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The FTII Solution and Why Gajendra Chauhan must go

The stalemate between students of FTII and the Government of India has been going on for many weeks now. Ever since Gajendra Chauhan, a mid-level actor at best, and also a mid-level BJP member, was appointed the Chairman of the Institute, the students are protesting against the Government. The reasons for protests are varied:

Some say Gajendra Chauhan is not qualified enough to be the Chairman of an Institute like the FTII. His body of work doesn’t have anything in it which would suggest he would be a worthy appointee.

Some have a problem with the fact that he is from BJP. FTII students have already defaced the premises with protest slogans saying they don’t want a “karyakarta” chairman.

And some of the more politically correct people, like some Bollywood stalwarts who have now been roped in by FTII, complain about excessive “Government interference” in FTII, while refusing to blame any political party per se.

We had already discussed that it is completely true that Gajendra Chauhan is not qualified enough when you compare him past Chairman, or even with the people in the Governing Council, whom he is supposed to lead. Solely on this argument, it is a no-brainer that Chauhan must go. But the fact is the second argument of him being a BJP member is equally at play.

What probably irks the Government is that the students, who have a problem with a BJP member, were completely at ease with past chairmen like Saeed Mirza and Mahesh Bhatt, who were openly political and were signatories to the “No Modi” signature campaign in Bollywood and Girish Karnad & Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy who 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. Hence the Government may be of the view that if past political appointees were given a free pass, why not now.

Even the third argument of Government interference may not be valid. The Government is pumping in good money into FTII, which is over Rs 10 lakh p.a per student, hence it probably expects to be in control of the Institute to monitor the use of its funds. But here a larger picture arises: Why should the Government be involved in FTII to such an extent?

And this is why the Government is considering moving out of FTII, either by shutting it down or by transferring it to Bollywood or even by bringing it on par with IITs and IIMs and giving it more autonomy. And this decision of the Government moving out of FTII is probably the best solution and a long term one too.

Considering that Bollywood is very rich, there is no sense in Government funding FTII wholly. A part funding mechanism can be considered to provide assistance to “arty” films which do not get backing easily. Secondly, since Government will move out, so will its appointees such as Gajendra Chauhan. Thus Government can save its face claiming he wasn’t sacked because of student pressure or for being a “karyakarta”, but only because of policy change.

Another important reason why Government should be out of FTII is that this would be in perfect sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance” which envisages reducing unnecessary Government interventions in every field. Also, if one sees other similar fields such as Cricket, the Government is not involved in its promotion. Its only in other sports which aren’t popular enough do we see a discernible Government influence. Bollywood being an extremely popular and rich industry (much like cricket) may not need Government hand-holding anymore.

The Government lost a golden opportunity to set the FTII “right”, by installing a worthy Chairman who could also be considered a BJP man, someone like an Anupam Kher maybe. But now it has another shot at cleaning up the FTII mess by completely moving out of it and granting freedom to the institute to function as it pleases. They shouldn’t mess this up.

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