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Anupam Kher resigns as chairman; FTII in doldrums again

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The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pune is in a state of lurch. And Anupam Kher’s resignation as the chairman of the Governing Council of the premier film institute of the country probably comes at the worst possible time. While the veteran actor has cited his global work commitments as the reason for his exit, insiders cry foul. The institute has been marred with controversies in the past, with a 139-day long strike by the students against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman. And with Kher’s resignation, the doldrums continue.

Council in the dark

An insider shared how they weren’t in the loop about Kher’s resignation. “The dignitaries were in the meeting. But nobody knew he would resign. It came as a surprise to the council, as much as us. It had come as an absolute shock,” said a source. Bhupendra Kainthola, in a statement shared with Eastern Chronicle, said, “Kher visited the campus several times and had an empathetic ear for the concerns and issues of the institute. One October 30 he presided over the first-ever meeting of FTII’s Standing Finance Committee, Society and Governing Council. He also approved the new Academic Council. With this, the functional architecture of FTII, is now in place.”

Students in a soup

Chairman or not, the current crop of students are of course finding it difficult to continue with their curriculum. A plethora of academic issues has plagued the institute. “The implementation of the syllabus, that was introduced during Chauhan’s tenure, hasn’t seen the light of the day. There is a lack of planning and equipment for the diploma films as well. The 2016 batch students have to shoot their diploma film and the 2018 batch has to start its practicals. There is in fact an alleged scam in the renting of equipment too. Two students were injured when a crane fell on them while on the sets. A high-level enquiry by the ministry has also been initiated. This resignation comes at the worst possible time. FTII at the moment is in great turmoil. We don’t know where we are heading to,” said a 2015 batch student of acting on conditions of anonymity.

This is not all. FTII director, Bhupendra Kainthola, has been accused of harassing a female student who had  reported a case of sexual assault against a fellow student and teacher. “The student has been punished and reprimanded by the internal community, as the teacher is close to the director of the institute,” said a faculty member.

Missing leadership

And with Kher’s exit, the issue boils down to the same – the problem of leading from the front. “Students are on an academic halt now. It had been 11 months since the Governing Council was formed, but there was no committee, except for a head. How are they supposed to work? Students have lost faith. They needed someone above the director. But even he has been tainted now. It is a terrible situation to be in.

People have no confidence in one another inside the campus,” said Ajayan Adat, a former FTII student. And now, there is no chairman in the Governing Council. “What is the point appointing a famous chairman, if he doesn’t want to work?” Adat added. In fact, buzz is that the Academic Council chairman, BP Singh, the famed CID writer, will call the shots now. “It isnt the way FTII is supposed to run. The director cannot run it. It should be run by the Governing Council, headed by a chairman and this is not an ideal situation,” informed Chauhan.

Chauhan’s payback time The man of the moment is probably Chauhan. The Mahabharata actor, who was appointed as the chairman in early 2014, was questioned for his credentials, which didn’t ‘deem him fit’ to head an institute of such repute. Chauhan, however didn’t buckle. He remained stern, until he resigned on March 3. And in between, there was of course some ‘good work’ that was done under his leadership. “I joined on January 7, 2016, after the students’ strike got over. I did my best – organised four meetings of the Governing Council and the ideas were implemented 100 per cent. My biggest achievement as a chairman lies in converting the diploma to a degree course in FTII. And I undoubtedly did a lot of good work during my tenure. In fact, a lot of things were completed when I was the chairman. I worked in students’ favour. You can check the CIG Report of 2017. Such good things are written about me,” Chauhan opined.

In fact, Chauhan who portrayed Yudhisthir in the epic has a piece of advice for the Union information and broadcasting ministry. “It should appoint someone who has an experience in running an administration and is not just a veteran in an art form. You can be a good artiste and filmmaker but not necessarily a good administrator,” he reasoned. Of course, Chauhan was criticised by Kher when appointed, and it is payback time now! “I don’t know what work he has done in the past one year. Only students have the answer. But, if he had to resign why did he take up the position? It will be difficult for the government to get a replacement so soon. He didn’t even work for a year! And the FTII society didn’t even meet for once. He had objected to my appointment as the chairman. But jab khood pe zimmedari ayi to chhod k bhaag gaye. Unka kaam opposition hai, aur mera kaam kaam hai. That is the difference,” Chauhan rued.

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(The writer works with Eastern Chronicle, Kolkata)