March 2, 2017 3:11:57 pm
When Gajendra Chauhan was appointed to head one of the country’s premier film institutes, Film and Television Institute of India, it had irked many, primarily the students, who felt that this was the central government’s strategic move — a deliberate propaganda initiated by the right-wing ruling party which had come to power in 2014. It was the government’s attempt, the students believed, to “saffronize the institute.” The institute has a history of reputed chairmen, including film veteran Shyam Benegal, R.K. Laxmam, Girish Karnad and U.R. Ananthamurthy. To have Chauhan, who had a seemingly poor film repertoire in comparison to the aforementioned greats, was problematic.
Traditionally, FTII’s chairman has a tenure of 3 years. Interestingly, Chauhan completes his tenure tomorrow, after heading the chair for only one year and seven months. We take a look at the timeline of how things unfolded since the time he was appointed.
June 9 – Gajendra Chauhan is appointed as the chairman of FTII.
June 12 – His appointment triggered an outbreak of mass protests on campus by the students. Over 20 students were detained by the local Pune police. Actors from the film fraternity came out to support the students. Rishi Kapoor said, “If they don’t want you, they don’t want you. Pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where. Let self pride play a role and retire,” while Amol Palekar had said, “This is something we should be talking about and by this we will clearly know that it is a mistake and that he has no credentials…If I would have been in place of Chauhan and I would have seen that my fraternity does not want me, I would have withdrawn.”
September 10 – Students go on hunger strike. Five students are hospitalized due to fasting.
September 19 – The FTII strike completes 100 days. No sign of a remedy. The protest went on for 139 days since Chauhan’s appointment, which were eventually called off when the government assured the students that their demands would be taken into consideration.
October – Filmmakers Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan decided to return their National Awards, in support of the students’ protest.
January 7 – Chauhan arrived at the FTII campus for the first time and hold his first meeting today, although he was appointed as the chairman 7 months ago. In between, at least 9 talks were held with the Centre, however students’ demands were not met. Invariably, fresh protests sprouted again when Chauhan arrived, leading to at lest 30-40 students being detained.
April 6 – There was a delay in the revised FTII syllabus.
June 23 – Chauhan was invited by the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat at the Sangh headquarters. Chauhan said that he consider Bhagwat to be a “father figure”.
July 5 – FTII’s Academic Council finally approved the new syllabus and aimed to introduce new courses. In the 129th Council meeting, it was approved that the institute would be transformed into “a holistic institute of cinema, television and allied arts, offering varied choice of subjects related to cinema and digital media”, according to the official release. It was also established that the institute will have “Choice-Based Credit System” instead of the traditional system of annual assessment.
July 6 – Despite the protests, Chauhan said that he was “determined to do the job I have been assigned” according to a IANS report.
October – When Karan Johar’s film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was embroiled in the controversy that it featured a Pakistani actor (Fawad Khan), Chauhan went on record to say that he supported the belief that Pakistani artists should be banned from working in India, saying that the country did not need talent from outside.
February 28 – In the midst of the uproar created around 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur, Chauhan supported the likes of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, saying that Kaur must apologize for her remarks supporting Pakistan.
February 28 – Following the controversy around CBFC’s refusal to issue the certificate for Lipstick Under My Burkha, Chauhan had gone on record to say that he hoped that the government would scrap CBFC’s Rejection Clause. In an interview with ANI News, he had said, “Censor Board is only for certifying the film. If rejecting a film is in their hands, then the government should take this matter into consideration and scrap the rejection clause completely. If not, how did they use this power to reject a film?”
March – In an interview with Hindustan Times Chauhan said that he hoped that students concentrated on their studies and stayed away from politics.
📣 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.