People from more ‘important’ trades might belittle the importance of cinema. But cinema has carried tradition, history, culture and storytelling on its shoulders for a while now. People call it frivolous, however it is startling how the same people sought refuge in cinema when life needs major ‘diversions’.
As a student of cinema, it is absolutely impossible to ignore FTII ( irrespective of whichever political party or ideology one supports).
When Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment came to light I was flabbergasted. For once I was sure someone had spoofed. Agreed he is part of my childhood memories (when a power cut on a Sunday at the time of Mahabharat was the ultimate sorrow), but he is certainly not a man of cinema. As comrades from FTII pointed out his ‘one page resume’ and a host of unforgettable films I shivered. I also got a little obsessed and made sure I never tried those apps on Facebook that tell you what Mahabharata character you are. What if they threw Yudhisthir at me? Wouldn’t that be an ultimate nightmare?
Words such as ‘commie’ very popular in social media parlance is being liberally hurled at the institute and its students. Aspersions on character and unconnected allegations piling up as the strike continues!
Some have also said ‘films do not add to anything worthwhile and the government should shut the institute.’ (However it is absolutely necessary to point out – no culture has survived on just technology and medicine).
People a little more imaginative have ‘suggested’ students to move over to a private institute (of a very respected and veteran filmmaker). Now anyone who says FTII hasn’t produced quality filmmakers and technicians have a different idea of cinema e. They might not have given 300 cr movies, but in terms of content and accolades, FTII has always taken Indian cinema to film festivals across the world. (Therefore, dear friends let us relieve them of the anti-national tag as it is after all India they are representing). There are hosts of people in this list of success. More recent and perhaps the most popular being Resul Pookutty ( if the Oscars mean anything at all). Filmmaking is not easy as it looks. So we might just see half a dozen names in newspapers and a dozen in film posters. But there are a retinue of people who remain unnoticed but absolutely necessary to the making of the art. Incidentally many of these are FTII products. A quick check of the 62 national awards would also echo these words. One of the recent additions being Mrinal Desai; the man who shot the much acclaimed and awarded ‘Court’.
However everything said and done, I am against strikes/ hartals of any form. Having studied at one of the volatile universities of the country (infamous for midnight raids and lathi charges on fasting students) I have realized that student’s politics after all does not lead anywhere. They do not bring too many permanent solutions.
So after the initial shock of Mr. Chauhan’s appointment receded and I got back my nerves and sat back and wondered; questions jostled to come out and confront me. Do we judge Mr. Chauhan on the basis of the films (or non- films) that he has done? The number of films he has acted in might not be directly proportional to his knowledge of cinema. In a TV debate, an absolute favourite of mine had pointed out that Mr. Chauhan is not fit to talk on Indian or World or even our own regional Cinema. I wholeheartedly agree with him. Even as the strike is about to reach a two month mark, I haven’t been able to change my mind on Mr. Chauhan. However, that little voice from time to time says, ‘how would you know how he performs as a Chairman? Why are you getting so involved with the strike? Doesn’t it have a history of strikes?’
Some of the voices against Gajendra Chauhan have had themselves turned down the post that he is now set to hold at FTII. Well I know that is a weak argument. The government could have waited or really looked for someone more worthy. This is unnecessary muddy water and they got have steered clear of it. However, the personal attack on Mr. Chahuan is also not tribute to art my dear comrades.
When people point at the history of strikes in FTII, I and supporters (who gain or lose nothing from the standoff) shamefacedly look away. Dear comrades, you must have some energy. 39 strikes in 55 years? This time you blame a ‘fascist’ government, out to saffronise FTII ( I am not sure what means by saffronisation of cinema though). What was your excuse the last 38 times?
It is not that FTII has suddenly woken up and realized their quality and credibility is in question. The fact that students have overstayed and haven’t completed their projects and courses is no secret. Which institute provides this luxury? If sanctity and standards are what the striking students are fighting for, then why not clean the mess first? Money is a myth that runs in the film-making industry. How do the students manage to hang on for an entire decade?
The proposal to upgrade the institute and the report of the Hewitt Associates (done in 2009 and essentially not a saffron thing) was met with student’s strikes. Even if we take this as ‘a crusade against privatization’, has it served any purpose?
The institute was set in 1960. Which means out of the 55 years they got only about 6-7 years with the ‘mediocre Sangh’ minded BJP government. Why didn’t the other governments solve the problems of FTII?
The Nair Committee report submitted years ago did speak about the backlog of courses and the ‘extra’ students on the campus.
Here I also direct my question to the striking students of FTII. If your concern is the institute ( that needs better facilities, regularisation of courses, filling up of all faculty positions etc) why didn’t you seek assistance from the (stylishly jeans clad) Rahul Gandhi earlier? I mean he got out of power only last year. If you have problems with any political intervention then why seek the attention from people in the opposition?
Forget Mr. Chauhan my comrades. You weren’t even kind to Mr. Agashe or Mr. Bhatt. Didn’t your strikes force Mahesh Bhatt to resign in 1997? Now don’t give us the excuse that he doesn’t ‘understand’ cinema. He made Khamoshiyan only in 2015. Back then he made Tamanna and has a list of worthwhile cinema to his credit.
Most of us haven’t liked our principals or VCs. How many of us get to strike and ask their resignation. This is not freedom of expression. This is throwing weight around.
Isn’t it crazy that the last convocation FTII has seen was in 1997? And before that in 1989?
You may say that cinema needs space and freedom of expression. However by expression none of us would understand the 55 years and 39 strikes ratio and overstaying on campus for a decade.
And even as I write and we debate I would also like to point out – the number of days lost in strikes could have been utilized in making good cinema. We Indie makers finish feature films in 20-22 days. Holy crap this fiasco running for 60 days.
Also do take a point to remember, there are many film-making greats the world over who haven’t attended any film school. My favourites being Tarantino, James Cameron and Nolan.
P.S – To anybody thinking this is written in a veiled support for the government and Mr. Chauhan; I take my one chance to say it isn’t. The shock of his appointment might have receded but hasn’t turned to admiration. This is a situation that needs some passionate understanding on both sides. Arrogance or strike will not solve it.
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