The-students-of-the-Film-and-Television-Institute-of-India-have-gone-on-strike-against-the-naming-of-Gajendra-Chauhan-as-the-new-chairman-Though-the-film-industry-and-the-famous-alumni-in-particular-have-been-strangely-silent-HT-Photo
The-students-of-the-Film-and-Television-Institute-of-India-have-gone-on-strike-against-the-naming-of-Gajendra-Chauhan-as-the-new-chairman-Though-the-film-industry-and-the-famous-alumni-in-particular-have-been-strangely-silent-HT-Photo

FTII controversy: A case of very bad casting

The BJP wants to get rid of UPA appointees and keep an iron grip on institutions, but is short on professionals of quality
By Sidharth Bhatia
UPDATED ON JUN 22, 2015 01:28 AM IST

Students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) are on strike against the naming of Gajendra Chauhan as the new chairman. They are appalled that a premier institute that at one time boasted of chiefs such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal and till a year ago, Saeed Mirza, and has turned out a vast number of illustrious alumni should now be headed by relatively a non-entity whose filmic past includes outings such as Khuli Khidki. The one role that brought him some fame was as Yudhishtir in the TV serial Mahabharat, which was aired in 1988. Since then, he has been in forgettable films in side roles, strangely often playing a policeman. It is hardly a secret that he is not in the same league as any of the names mentioned above and does not even command any commercial clout as a box office attraction. In short, he is not a noteworthy personality in the Hindi cinema scheme of things, someone whose name immediately invokes respect.

However, he has been with the BJP for 20 years or so and has campaigned for the party in several elections. At one time, the BJP used to pick up recognisable TV actors who had played mythological figures and make them MPs — Dipika Chikhalia, who had acted as Sita in Ramayana, and Nitish Bharadwaj, who was Krishna in the same Mahabharat as Chauhan, are two examples — but since then, has become wary of handing out tickets for the Lok Sabha elections. Chauhan has been given this prestigious post as a gift for being a party loyalist.

Given that he is not a highly respected or even well-known name in the world of cinema, what could have motivated the NDA government to plant him in FTII? What is it about Chauhan that impressed the I&B ministry so much that they decided to pluck him out of relative obscurity and hand over this top job, a decision they must have known will raise some dust?

Three possibilities must be considered. First, he was chosen because he was a hardcore party man and he — and his political godfathers — may have felt he needed to be rewarded. That is par for the course for political parties who have to keep their rank and file and hacks happy by dispensing some loaves and fishes of office. The second reason could be that the government wanted a pliant man in the job. Since it has come to power, the BJP has systematically installed its own chosen personages in posts ranging from the National Council of Educational Research And Training (NCERT) to the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) to the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC). It wants to seize control of institutions, especially those that preside over culture, a prime project of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which feels history and culture as they are taught in modern India is antithetical to the Hindu point of view.

That still does not answer why Chauhan was chosen. Could it be because the Sangh — and the BJP — just does not have truly talented people in its fold? The party’s poor bench strength has been widely noted; when someone like Chauhan is the best it can do, this impression gets confirmed. Or contrariwise, does the government actually think he is a talented and capable man who will do a good job? If so, what exactly gave it that impression?

His pliability goes in his favour, but surely the government could have got someone who was not ill-disposed towards the Sangh or the BJP and could be relied upon to be amenable.

Perhaps it is a combination of all these factors. A small-time actor with no reputation or administrative experience who would be beholden to his political bosses and will never show any streak of independence — he is the best kind of person the BJP wants. We have already seen that in the case of Pahlaj Nihalani, maker of mediocre Hindi films who is now presiding over the CBFC (angering, it may be pointed out, even other BJP nominees).

The students of the FTII have gone on strike though the film industry in general and the famous alumni in particular have been strangely silent. The FTII has been troubled for a few years and needed a firm and inspiring hand to guide it over the next few years. It still produces first-class technicians who are valued by the Indian film industry. All it needs is a top-class manager with a fine cinematic understanding, a sense of imagination. Nothing in Chauhan’s CV so far indicates he has it.

