Film fraternity members appeal to President to resolve FTII issue

The stalwarts held a press conference on Thursday to pledge their support to the students

There seems to be no calming down the storm that started in the campus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) campus 90 days ago. Close on the heels of a hunger strike declared by the students, some of the country’s biggest names in cinema pledged their support to the students by signing a letter addressed to the President demanding a quick redressal of the issue. The letter was also sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday evening.

The stalwarts held a press conference on Thursday to pledge their support to the students. Present at the conference were former FTII head Adoor Gopalakrishnan, documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, Dibaker Banerjee, Aruna Raje Patil, Kundan Shah, Hansal Mehta, National Award winner Sankalp Meshram and five times national awardee Prateik Vats, who is also an FTII alumni. Over 150 eminent names from the industry including those present at the press conference have signed the letter which was also sent to the Education and the I&B ministry. Vidya Balan, Rajkummar Rao, Anjum Rajabali and Sriram Raghavan are some of the few mainstream Bollywood names that signed the letter.

At the press conference, Adoor, former head of FTII, said that the students should be treated like professionals. “They know what they are doing. The names given by the committee is not a good list of people. We live in a democracy and this is our voice. The government will have to listen to us and it is our right. We earnestly appeal to the government to take cognizance of the happenings and take necessary measures. The institute has set a standard. This is not something which to be fought over, but needs to be decided in tandem and with consultation. If they have made an error let’s rectify it.” he said.

Students have been accused of politicising the issue, but documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan strongly denies that. “The effort to saffronise every educational institution is going on at full swing right now and FTII is not the only body to have suffered. The commonness one finds between the film society head and the FTII head is that the two people selected are both Asaram Bapu Bhakhts. They are also people who have campaigned for the Modi government — their only qualification being that they belong to the saffron agenda. So what the students have done is extremely heroic,” he said, mincing no words.

It has been nearly three months of disrupted classes and students have been accused of not submitting their assignments. Aruna Raje Patil, an FTII alumnus, informs that students are very much in control and are holding a peaceful protest. “Unfortunately, for the film institute there has been a lot of apathy over the years. In spite of that the alumni and the students have done extremely well and have been achieving laurels over the years,” she says.

That very few mainstream names from the Hindi film industry have made themselves heard regarding the issue, is something that doesn’t surprise Dibakar Banerjee. He said, “I can see the reluctance in the Hindi film industry to stand up and say what’s fair and unfair. It isn’t surprising because Bollywood is a vulnerable industry. Even slightest interference from the government can ruin a film and that’s the reason they are not so forthcoming. If that doesn’t happen, unfortunately the media will not pick it up and the citizens won’t know what will happen. We need to be smarter to make our country a more nuanced country. The plurality of the society is depicted by the films made by FTII’ians and if we start patronising that, we are killing dissent and the idea of a free society.”

The panel unanimously reiterated that it’s time for the government to speak up. Sankalp Meshram, a National Award winner and an alumnus, said, “The question is why isn’t the government hurrying to address the issues. The reason is apparent — if they take back Gajendra Chauhan they feel that they’ll loose face and it’ll allow a other students and institutes to raise their voices. For the government, it’s a question of statesmanship, they don’t want to be seen as a government that succumbs to pressure. But fact is, if they respond, it will only serve to show them in a much better light.

It will establish its democratic credentials,” he asserts.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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