After exploring all the possible options, they have resorted to their own medium – cinema – to clarify their stand on the strike. A 19-minute short film ‘A Film about a Puppet Show’ showcases the same.
They have boycotted lectures, been on strike, met the I&B Ministry and have also taken their protest to Delhi, however, it’s been 56 days, students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) are yet to find a solution for the ongoing strike. After exploring all the possible options, they have resorted to their own medium – cinema – to clarify their stand on the strike. A 19-minute short film ‘A Film about a Puppet Show’ showcases the same.
From the day the strike began, a number of FTII students, who were a part of the audio-visual team (AVT) set up after the strike, had been recording the footage of the events and happenings at the institute. Simultaneously, they also collected videos of works done by Gajendra Chauhan, Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak, Rahul Solapurkar and Shailesh Gupta, whose appointment had sparked the row. However, they had not decided anything about the large amount of data they had collected. “Although it has been so many days, many people still do not understand the real reason why we are on strike. A question that we are often asked is – ‘What do you have against Gajendra Chauhan’? For instance, a few weeks ago, a group of people who visited the institute asked the same. When we showed them the footage recorded by us so far, they were convinced. That’s when we realised that we have been ignoring the medium we know best – cinema. We then decided to select footage and make a short film,” said Amey Gore, a student.
The film opens with stalwarts of cinema like Jaya Bachchan, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Jahnu Barua, Saeed Mirza and Resul Pookutty, who graduated from the premium institute, talking about what FTII meant to them and how it contributed to their cinematic journey. It is followed by clippings of those who didn’t study at the institute but have high regards for it, namely Ranbir Kapoor, Sunil Sukhtankar and Dibakar Banerjee. The film goes on to name personalities, who once headed the FTII governing council like Gopalakrishnan, Vinod Khanna, Girish Karnad, Mirza and U R Ananthamurthy. And then it throws light on the works of Chauhan – from a C-grade adult film to advertising spiritual products, among others. It shows Chauhan praising Narendra Modi and Asaram Bapu. Besides, it also reveals works done by other FTII society members whose appointment the students oppose.
The film portrays striking students holding protest march, chanting slogans, singing songs, making paraphernalia for protest such as placards, art installations, paintings and so on. “Alongside the protest, the students have been continuously learning something new everyday at the campus in open classrooms under the initiative ‘Yearn to learn’, wherein they invite people from all walks of life to share knowledge – from dancers to cinematographers to theatre artistes. It shows that learning hasn’t stopped because of the strike,” said Gore, adding that it was difficult to select and compile all the footage in a short film for the audience. The film was screened at the S M Joshi Foundation and for the students of ILS Law College. Since several colleges denied them permission to screen the film, they decided to upload it on YouTube.
“As a progressive nation, we need our best people to head the institute of excellence. Instead, we are observing a trend of appointing mediocre political puppets. Stop taking students for granted” – is the message with which `A Film about a Puppet Show’ ends.