This episode once again shows that while the BJP wants to get rid of those appointed by previous governments and keep an iron grip on institutions, it is finding it hard to come up with professionals of quality, certainly from within its ranks. And it is not prepared to look outside its fold because it does not trust anyone else.

When narrow, party loyalty is the chief criteria for selecting people to manage important cultural — and other — institutions, the Nihalanis and Chauhans will be the best that we will see, the interests of the institutions and the students be damned.

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Some saw it a justifiable tribute to the man who is a Gujarati icon, has contributed immensely to Ahmedabad’s infrastructure and also headed the state’s cricket administration (AFP)
Some saw it a justifiable tribute to the man who is a Gujarati icon, has contributed immensely to Ahmedabad’s infrastructure and also headed the state’s cricket administration (AFP)

The politics of naming and renaming public spaces in India

By Ronojoy Sen
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:22 AM IST
Modi is the first Indian prime minister in office to get a stadium, or any other public place for that matter, named after themselves. If one looks for examples outside India, he is not in great company either
Close
The CM is wooing women by providing maternity child care leave and instituting schemes in educational institutions (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
The CM is wooing women by providing maternity child care leave and instituting schemes in educational institutions (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

When women shape political outcomes

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:21 AM IST
There are around 35 million women voters in Bengal who will play a significant role in this election. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been in power for the last 10 years, is aware of the power of women voters
Close
PM Modi’s first foray at peace-making with Pakistan had been directed at its civilian leadership. That completely miffed the generals. The situation is different this time, with a military-to-military statement (PIB)
PM Modi’s first foray at peace-making with Pakistan had been directed at its civilian leadership. That completely miffed the generals. The situation is different this time, with a military-to-military statement (PIB)

The difficult path to Indo-Pak peace

By Vivek Katju
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:21 AM IST
Pakistan’s army is on board with the ceasefire. But unless it revises its position on terror and Kashmir, talks will hit a barrier
Close
Over the past year, the federal structure has come under strain. A BJP win in Bengal and presence in government in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the Centre’s hand — while a TMC win in Bengal and a DMK win in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the voice of states (SANTOSH KUMAR/HTPHOTO)
Over the past year, the federal structure has come under strain. A BJP win in Bengal and presence in government in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the Centre’s hand — while a TMC win in Bengal and a DMK win in Tamil Nadu will strengthen the voice of states (SANTOSH KUMAR/HTPHOTO)

The 2021 elections will shape politics for years

UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:56 PM IST
The polls will shape the trajectory of national politics, determine the balance of power between the Centre and states, and reveal the current strength of national and regional forces
Close
Disha Ravi has now been granted bail. However, in his judgment granting bail, Judge Dhamender Rana said, “The offence of sedition cannot be involved to minister to the wounded vanity of governments.” The government must heed this warning. (REUTERS)
Disha Ravi has now been granted bail. However, in his judgment granting bail, Judge Dhamender Rana said, “The offence of sedition cannot be involved to minister to the wounded vanity of governments.” The government must heed this warning. (REUTERS)

Securing India’s international image

By Mark Tully
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:09 PM IST
India is described as a flawed democracy in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. It has slipped from 27 in the rankings in 2014 to 53 in 2020. But does the government care about this slippage or indeed should it care? Three recent events make me wonder.
Close
Ghazala Wahab, the author of Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India , believes there are external and internal forces that hold ‘Muslims in a pincer grip’. (REUTERS)
Ghazala Wahab, the author of Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India , believes there are external and internal forces that hold ‘Muslims in a pincer grip’. (REUTERS)

It’s not easy being a Muslim in India

UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 07:14 PM IST
Moderate Muslims are not just caught between two worlds but torn apart. “On the one hand, conservative or devout Muslims disparage them; on the other hand, Hindus suspect them”. So what choice do they have but to “keep their heads down and hope they won’t be called upon to take a stand?”
Close
Censorship and State monopoly on parliamentary telecast violate the democratic ideals of accountability, transparency, and keeping the electorate informed. (Mohd Zakir/HT Archive)
Censorship and State monopoly on parliamentary telecast violate the democratic ideals of accountability, transparency, and keeping the electorate informed. (Mohd Zakir/HT Archive)

