Gajendra Chauhan, an actor whose controversial appointment as chief of the Film and Television Institute of India sparked a storm of protest by students, said on Wednesday it was wrong to assume his credentials weren’t enough to head the premier school.
Hundreds of students have been on a strike at the Pune institute since last Friday, demanding Chauhan’s ouster and saying his appointment was an attempt at enforcing the ruling party’s agenda.
But the actor, best-known for playing the mythological character Yudhisthir in the popular TV show Mahabharat, said it was the information and broadcasting ministry’s prerogative to take any decision on his appointment.
“I completely disagree with the students’ opinion. How can you judge my future on the basis of my past? Let me show my capabilities first,” he told HT.
Students, who are sitting on dharna at the FTII gate, have alleged the actor, who has been a BJP member since 2004, would compromise the functioning of the institute due to his ideology. But Chauhan disagrees.
“Everybody has their own ideology, I also have mine, but what’s wrong with that? The BJP talks about patriotism (rashtrabhakti), nationalism, and there’s nothing wrong in that. It will be helpful in making an ideal society,” he said.
The protests have spread to various parts of the country with well-known actors and directors lending their support to the struggle against what they have called a concerted attack on institutional freedom.
Chauhan, however, appears unfazed as he unveiled his plans for the famous school. “I have invited all the people related to FTII to come together to restore the old glory. There’s an abundance of talent in FTII, but somehow the old charm has been lost. We need to strive forward to make it the most prestigious institution,” he said.
Gajendra Singh says he isn't incompetent as FTII chief
The actor also criticised the way the premier school is run, saying an analysis of the administrative process was needed.
“See, cinema has to be meaningful for the people walking on the road. FTII needs to clear the backlog. Earlier, there used to be at least five to seven students from one batch who made it big in the world of cinema, but the scenario is different now. We need to analyse the issues that stop students from finishing their course in 3 years. Why are they taking 5 years? A good administration would save them some years in which they can go to the professional world and perform,” he said.
The government has indicated it may revisit Chauhan’s appointment but no final decision has been taken on the issue.
His appointment is the latest in a string of such controversies to have hit the BJP as the Opposition accuses it of saffronisation of education and picking undeserving people to head institutions, including that of YS Rao as the ICHR chief.
(The author tweets at Twitter/ @nawabjha.)
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