Demanding that Gajendra Singh Chauhan should voluntarily quit as the head of the Film and TV institute of India (FTII), speaking to Preetha Nair eminent filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan remarked that he (Chauhan) did not understand why the students were protesting against his appointment.
“He is a simpleton. He doesn’t even understand why the students are protesting. I have nothing against him. But FTIIs need people who can inspire the students. It cannot be run by people with no professional knowledge of cinema,” Adoor, a former chairman of the Institute, where he studied in 1962, said in an interview.
He has under his belt the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, 16 National Awards and the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour. The veteran film maker said that Chauhan’s request to the students to give him a chance, pointed to his ignorance.
“I would request him to quit the post and by doing that, he will be doing the government a favour,” he asserted.
Chauhan has reportedly said that he had 35 years’ experience as an actor and should be given a chance to prove himself as an administrator.
Adoor feared that with “ignorant” people at the helm, the next step will be to change the medium of instruction into Hindi.”My fear is that they will make Hindi the medium of instruction now. It will deprive thousands of students from different parts of the country to access FTII ,” he said.
He also dismissed the allegations of a leftist ideology working behind the protest. “It’s absurd to call it as a leftist protest. Then Satyajit Ray should be called a leftist,” he said.
Adoor has been actively involved in the protest since it erupted on June 12 after the information and broadcasting ministry appointed Chauhan to the top job. The deadlock still continues as the students maintain that Chauhan is a political appointee. Chauhan, who played Yudhishtir in the TV series “Mahabharata”, is a member of the BJP and has served as its joint convener for culture.
Lashing out at Chauhan’s appointment, Adoor also questioned his credentials for the job.
“Chauhan’s work speaks for neither his qualifications nor for any vision which could justify his appointment,” he said, adding he didn’t wish to politicise the issue but was only concerned about the future of the institution.
Defending the students’ protest, Adoor said the government has violated the rules of appointments. “There is a clause in the rules governing the FTII Society that non-official members have to be men or women of eminence in the fields of cinema, literature, theatre and the other arts,” Adoor argued.
The distinguished filmmaker also expressed concern over reports of the government’s move to privatise FTII, arguing that this was not the answer to its problems. “If privatisation is the answer to all problems, why don’t they privatise the government? Why don’t they let the Tatas or Birlas to run the country,” he asked.
Describing the struggle as a cultural issue, Adoor said that it would affect cinema and the society as a whole.
“The FTII has contributed hundreds of directors and technicians and has played an important role in the Indian film industry. People with with wrong ideas will be disastrous for the institution,” he added.
It had earlier been reported that Adoor and Gulzar had been shortlisted for the coveted post. Brushing aside such reports, Adoor said that his choice of the chairperson would undoubtedly be Gulzar. “Gulzar will be an undisputed choice for all. He is a perfect choice for the post,” he said.
As a way out, Adoor also suggested that the government reconstitute a committee of eminent people. “They shouldn’t act like autocrats. The government should listen to the people. They should take advice from people of eminence,” he said.