'FTII being turned into institute that runs short term courses for funds': Students write to Anupam Kher

FP Staff

Oct 12, 2017 11:47:03 IST

Anupam Kher's appointment as the chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on 11 October was welcomed by the entertainment industry. His predecessor, Gajendra Chauhan had reacted by saying that the "institute needs a good administrator more than a good actor".

FTII being turned into institute that runs short term courses for funds: Students write to Anupam Kher

Anupam Kher. PTI/File Photo

In a new development, the students of FTII have issued an open letter to Kher, drawing his attention to the various issues that plague the institute at present.

The letter brings up irregularities in syllabus, non-payment of dues to faculty and other workers, insufficient funds which have led to the institute running short-term courses for generating funds and so on.

Signed by the president and the general secretary of the student council, the letter brings up many pertinent questions, alleging that the institute has been making students view "industry practice where cinema is just being looked at as a commodity and not as an art form which serves the larger human cause."

The text of the open letter can be read below:

"To, Mr Anupam Kher

Dear Sir,

You might be busy taking congratulatory messages (at this time). We would also like to bring your attention to the following issues persisting in the iconic institute that you will be heading as chairman. We are also curious to know your take on these —

FTII — the premier film institute of the country, started ideally to impart learning on different aspects of filmmaking — is now slowly being turned into an institute that runs short term crash courses for generation of funds. We sincerely believe that the short term courses being run can’t impart knowledge on film making in such a short duration. For instance, the new course “Short Course in Fiction Writing for Television” is being run for 20 days and a student is being charged Rs 20,000 which is very expensive for such a short term course and also for students from certain sections of the society. A government institute that exists to provide education to students from all sections shouldn’t be driven by the agenda of funds generation which currently seems to be the aim of such short term courses which has also been the case with government institutes/universities across the nation.

Over the past one year, the administration has spent lavish amounts of money on events such as “Open day”, “Foundation day”. We, as students, believe that the amount of money being spent on lights, erecting set pieces in front of the campus can be spent on the infrastructure and in buying and repairing equipment which would only help us in finishing our projects on time.

The new syllabus(CBCSS) brought in place has issues like workshops and classes being cut down... during the course of the semester arbitrarily, confusion existing even among faculty members on the new credit-based system. It has been a year since the syllabus has been in place so a proper audit of the new syllabus has to be done and such issues need to be rectified. Also, the entire syllabus has to be handed to the students at the time of admission which hasn’t been done by the administration so far.

All the light-men are contractual labourers now, who used to be permanent once.The institute runs five days a week. There are enough instances when they had worked for six-seven days a week. In case of a sixth day, at times the light-men are not paid currently.

Like the growing culture of having only contractual faculty members in the universities/ institutes across the country, FTII also has mostly contractual faculty members. They can’t get access to benefits a permanent faculty member does. They are also working in an environment where they have this constant fear of being sacked any time if they don’t follow the administration. The faculty members and staff in the institute are not even getting salaries on time. There have been instances where their salaries have been delayed for three months. The institute does not have enough number of faculty members to run the courses, and because of this the implementation of syllabus is getting affected.

Students are being forced to sign undertakings to finish their courses ‘on time’; on the other hand, administration is not providing the necessary resources which are essential to finish their projects on time. Limitations have been brought into exercise norms as part of the new syllabus like, the norms brought in place for the dialogue exercise in second year.These limitations are logistically not feasible, like the three-day eight-hour shift being reduced to a two-day 12-hour shift which would be exhausting and also inhuman to force the light men, carpenters, painters, make-up artist and actors to work at such stretch. Also this being the first co-ordinated exercise in a studio, students should be given enough time as primarily the student’s learning aspect should be prioritised rather than looking to finish off the exercise in a haste. When we, the students, questioned this new norm change, we were told that the norms would remain the same and then when it was decided that the students would boycott the exercise, five students were suspended without any show cause notice.

In February 2017, the Students' Association received a mail saying it has been decided in the governing council that the student representatives would be excluded from discussions pertaining to issues such as academics, syllabus, discipline, fee structure, staff and faculties and administration in the academic council meeting. Considering that the students are the primary stakeholders and voting members in the academic council, this move to exclude the student representatives is unconstitutional.

FTII has been producing filmmakers who are working on various platforms. Some choose to work in industry and others find alternate ways. But students at various instances have been asked to look at industry practice where cinema is just being looked at as a commodity and not as an art form which serves the larger human cause.

Thank you,

Robin Joy (president); Rohit Kumar (general secretary)"

**

The student body has urged Kher, who will now be heading the institute, to resolve these longstanding issues. An institute of high repute with a long list of notable alumni including Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, FTII has been mired in controversy since the time Gajendra Chauhan was appointed as the head.

His term was marked by a 139-day-long protest by the students of the institute. The protest was staged against the selection of Chauhan, who students thought lacked the aptitude to head an institute of such great repute. Chauhan's claim to fame was playing Yudhisthir in the small screen adaptation of the Mahabharata.

Kher is yet to comment on the open letter.

Open Letter to Anupam Kher by Firstpost on Scribd

Updated Date: Oct 12, 2017 13:30:45 IST