapath Modi Ki’ and actively supports right wing ideology. Gupta recently criticized AAP and Arvind Kejriwal on social media.
Gupta’s Facebook photo shows him shaking hands with Modi and apart from his 5-minute documentary on Modi, his only other creative ventures seem to be unknown ads that he claims to have made.