Ever since Gajendra Chauhan, who played the role of Yudhishtir in Mahabharata, the TV series, has been appointed as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India, people in the creative sphere have been crying foul about this decision. Matters reached a crescendo when around 150 students of FTII went on a flash strike to protest this appointment. But are these protests stemming from valid concerns?
Firstly, it must be said, Gajendra Chauhan, besides being an actor, is a member of the BJP. But is being associated with the BJP his lone accomplishment? He is known best for his role as Yudhistir in the epic TV series. After that he has been seen in many small roles for a long time. He is also a member of the Cine and Television Association (CINTAA) and rose to be the President of this association. So he is not completely unqualified one would say. Yet, when compared to his predecessors, he fails to be counted as a accomplished Film or TV personality.
Chauhan, would be occupying the chair which was earlier held by cinema stalwarts like Saeed Mirza, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal and Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy. Compared to the cinematic achievements of these people, Chauhan does fall behind. But there is something else that sets him apart from these names.
FTII’s last chairman, was Saeed Mirza, who besides being a renowned film-maker, was also a signatory of the Anti-Modi appeal from Bollywood, just before Lok Sabha elections last year. Former chairmen like Girish Karnad & Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy even went to the extent of forming a group called “Samakaleena Vichara Vedike” with the sole intention of opposing Modi and extending full support to the Congress in Lok Sabha elections. For an organization which has always been in the clutches of Anti-Modi, Pro-Congress artistes, to adjust to being under a BJP man can indeed be hard.
Secondly, owing to this constant tutelage offered by Left of Centre artistes, FTII has earned a reputation of being filled with Communist minded students. This can easily be verified by looking at the affiliations of some of the striking students. We even found some students who subscribed to the caste-hatred views of APSC from IIT Madras. So it isnt hard to imagine, why a BJP member actor, is being opposed by Communist students, from an organization traditionally headed by Congress supporters.
This angle was made amply clear by Mukesh Bhatt who had a problem with this “extending of political largesse”, but one wonders if he had similar apprehensions when past Governments repeatedly “extended political largesses”. For example, the earlier Censor Board Chief, Leela Samson, was Priyanka Gandhi’s dance teacher, was accused of financial impropriety and had little exposure to films. While, hate for BJP may be at-least a semi-valid argument, some creative people had a problem with Chauhan’s looks also:
Ganjendra Chauhan (Yudhishthir) not only has no cred to head FTII, he was also the WORST in a cast of more than 500. Aaloo-bonda look-alike.
— वरुण (@varungrover) June 10, 2015
Perhaps, the most damning and valid criticism of this decision, came from film-maker Vivek Agnihotri, who revealed that the Governing Council, of which Chauhan is chairperson, has members who themselves surpass Chauhan in merit. Vidya Balan, Jahnu Barua, Pallavi Joshi, Raju Hirani, Santosh Sivan are all artistes with much vaster experience than Chauhan. This leads to an undesirable situation where a TV actor, is overseeing a board consisting of multiple National Award winners.
Chauhan on his part, says he has 3 decades of experience in this field, and needs to be given a fair chance. The principle of natural justice, would demand that Gajendra Chauhan be allowed to take charge, and prove his credentials. It is a fact that he is a political appointee, but as highlighted earlier, most past chairmen of FTII also had very clear-cut political leanings to the ruling side. But the fact that he maybe heading a group which is far superior to him, is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. Maybe the Centre should consider appointing a more qualified person in the place, especially since many such people are available in the Right Wing itself.