It could not have been an uglier and more protracted battle. But now the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students have called off their strike to protest the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the head of the FTII after 139 days. During this time, not just the film fraternity but also the political establishment was sharply divided on the issue. Mr Chauhan, a television actor, may not have been the best choice for the post. No doubt, he does not have the credentials that past illustrious heads of the institution have had. Certainly, the government should have given much more thought to this appointment than it did in the choice of Mr Chauhan, who does not have a body of work beyond mythological serials behind him.
But, there are other points to be considered. Should the protest by a group of students be allowed to hold up the functioning of the institution? The second is whether students of any institution should consider it its right to ensure that an appointed head is removed at its behest. Students have every right to make their reservations known, but this has to be done in the form of a dialogue. One of the most famous former heads of the FTII went on record to say that the students should have given Mr Chauhan a chance before going on a protest. There is merit in that. An institution like the FTII is not run at the behest of the head alone, it has several members on its board and faculty who guide its workings.
Now Mr Chauhan and members of the faculty must try and address the students’ concerns. The government has made it clear that it will not be held hostage by the students when it comes to an appointee of its choice. Now, the most important thing should be to improve the workings of the institution. It has lost a lot of its glory over the years. It needs to produce not just actors but world-class talent in all fields of filmmaking, especially at a time when it has stiff competition from many private film institutes. This is not quite the photo finish that the students must have hoped for but, for now, it is time to get the picture in motion once again.