Are we indeed residing in a nation that champions the cause of democracy? Well, at least the latest FTII row seems to be giving a negative nod to this. An educational institution stands to serve the purpose of the students and is solely for them – at least that is what was instilled in our minds all this while. The month-long row at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) seems to mouth a different story altogether. Politics indeed is omnipotent. A certain political party’s political dogma andagenda is more important than the lissome future of a bunch of aspiring film students. And when this bunch of students initiates a remonstration against the gubernatorial politics, power and diplomatic aptitude, they are merely turned a deaf ear to.
1The students at one of the most prestigious and stellar film institutions of the country launched a rigorous protest against its newly appointed chairman, Mr. Gajendra Chauhan. Most popular as ‘Yudhishthir’ in the popular epic series ‘Mahabharata’, Chauhan is an actor turned BJP person who was proclaimed the chairman of FTII by the Central Government around a month back. Protests began and continued ever since.

Gajendra Chauhan
Gajendra Chauhan

BJP turned down the names of some of the preeminent personalities of the film industry as the chairman of the institution. There were two lists produced by the I&B Ministry that made their way to the trash can. The lists constituted monikers of celebrated and veteran individuals of the gossamer world. Names like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikant and ShyamBenegal were included among others. Needless to say, the entire ruling party is in favour of Chauhan as the captain of the ship of a prominent institution like FTII.

Rishi Kapoor

Actor Rishi Kapoor, in an interview to a notable news channel, recommended names like PareshRawal, HemaMalini, VinodKhanna and ShatruganSinha. “If they don’t want you, they don’t want you. By pushing for the chairmanship is getting you nowhere. Let self-pride play a role and retire!” – Kapoor may be quoted as said. Voluntary retirement by Chauhan is the need of the hour, according to Kapoor. Echoing the students, he opined that after a prestigious array of directors and actorslike ShyamBenegal and AdoorGopalakrishnan among others as the chairman of the institute, GajendraChauhanmight not be an opposite name owing to “credibility issues”.

Other actors who backed the students at FTII are AnupamKher,RanbirKapoor, RajkummarRao and AmolPalekar. Filmmakers Kundan Shah and Aziz Mirza have demanded his dismissal. To lend their support to the demonstrations held by the students, actress Pallavi Joshi and filmmaker JahnuBarua have even resigned from their posts. Many other notable personalities claimed that Chauhan’s knowledge of the cinema world is limited and he is not eligible to head the institution.

SubramanianSwamy (BJP) even called the protesting students ‘Naxalites’. When the FTII rage was brought to light before MukeshKhanna of BJP, the only easy solution panned out by him was that the students should simply leave the institution if they are unhappy with the newly appointed chairman. On democratic grounds, however, this makes negligible sense. We students are often labeled as the future makers and torch bearers of the nation. We are entitled to a right to voice our opinions and to express dissatisfaction over something that goes against us. Mr. Chauhan will definitely not be able to function in an atmosphereof disapproval where the studentshave already nipped in his bud. This is high time when he should step aside. And there shall be no sore on his reputation and dignity.

Acting in a handful of B-grade Hindi films does not quite give him the credentials for holding such a premium post. This resoluteness and obstinacy will not fetch him any brownie point. Sometimes letting go is the best option. And Mr. Chauhan should resort to that. Despite the Government backing him, he should exercise his conscience and gauge the damp squib that this entire circumstance is stemming into.This is definitely not a platform to fathom his prowess. The futures of lashings of students are at stake. Many are claiming that this is “a deliberate attempt to intervene with the institute’s autonomy”. Clearly, the party’s purpose is going haywire.

The remonstrations on the part of the students impeccably exhibit their vision and foresight to carry the legacy of one of the finest institutions forward. With due respect to BJP and their political schemes, this farcical situation is leading nowhere. If nothing else, then Mr. Chauhan is inadvertently earning the title of an iconoclast, and his party a latently autocratic party putting on the garb of democracy. Rather than going against the students and chastising them, the only wise decision would be to step aside and to resume the academics by imposing a closure to this month-long futile row.

All we can do is to hope that may good sense soon prevail… The interests of the students after all are more important than any interest and ambition of a political colour.

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