Updated: December 23, 2020 4:44:55 pm
The term of actor Gajendra Chauhan as head of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Society and Chairman of its Governing Council will end on Friday. Although appointments on FTII body are made for three years, the incumbent society was appointed in June 2015 with retrospective effect from March 4 2014 for next three years. If the Union Government does not grant it an extension – which is not unheard of in FTII – the positions held by Chauhan, his deputy B P Singh and other society members including contentious appointees Anagha Ghaisas, Shailesh Gupta, Narendra Pathak and Rahul Solapurkar will also cease.
A Right To Information query filed by The Indian Express seeking communication between FTII and I&B Ministry about formation of the next FTII Society or possibility of granting an extension to the present one drew a blank as the institute administration refused to provide the access saying “the matter is in process”.
Chauhan will head a Governing Council meeting in Mumbai on Friday which could be his last if the tenure is not extended.
Soon after the announcement of his appointment was made on June 9 2015, the otherwise sleepy campus of FTII on Law College Road in Pune was thrown into unprecedented chaos after students launched an agitation alleging that Chauhan doesn’t have the merit and artistic sensibilities to head an institute of FTII’s repute. They compared his career with the past Chairmans such as Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Girish Karnad, UR Anantmurthy and Saeed Akhtar Mirza concluding that Chauhan stood nowhere near their artistic achievements. Students alleged that Chauhan’s appointment along with four other members was only because of their proximity to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The students’ strike which expressed itself as a cultural fest with artists agreeing with students reaching the campus and performing to support their posturing, also saw violent outbursts such as one on August 16 2015 when students forcibly detained then institute Director Prashant Pathrabe inside his office until late in the night. About 35 students who were allegedly part of the detention were booked by city police and are undergoing a trial in Pune court. The administration has refused to withdraw the cases.
The strike ended in October 2015 – after four full months – letting Chauhan assume the charge of his office in January 2016. Thus, Chauhan’s tenure effectively lasted for only 13 months.
During this short tenure, however, the GC led by Chauhan and his deputy B P Singh took several key decisions. Among most prominent were those concerning bringing more discipline on the campus by way of introduction of rules concerning conduct as well as appointment of a Proctor. The institute administration also took out a contentious order restricting entry to mediapersons barring them from entering the premise without Director’s approval. Very often the administration refuses to provide information under RTI citing frivolous reasons such as one case when it denied information to a student citing a non-existent “policy that students were barred from using RTI to obtain information”.
Chauhan led administration also cleared several long pending projects including getting a nod from Association of Indian Universities to give master’s degree equivalence to FTII’s post graduate diploma course, implementation of a new syllabus for five film courses which was in pipeline for several years as well as starting short term introductory courses in smaller cities to spread awareness about film education.
Recently, FTII returned to news after it decided to deny scholarship and the opportunity of foreign exchange to students who were part of the protest against Chauhan’s appointment. The administration also stalled an ambitious diploma feature project being directed by acclaimed director Gurvinder Singh for acting students claiming he violated the ‘shooting ratio’ norm. Singh termed this a ridiculous excuse and suspected that the decision to halt the film came after he showed support to an expelled student.
While he couldn’t be contacted to get his comment for this story, Chauhan told a daily that he has not received any communication from the Ministry about “an extension of tenure” and that he would “rather like to move on with his life”.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.