Today, after 139 days, students of the Film & Television Institute of India, decided to call off their strike – but not their protest.

They will continue with their resistance – and aim to show the ‘darkness’ they have seen in these 139 days. Yes, all the right thinking minds were agitated when Gajendra Chauhan was appointed as the FTII Chairman, an actor that many don’t recognize beyond his only credible role – as Yudhisthir in 1988-1990 television serial Mahabharata – a period long enough to make him even more obsolete.

Appointing him could never be justified – and can never be – not even in the name of changing ideologies in the government.

Yes, a government’s move to appoint persons following its ideology/thought process is only natural and there will be natural ‘political’ slugfests.

But we need to think why many even in the government couldn’t digest Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment like the ‘famous’ helplessness shown by Arun Jaitley or the ‘trademark technical compulsion of the government’ in removing him or even the vociferous disapproval expressed by Anupam Kher who today ‘vociferously’ disapproved the ‘National Awards returning act’ act by any filmmakers in support of the FTII students.

If Gajendra Chauhan would have even the slightest of idea of what was coming around, he would never have welcome the move by the students and would never have thought to go to the extent to invite students on ‘talking table’.

And there came the presser by many filmmakers including Anand Patwardhan and Dibakar Banerjee – giving clear indication that the protest is going to intensify even more – yes with changed ways and tools – as the students said:

“We will not engage with the information and broadcasting ministry in any talks till these appointments are revoked. We are respecting what all the students want and will rejoin classes. We have tried every democratic means to make our voice heard.”

“We will go back to cinema and our work will show what we have learnt in last 139 days. We call upon all academicians and citizens to take our voice forward.”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


The agitation, a relatively peaceful one, so far, now for over 70 days, was again mishandled by the administration – in a series of insensitive steps taken by the government (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting) that began with appointment of Gajendra Chauhan.

In a late night crackdown on August 17, police arrested some protesting students from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) campus after the institute’s director complained of harassment, that the next day became ‘mental torture’.

Well, the drama that began with the government appointing a questionable man to run an esteemed institution like FTII, the day to day developments and protests, the stubbornness shown by Gajendra Chauhan and the government and the helplessness of students – it is the real torture that we all have been subjected to – and are being subjected to daily – the mental agony that we are forced to go through day after day.

Chauhan ji – is there a limit? Is there something called ‘enough is enough’ for you? Is there something called ‘morality’ in you?

An action like the midnight crackdown by the police, this is where this government is again fundamentally wrong – after appointing Gajendra Chauhan.

Human beings are mostly political and they have this or that sort of political affiliation and the political regime of the day plays it accordingly. Nothing wrong in that. Right or wrong, but we call this political pragmatism in the prevailing political scenario.

Anyway, there are many well known right wing academicians – and certainly Gajendra Chauhan does not fit the bill.

FTII students have been protesting since 70 days and we do not need any proof than this that the protests have been peaceful.

Ideally, in the prevailing circumstances, as a symbol of protest, even no new students should take admission in the institute this year. New administration of FTII and the government are wrong here – yes, they will say all bad things about students.

But we should not forget that FTII, with all its routine administrative and academic problems, is still a premier institute in its field because of tenacity and no present and prospective students would like to compromise there.

In terms of student strength and societal representation, FTII may not be that big to matter politically (if the government thinks so), but the way the present row has been handled by the government, it has not gone down well with the masses.

And so far, the government has failed to read into the symbolic implications of this spiral.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


It is natural that there will be moves to appoint right-wing faces in institutions of esteem that are considered important socio-culturally. Educational outfits and outfits related to history, culture and society are the prime names under scanner whenever a different political ideology takes the ruling centre-stage in the country.

Congress did it so when it came to the power in 2004 and ruled the country for 10 years. It appointed people from its ranks or people of the ideology it followed. Before Congress, the BJP did so. Now the BJP is doing it again, after storming back to power with complete majority in 2014.

That is the price the society needs to pay to remain and grow democratically – in a democracy with multiple parties and multiple ideologies. And the price may be affordable, may be just right – or may be bad when people are rewarded with headship of institutions based on their political affiliation and not on their professional merit.

Now, Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, the most premier institute of country on the art of filmmaking is a bad price that the society will be forced to pay if the government has its way.

Mr. Chauhan’s logic of other FTII chairmen belonging to the ideologies of the ruling dispensations of their times may hold some ground but it doesn’t justify his appointment. He is nowhere near to the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan or Girish Karnad, some of the names who headed the institution in the past.

To his claim, he has just one role – Mahabharat’s Yudhisthir – that we can talk about. But that was also in 1990. To his claim are some forgettable films. To his claim are some television roles that require a bit of googling to know about. And to his claim is his over two decades long BJP membership.

A membership that has given him this chairmanship. And he accepts it. But while he may be a self-made man as he says, he has lobbied for something wrong. FTII is simply not a place to be headed by someone like Gajendra Chauhan. He will kill its free spirit. He will compromise its creative freedom. He lacks the credential to head it. He doesn’t have even one when we expect multiple of them from a person heading FTII or any other similar institution. Also, it is not that there are no notable names on filmmaking with a rightwing affiliation. They are bound to be there. People with finesse of art and professional expertise may have any political ideology. It was the responsibility of the government to choose the right one to head FTII.

FTII students are protesting against Chauhan’s appointment. They are not ready to accept him and they are right in doing so. They are writing open letters, organizing protest demonstrations and are running social media campaigns. Yesterdays, they extended their protest by launching a video that is spoof on Gajendra Chauhan. Like Gajendra Chauhan’s name, this video is also self-explanatory on ‘why Gajendra Chauhan must not be made FTII chairman’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –