Friday, August 21, 2015

Strike by Students of FTII - An Exercise in Futility

The strike by students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII, the pioneer institute started in late 1960’s) has completed two months, and counting. Still, the real issue has not even been clearly spelt, let alone addressed.
It all started when Narendra Modi led BJP central government appointed one Gajendra Chauhan as the Head of the FTII. FTII has been a ‘liberal’ institute. So when Chauhan was appointed, his links to Hindu Nationalist organization RSS were quickly unearthed and the protests began.
Gajendra Chauhan’s claim to fame is his role in the epic Indian TV serial Mahabharat. Apart from that, he has acted in some 100 plus obscure, low budget movies. Which of these is his sin? Acting in Mahabharat? If yes, why not make a law that only the cast and crew of such serials that pass the ‘liberal’ muster should be allowed to become a head of FTII? If acting in C-grade movies is a sin, then one of the earlier FTII heads - Mahesh Bhatt - has produced a plethora of films that can be considered milestones in commercialization and sexual exploitation of female body. If having certain political views is sin, then former FTII head Mahesh Bhatt and U R Ananthamurthy have been openly anti-BJP. Bhatt even campaigned against BJP in 2014.
FTII has been so chaotic and directionless that that batch that entered in 2008 and was supposed to exit in 2011 is still at the campus, ‘studying’. As a result, the entry of the next batches was hampered as the classrooms and hostels were full. Did this happen overnight after Gajendra Chauhan was declared the head? Who is responsible for this?
No other institute in India gives students the right to select their head. On the contrary, even an institution like University of Mumbai (established in 1857  etc. etc.) had to suffer under a Vice Chancellor (Rajan Welukar) whose academic credentials were doubtful to say the least, for full five years. Welukar sucked up to all relevant politicians, spread across the spectrum from one extreme to another, to stay in power.
Idiocy begets stupidity. This eternal truth was proven by the other side. Some staff members of FTII, who are ‘concerned’ about the institute, have come under a forum called ‘Save FTII Forum’. It would be very interesting if the forum members answer the question – were they not ‘concerned’ earlier? Where were these ‘concerned’ faculty members when a batch has been staying more than double its assigned time on campus, and still hasn’t graduated?

The fact is, nobody is getting disadvantaged by this strike. The students are used to spending more time than needed for the normal course in the institute. They have cheap/free hostel facilities and subsidized canteen. What else does one need? The staff, ‘concerned’ or otherwise, is getting their salary paid on time. So this strike is actually a nice break for them. Even if the strike goes on for a year, the ‘concern’ of the staff will manifest itself in some token press-releases at the best. So, the taxpayers are sponsoring this strike. After all, why should the taxpayers sponsor only the BMWs and Audis of the road contractors? A strike is a nice change sometimes.

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