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“And Then I Saw A Few Soft Porn Films”: FTII student On Getting To Know Gajendra Chauhan

An FTII student made a hilarious film on the new chairman’s filmography. A short interview with the promising filmmaker.

gajendra

Students at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, have been on an indefinite strike since June 12 protesting the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the new chairman.

Chauhan’s claim to fame was his portrayal of Yudhisthir in the TV serial, Mahabharat.

Since then he has moved on to more creative pursuits.

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Ajayan Adat, a student studying sound at FTII, along with his friends created this masterpiece of fun:

(Note: This video has been edited by Newslaundry with permission from Ajayan.)

We caught up with him in the midst of the strike and thought we’d ask him about the creative thought behind this hatke form of protest.

  1. Which is your favourite Gajendra Chauhan film and why?

Oh no. Impossible. To judge his films is not in my capacity. First of all, I was checking out his credentials on Google and I found a film called Jungle Love and Khuli Khidki and tried to watch it on YouTube. The forward option available on YouTube was bliss.

I really think this is the second break of his career. First was, of course, the Mahabharat serial and the second is this national-level protest against him. Actually, he should thank us.

  1. Are you against Chauhan’s appointment as chairman because of (or lack of) his film history or the fact that he is a proud BJP supporter?

Supporting a political party in a democratic country is not at all a sin. But, that alone can’t be the reason for the appointment of the post of chairman at FTII. Will the government ever be ready to appoint a guy without a degree qualification (science stream) as the head of the All India Institute of Medical Science? This is that simple.

  1. What are your views on Pahlaj Nihalani as the chief of the CBFC? 

I don’t know him either, other than as the one who led the campaign for Modi as PM. Suresh Gopi, a Malayalam film actor, apparently, became a Modi fan and supporter just before the elections. He was made the chairman of the National Film Development Corporation of India. And then somebody who believes that the Mahabharata and Ramayana are historical facts, became the Head of Indian Council for Historical Research. They made “Bhishm” [again from the Mahabharta serial] the head of Children’s Film society and tried the same logic with Yudhisthir as the head of FTII.

  1. Do you think that this appointment will in some way curb your freedom of expression?

That’s the main concern of the students. Some of his colleagues have already told the media that they are going to teach us Indian culture. (As if they are the retail vendors of Indian culture.) Another member said he is going to teach a lesson to the anti-national elements (students). These things aren’t signs of freedom.

  1. Why did you make this video? A little behind-the-scenes insight?

As I am from Kerala, I had not seen Mahabharata and didn’t know who Yudhisthir is. Then I googled him and saw him dancing with the fraud baba, Asaram Bapu, who is also a [alleged] criminal. On that stage, he asked the people to rename Valentine’s Day as Matru Pitru Divas (I believe that is the “Indian Culture” they want to teach us).

Then I saw a few soft porn films (I have nothing against porn films if they are neatly done) which are not erotic but funny. My friends and I laughed a lot over a few cups of coffee. Then I saw this guy [Chauhan] doing a campaign for some navaratna chains that are supposed to bring wealth into your house (again with pseudo saints). I felt that something interesting can be done out of this. We are film students and juxtaposition of images is the first thought that generally comes to our mind. I marked the time codes and asked my editor friends to do something about it.

  1. How long did it take to make video?

They [editor friends] didn’t take more than a half shift to make it. That is four hours.

  1. How did you find all the clips?

Google!

  1. Why is what he does not art? What defines art? How is it different from what Adoor or Rajkumar Hirani has done? 

I am nobody to define art because I am still trying to figure it out. What I figured out from my studies at FTII is that there is a thin line between Art and Vulgarity. Definitely, it is not about a higher or a lower art form.  But, of course, we are not here to assess him on the Asaram Bapu video and Jungle Love. Because, it is really sad that his credentials are so weak that students had to prepare a CV [the video] of him with the help of IMDB. It’s full of B-grade films and a few commercials.

  1. Isn’t reaching out to the masses important in the film industry. Isn’t that what he is aiming at?

First of all, FTII is not a factory outlet for Bollywood or any film industry. What we learn here is not industrial management, but the art of film making. Whether we apply that in the film industry, independent film making or teaching is our freedom. The moment you expect us to work in industry, that itself kills the idea of freedom.

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