It took six long months for the government-appointed Chairman, Gajendra Chauhan to finally stake his claim to the FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). The day , which was marred by protests, also signalled a quiet submission by the Centre with the announcement of veteran TV producer BP Singh as the ViceChairman and President of the Academic Council and filmmaker Raju Hirani along with Satish Shah and others as members of the Governing Council. Speculation is rife that the appointment of BP Singh has perhaps been done to clip the actor-turned-chairman’s wings.Filmmakers believe that there is a much larger political agenda behind this move. Director Kundan Shah strongly reacts, “I don’t expect a change with the academic council and the revising panel coming into the picture, as Chauhan and Pahlaj Nihalani, the Censor Board Chief, still happen to hold their positions. The problem is not with them as they are just puppets of the government and throwing them out is not a solution. The government’s philosophy needs to be changed.“

But the man at the centre of the controversy -Chauhan -seems unfazed by this latest development.He stuck to his ground like Nihalani by saying that he was keen on “sharing the load“ with the members. He says, “It often gets difficult for one person to chair everything. In fact, I was the one who suggested this. We are trying to divide and share the responsibilities, since I will also be busy with my TV shows.“

Rubbishing all claims that the government was eventually pressurised to take this decision, he adds, “The Chairman of the Council ultimately heads all the Councils at the institute. So there is no point in thinking that the Ministry has compromised.I will keep doing my duty and make sure that the working of the institute is equally divided.“

The new turn of events also compels us to ask why has the announcement been made now. Had this been done during the unrest at FTII last June when students went on a fourmonth strike -the longest in the history of the institute -the Ministry perhaps could have salvaged the situation? Or is this another `save the day’ campaign similar to the one where the Information & Broadcast Ministry wanted a committee, headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, to review the Censor Board guidelines and sideline Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani?
Having said this, BP Singh’s appointment hasn’t evoked any positive response from students either.However, according to sources, the decision is unlikely to start any protest as the students want to focus on their academics. Filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee, who has been vocal about this issue in the past, adds, “What value is a chairmanship if it is a political plant? The whole process of selection, appointment and forced imposition of unfit, politically motivated sycophants and opportunists in the governing body of a premiere institute is dangerous.“

Is this move made by the Ministry aimed at pacifying students and ensure smooth functioning, or is this a damage control exercise -is something which is being debated as we speak. By roping in people from the Hindi film industry to oversee the functioning of the Censor Board and the FTII, the government is probably trying to balance out the power and responsibility entrusted to the nominated heads of the respective bodies or the speciallyappointed representatives. Clearly , it is holding all the cards close to its chest. Only time will tell how they are played out.

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