FTII selection row

Photos: Graffiti from the FTII strike expresses students' fears ‒ and hopes

The writing is on the wall for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which has selected a television actor to head the prestigious film school.

The protests against television actor Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the chairperson of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India show no signs of dying down. Five days after the agitation started, students of the Pune institute are continuing to strike class and organise demonstrations. They claimed that Chauhan, who is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, is not qualified to run the film school.

On Monday, the students sent a letter stating their demands to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry through the institute’s director, DJ Narain. Until they get a response, they have decided to continue the agitation. They are expressing their dissent through videos, photographs and erudite posters and graffiti.

Among the filmmakers who have spoken out on behalf of the students are alumni as well as filmmakers who did not train there, including Mukesh Bhatt, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Girish Kasavaralli, Anand Patwardhan, Rakesh Sharma and Nikhil Advani. A press release issued by the FTII Students’ Association noted that “the only and primary point of our protest is the lack of credentials of the appointed Chairman, especially in comparison with the previous luminaries that have held the post before him”.

The high point of Chauhan's career was his role as Yudishtra in BR Chopra's long-running mythological television series, Mahabharat.

The association added, “Our protest is solely to uphold the autonomy of the institute, something we are apprehensive may get compromised if a person with low credentials and strong affiliation to the ruling party takes up the post.” The press release mentioned that students at the I&B Ministry-funded Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata and student unions in Delhi had also staged solidarity protests.

Meanwhile, here are some of the slogans that have appeared on the walls of the FTII.

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