Dibakar Banerjee, along with 11 other filmmakers, announced that he would be returning his National Award to offer support to the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
These students have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the president of the institute for over four months.
Dibakar says that it’s important to make the FTII “free of political influence”. Here, the 46-year-old tells us what prompted him to actively join the agitation, and more.
What prompted you, and the other filmmakers, to return your National Awards?
We were hoping that someone would hear us, see the logic of the students’ protest, and then act on it constructively.
Why did you take so long to join the agitation?
If it (the act of returning the awards) was done earlier, someone would have said, “Why now?” Just like someone could say, “Now? Why not then?” None of us had foreseen that something so basic and clear would get convoluted into this nonsense about the right, left and the centre. And when we heard that the students were going back to the classes, but will still continue the protest, we decided that we needed to strengthen the next phase of their protest.
Several people are calling this a passive resistance movement. Do you think this move will help?
Passive resistance made us today’s India, from a starving, exploited British colony.
Why aren’t we seeing an active agitation by the alumni of the institution and by the members of the film industry from across the country?
The alumni of the FTII have been working tirelessly for the past four months with the students at every step to bring this situation to a positive resolution. There may have been disagreements, but everyone wants an FTII free of political influence. The last letter that was sent out to the government was signed by 200 film-makers from all over India.
How do you think your stand will influence the members of other film industries in India?
I hope they will be more aware of the reality of the situation, and start raising their voice.
Do you think, like the IITs, esteemed institutions like FTII should also be made autonomous bodies, completely independent of any kind of political say?
Absolutely; this is needed if India wants to keep its head high in the world community for its high standards of education that has seen Indians become world-famous entrepreneurs, CEOs, bankers, investors, writers, artists and filmmakers.