June 21, 2015

A Deep Insult and Permanent Injury to FTII

Ajit Abhyankar

IN its ‘crusade’ against the intellectual life of the nation and the institutional framework purported to nurture the same, the Modi government and the Sangh Parivar has taken one more victim. This time it is the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), one of the most revered institutes in imparting education in film making, not only in India, but in the whole of Asia.

It has appointed Gajendra Chouhan as the chairperson of the governing council of FTII. Chouhan has to his ‘credit’ in his film/arts career, nothing more than playing Yudhishthira in the serial epic ‘Mahabharata’, and acting in third rate commercial soap serials on various TV channels. The only qualification that he has to fill this yawning deficit in his film/arts career is his allegiance to the RSS ideology of communalism and obscurantism and unequivocal support to the neo-Nazi cult of Narendra Modi. His other films include B-grade cinema and selling Raksha Kavach and other 'magical' stuff on TV.

The present government seems to be shouting in the face of Indians: "We can do whatever we want!" This appointment, however, should not surprise the nation, once Smriti Irani is “accepted” as the HRD minister at the centre.

Gajendra Chouhan would now be occupying the chair that was once occupied by legends like Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, U R Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Mahesh Bhatt and Saeed Mirza!

Once a centre of rich heritage and excellence, the FTII has now become one more institute that is slowly being devoured first by bureaucratic negligence, then by the myopic pro-privatisation policy, and finally by the callous cult nurtured by the Sangh Parivar. FTII always had an atmosphere of freedom and aesthetic abundance within the campus, which will now become a part of history, with this authoritarian and sectarian new government led by Narendra Modi. 

The problem here is not just that Gajendra Chouhan happens to be a BJP activist. Cinema is one medium that has immense potential in creating a sense of beauty, condition people's understanding and promote a certain aesthetic culture to them. As an emerging country, we saw talented directors, writers and lyricists creating the sense of a larger than individual identity for the masses, an identity which would energise the downtrodden, the working class and the peasantry and rally them behind impersonal goals. While mainstream Indian cinema later forgot its role and aped its masters in the “liberated era” of post-1991, FTII, among a few other institutes, remained a place which continued giving birth to cinema persons who were committed in their responsibility to the people. And this is one of the most important problems with Gajendra Chouhan’s appointment.

This is not just a random gaffe, but a well-planned takeover of the country's cultural institutions. It should be noted that Chauhan is not the only RSS-BJP person implanted in this takeover of FTII; four other newly appointed members of the FTII governing council are RSS pracharaks. To top it all, the government is still defending its actions as acts of impartial honesty.

However, the students of FTII and its alumni are on the streets fiercely protesting against these outrageous appointments. The SFI Maharashtra state committee held a big demonstration on this issue at Majalgaon in Beed district on the first day of its statewide camp on June 13. It was led by SFI president V Sivadasan, state secretary Datta Chavan, state president Mohan Jadhav and other SFI state leaders. All the artistes and noted film makers in the country have come out in the open against this terrible insult and injury, both deliberately caused by the Modi government with the nefarious design to promote its authoritarian and communal cult in the nation.