Making parliamentary proceedings more transparent

By Kinshu Dang and Shreyas Narla
UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2021 07:01 AM IST
If Parliament has to truly function as an “institution of accountability”, the General Purposes Committee, which oversees matters concerning the working of the House, must reform the telecast guidelines. It must also mull over the larger question of how accurate parliamentary records should be.
Close
The emotional turmoil of unrequited love is real, but we can put it behind us fairly quickly if we try. Take cues from the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer. (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)
The emotional turmoil of unrequited love is real, but we can put it behind us fairly quickly if we try. Take cues from the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer. (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)

Hooked on a feelin’: With Love by Simran Mangharam

By Simran Mangharam
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 09:47 PM IST
Heartbreak is bad enough. A heart that withers away when your feelings aren’t returned is a different kind of pain. Sometimes, it’s not them it really is you?
Close
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vast appeal across so many social media platforms are tools that give unparalleled traction to India’s diplomatic outreach (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vast appeal across so many social media platforms are tools that give unparalleled traction to India’s diplomatic outreach (PTI)

The evolution of India’s Twitter diplomacy

By Syed Akbaruddin
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 06:25 AM IST
In a multipolar world rife with concerns about terrorism, contentious trade disputes among allies and adversaries, catastrophic environmental degradation, health issues, human rights advocacy, the security implications of new technologies have made social media platforms an arena of inter-State contestation
Close
That’s not a glowing pitch for the history books. But the ignominy will not be hers. It will rest on the shoulders of the US lawmakers who were unable to overcome, once again, their hypocrisy, sexism and even, racism (AP)
That’s not a glowing pitch for the history books. But the ignominy will not be hers. It will rest on the shoulders of the US lawmakers who were unable to overcome, once again, their hypocrisy, sexism and even, racism (AP)

What is blocking Neera Tanden’s rise to the cabinet

By Yashwant Raj
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 06:26 AM IST
If confirmed, she will become the first Indian-American to hold a Cabinet position in the United States (US) federal government, as director of the office of budget and management
Close
Working in the cramped environment of their homes with little or no contact with teammates, for longer hours, without the relief of social friends and yet being expected to deliver the same quality of work as before, is an unrealistic ask — yet the norm among corporates (Shutterstock)
Working in the cramped environment of their homes with little or no contact with teammates, for longer hours, without the relief of social friends and yet being expected to deliver the same quality of work as before, is an unrealistic ask — yet the norm among corporates (Shutterstock)

Stress hits the bottom line – in more ways than you think

By Raghu Raman
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 06:24 AM IST
Corporates will pay a heavy price if they don’t understand the implications of mental health. Make well-being a priority for employees
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)

The BJP’s ruthless expansion drive

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:30 AM IST
Puducherry is only the latest instance of the Modi-Shah playbook of expanding political power. In a sense, Puducherry is now part of a pattern of Machiavellian intrigue that has been repeated from Arunachal and Manipur to Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where a ruthlessly expansionist BJP seeks to consolidate its ascendancy by wangling either wholesale or retail defections.
Close
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)

Myanmar-China ties: It’s complicated

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:53 PM IST
While China needs to work with Myanmar, the generals make for uneasy bedfellows in a relationship that has had a long and turbulent history.
Close
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)

A gender equality framework for India’s sciences and tech disciplines

By Barbara Wickham
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:32 AM IST
Greater gender equality in STEM is crucial, and in the larger interest of scientific progress and society. Currently, India is looking at a paradoxical situation where women are studying STEM subjects but there are not as many women in STEM careers.
Close
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

The disruptive social effects of Hindutva 2.0

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
It is the electoral hegemony of the BJP which can deepen the sense of betrayal among those who feel short-changed by the side effects of Hindutva 2.0
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP