Pressure seems to be building on TV actor Gajendra Chauhan, the newly appointed chairman of the Governing Council of Film and Television Institute of India, as support gathers for his ouster from the institute.
Several industry stalwarts like actors Anupam Kher, father and son Rishi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and director Adoor Gopalakrishnan have come out to openly back the students in their protest against Chauhan’s exit from the post.
FTII students have been striking for about a month and are now mulling to take the battle to the legal arena. FTII Students’ Association (FSA) feel that they are left with no other option as the Centre has failed to “respond positively” to their demand.
“We are also exploring the option of approaching a court of law on the issue as judiciary is another platform available to us,” said FSA representative Rakesh Shukla.
Shukla also added that they prefer a solution through dialogue and are seeking a second round of talks with the I&B Ministry after the issue failed to resolve during the July 3 talks in Delhi.
According to FSA Chauhan, best known for playing Yudhisthir in the epic ‘Mahabharata’ on TV, lacks “vision and stature” to head the renowned film institute.
“We are not asking the government to nominate a particular person. We are only contesting the present appointment,” said another FSA representative, Ranajit Nair.
Meanwhile, some industry-veterans are now urging Chauhan to step down. A day after Anupam Kher and Adoor Gopalakrishnan came out in support of the students, veteran actor Rishi tweeted his views on the matter.
“Advice. After all the protests and controversy, Gajendra Chauhan, the FTII Chairman should voluntarily retire. Will do good to the students. If they don’t want you, they don’t want you. By pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where. Let self pride play a role and retire!”said Rishi Kapoor on twitter on Friday morning.
Gopalakrishnan, a former Chairman of FTII, said in Delhi that he would personally request Chauhan to step down from the position as he feels his appointment will only harm them and everyone concerned.
“An institution like FTII cannot be closed in a day at the behest of a minister and higher authorities. If the government has made the wrong choice then it is for them to correct it. I would personally request him (Chauhan) to decline to take up this position because it will not do him any good. It will not be good for students; in fact, it will harm everyone concerned,” said 74-year-old Gopalakrishnan.
Anupam Kher too feels that the film training institute needs somebody who is “much more qualified”.
“I personally feel that FTII represents a certain art form. It does need a person who has a great body of work. Certainly, FTII needs somebody who is much more qualified than whatever Gajendraji’s qualifications are coming across,” said Kher at an event in Chandigarh.
Film personalities like Resul Pookutty, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kiran Rao, Ranbir Kapoor, Sayeed Mirza and Piyush Mishra have expressed their displeasure over Chauhan’s appointment.
Earlier this week, noted actress Pallavi Joshi and Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua resigned as members of the FTII Society.
However, actor Mukesh Khanna, who is also head of Children’s Film Society, has backed Chauhan’s appointment. In a statement reportedly by him said if the students did not like the government’s choice of chairman, they were free to quit.
“This is an insensitive and autocratic approach and indicates the government’s future strategy of suppressing the agitation using undemocratic methods,” said FSA representative Rakesh Shukla.
FSA has also objected to Chauhan heading the panel that selects the director for the institute. The term of the present director, D J Narain, is due to end this month.