Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chairman Gajendra Chauhan’s tenure at the prestigious institute may end on Friday, if he is not given an extension by the government. Chauhan’s appointment — one of the most contentious in FTII’s history — has been a mixed bag for the institute, which witnessed a 139-day long strike from students.
Though the tenure of an FTII chairman is usually three years, Chauhan — a television-actor-turned-BJP-member — got a short tenure of one year, seven months. The institute underwent many changes during this period; some of which were controversial, while others were praised by the film industry.
“I am happy with my tenure, under which I managed to carry out many good things, including converting diploma courses into masters’ degrees, introducing a new syllabus, making FTII open to all and bringing discipline to the campus,” Chauhan told Hindustan Times.
“I have done my best and I am happy,” said Chauhan, speaking about whether he expects an extension. He added that he now wants to move on with his life.
Under Chauhan’s chairmanship, the FTII was able to get six of its post-graduate diploma courses equated with a masters’ degree, making it possible for students to leverage this while pursuing higher studies abroad.
This was something the institute had been trying to do since 2011. However, it was only in 2017 that the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) equated short-term courses with a masters’ degree.
The Governing Council (GC) chaired by Chauhan made several key decisions that are expected to have far-reaching consequences for the institute, which has been on the decline.
The institute was accused of ‘high-handedness’ under Chauhan’s leadership. It denied scholarships and other opportunities to students who wanted to participate in foreign exchange programmes. The institute termed students’ participation in protests a ‘disciplinary matter’, leading to police cases being filed. They cited this as the reason for denying those students scholarships.
The new administration proposes to convert FTII into a holistic institute of cinema, television and allied arts, offering a varied choice of subjects related to cinema and digital media.
Besides approving a vision document prepared by the Academic Council, this year, the institute introduced a new syllabus, which aims to finish the courses in timely manner and prevent a backlog.
After a gap of two years, the institute admitted fresh students this year. It also introduced a choice-based credit system that will replace the current system of annual assessment. FTII faculty said the new system will primarily evaluate the weightage of learning in various courses offered in all the disciplines.
The premier institute had been forced to freeze admissions for a few years citing backlog — a three-year batch was stretched over six years. This not only burdened students financially, but denied opportunities to prospective students.
The PK Nair committee — which the government constituted after students opposed the Hewitt Report — tried to find solutions to this backlog, and also addressed problems with the syllabus.
The committee’s 2011 report tackled problems with equipment and faculty. The corrective measures proposed by committee included ‘bringing back FTII to its normal state of three batches’ by putting new admissions on hold, ‘hiring new equipment‘ to improve its infrastructure and curbing ‘absenteeism of students and faculty’.
Another proposal envisages setting up nine schools under the aegis of FTII, which will offer around two dozen courses, including short-term courses in music composing, animation and gaming, prosthetics and makeup, and costume design, besides core subjects such as direction, cinematography, acting, editing and sound design.