Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chairperson Gajendra Chauhan is no stranger to controversy. His appointment as head of the prestigious institute saw students up in arms for months on end on the ground that he did not have the necessary qualifications for the job. The government which appointed him stood its ground and now Mr Chauhan is well-entrenched in the job. Given his profile, he clearly thinks it fit to pronounce on matters of film and popular culture. However, he seems to have gone off tangent with his remarks on Pakistani artistes and cricketers-turned-commentators working in India. He feels they should be denied visas as they may be passing on sensitive information as well as usurping jobs and taking money away from India. It is difficult to fathom what sensitive information an actor or commentator from Pakistan could access.
Mr Chauhan is echoing the insular sentiments of many, especially the Hindutva groups, who feel that no accommodation should be shown to Pakistani artistes in India. Earlier, there was a controversy on why certain Pakistani actors who worked in India were not vocal enough about the Uri terror attack or the surgical strikes that followed. The call to deny Pakistanis work in India smacks of double standards. We are justifiably proud of our actors who have made it good in Hollywood. By Mr Chauhan’s logic, Hollywood producers and actors could argue that jobs which should go to Americans are going to outsiders. This is a foolish argument.
Artistes and commentators have nothing to do with the developments which led to the strikes and other tensions, and they should not be dragged into this. The Indian film industry is so vast that a few jobs for outsiders are not likely to deprive Indians of work. Mr Chauhan would do well to focus on the FTII, which has in recent years lost much of the glory it once enjoyed. He seems to take pride in the fact that there are no Pakistani students in the FTII. This is short-sighted and goes against India’s attempts to project its soft power through its vibrant film industry. We should welcome students from everywhere to come and learn their craft in India. Remarks like the ones made by Mr Chauhan smack of pettiness and insecurity. This is not an image India should project.