Government Spokesperson Sanjay Kaul clueless about the running of FTII- Chetna Kaul


It’s disappointing and unfortunate that the govt. Spokesperson Mr. Sanjay Kaul on Ftii discussion with Kiran Rao, Gul Panag and Neel Manikant student at FTII hosted by NIdhi Razdan of NDTV was clueless about the running of FTII Pune and its humongous contribution to Indian Cinema and Television. Nor did he seem to have any idea about the history and eminence of easily one of the best Film schools in the world.

Mr. Kaul said //This is not a popularity poll or election which the students of Ftii will participate in. The course material and curriculum is not changing. He’s just chairman of a board of advisor’s. He’s not going to teach them every art. It’s your disbelief which creates such problems. The kids have to go back to do what they have come to do, learn what they have to learn. It’s not their business to dispute the principal they are going to have//.

Ftii students are chosen from thousands of applicants across the country with rigorous entrance for few seats. Most of them try many years before they are taken. They are not kids but passionate adults who believe that cinema or television is their calling. Many of them leave lucrative jobs to follow their hearts and dreams. Most of them are socially well aware. Films come out of the society one is living in not out of textbooks.
It is in keeping with that spirit that they are equal stakeholders in democratic and transparent processes for the smooth functioning of the Institute. The President and the General Secretary of the democratically elected general student body are voting members of the Academic Council which comes under the Governing Council and makes administrative and academic decisions regarding the running of the Institute. It’s not a high school where they cannot dispute the principal they are going to have. How is Mr. Kaul sure that people with inappropriate credentials, five society members and the chairman are not going to tamper with the independence of the Institutes Governing Council and Academic Council and dilute the democratic processes and ethos on which FTII was built. A person who can’t even answer what is good cinema, one wonders what vision does he have for the premier institute.

Mr. Kaul further asks the question //what FTII has produced from so many last years. Mr. Benegal remains one of the last names we remember//.
Mr. Kaul doesn’t even know that Mr. Shyam Benegal has not studied at FTII.
He has no idea about the beneficence of FTII Pune not only to the Hindi Film Industry, but all regional Film Industries, International and National Film Festivals. Television and Advertising Industry in last 55 years by not only its directors and actors but cinematographers, editors and sound designers.

He doesn’t refrain from belittling FTII by asking, //which geniuses have you produced since then, The proof of the pudding is in the eating.//

Mr. Kaul needs to know where to find the Pudding to savour it. The Govt. spokesperson is blissfully unaware of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, David Dhawan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Raj kumar Hirani, Sriram raghavan, Kundan shah, Saeed Mirza, Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Adoor GopalaKrishnan, Jahnu Barua, Girish Kasaravalli, Jaya Bachchann, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and many many others covering the whole spectrum of cinemas in India, through all these years.

One can just say that sadly Mr. Kaul had not done his homework.
The first film to go to Oscars in India was from FTII An Encounter with Faces, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short Subject category in 1979 by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. In Cannes In 1989, Shaji N Karun’s Piravi won a Special Mention for Camera d’Or and in 2009, Oscar for best Sound Mixing for Slum Dog Millionaire was given to Resul Pookooty again an Ftiian.

The number of awards Ftiians have just got in last five years is here
and before that is a huge list of awards, contributions and pioneering work, which is too long to be presented here.

Three Fourths of the Hindi Film and television Industry have Ftii Technicians or those Technicians who learnt under Ftiians on the job.

Most Private Film and Television Schools across India have FTII heads and faculty teaching them.The cult film Gangs of Wasseypur part 1 and 2 which was featured and screened at the 2012 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight has Ftiian Cinematographer Rajiv Ravi and Shweta Venkat as the editor.

This year Films at Cannes from India “Chauthi Koot” by FTiian Gurvinder Singh was in Un Certain Regard and his cinematographer is Ftiian SatyaRai Nagpaul and there was “Masaan” which had cinematographer Ftiian Avinash Arun which won the FIPRESCI Prize in the main competition section and a ‘Promising Future’ prize (Prix de l’avenir) for debut films. And there are many prestigious festivals where many films have competed and won .
FTIIANS believe that their work will speak for them so they generally don’t hire Public Relation Executives to Tom Tom their achievements every second day on the front page of newspapers and call themselves Geniuses.

Mr. Kaul asks //What are we subsidising it for? Is this money going anywhere//
In 2000 when I joined the institute, Mr. Mohan Agashe was the Director and he had increased the fees from rs.5000 to rs.22500 in one academic year. If our only batch had not called for the successful strike he was about to raise it to rupees One lakh. If that would have happened, after the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus of 1990, with both of them working my parents could still not have afforded to pay my fee at the film school in spite of my clearing the entrance. I still remember my father telling me while joining that you might have to drop the second year as we cant afford it. In a country like India where 276 million people live below poverty line, should cinema and art be studied by only those who can afford it. With a population of 1.252 billion and a thriving media industry are two subsidised govt, funded film schools (SRFTII and FTII) Is it too much to ask for?

I think I have elaborated in quite detail what FTII has done over the years. The Govt. of India has earned enough money through our taxes and our contribution to put it back in the Institute. Prestigious Art Schools around the World are funded by taxpayers money so that talent does not stay subservient to just the moneyed and privileged. We need sab ka saath sab ka vikas.

Nidhi asked the spokesperson //shouldn’t the body of work matter. On which he answers He’s not going there to make films for which he should be judged, thats extraneous to the argument.//

Mr. Chauhan may not make films there but what will he talk on or about when he has least idea about filmmaking or any knowledge of arts or aesthetics. How will he steer the processes and academic vision. Is he going there on internship that it’s extraneous to the argument. It’s surprising what kind of logic does Mr. Kaul follow?
The Govt. spokesperson further states// the demand has come for systemic changes, we didn’t hear it from you or anybody in the last 50 years.//

This govt was not in power for last fifty years except for 2000-2005. He should have done some enquiry on the number of committees set up to revise the functioning, and academics, the latest being P K Nair Committee which is lying there for the authorities to execute. He would have known how much effort and toil goes into running of a premier institute. As Sanjay Kaul suggested we have already negotiated, pressed ,advocated and highlighted now a visionary action needs to be taken by a visionary chief in consultation with students, ex students and people of repute who have at heart the best interests of our Institute.

He adamantly states that// The Important point is that the Govt. Has made up its mind. It has taken a decision. You have to work with what you have. The role of Govt is pretty clear // then I doubt much will be achieved with these appointees and his didactic tone and approach.

And yes for the umpteenth time it’s not 37 strikes in 55 years but 7 and always for a pertinent cause. Because we believe in the freedom of expression and a healthy atmosphere to learn, that is where cinema survives.

When Eminent Actors, Academicians, Artists, Film-makers and Ex Students across India are opposing the appointment of Mr. Gajendra Chauhan ,shouldn’t the Govt. of India engage with the students have a solution seeking dialogue or should it send unaware and uninformed spokespersons on a national news channel to make malicious arguments against its own Institute?

Chetna Kaul


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