Harassed by cops at IFFI, now FTII students start own film festival to battle government

After two alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India hoisted placards at the International Film Festival of India's inauguration ceremony on Friday, they spent the rest of the night in a police lock-up. Another student was interrogated by the police and detained after he was caught wearing an FTII T-shirt while hanging out at the IFFI campus on Saturday.

Now, students of India’s premier creative institute have decided to fight the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, who are the organisers of IFFI, on the latter's home turf by starting a parallel student film festival, a short distance from the international event in Panaji.

 Harassed by cops at IFFI, now FTII students start own film festival to battle government

Students continue their protest at FTII. PTI

The proposed new film festival might be a modest one, but it has already become a rallying point for local political opposition, which has promised to back the protesting students.

Speaking to Firstpost, Prateek Vats, a former FTII student and a filmmaker, said that the two-day film festival titled Retracing Freedom is the response of FTII's students to the ‘Kafkaesque nightmare’, unfolding at the ongoing 46th edition of IFFI.

“This festival is another step towards reclaiming our freedom of thought and artistic expression that are under relentless attack currently across the country," said Vats. "We invite the delegates and filmmakers attending IFFI and film bazaar along with the students, artists, activists, lawyers, journalists and public of Goa to join us for screenings and discussions over the next two days to find out about the concerns and engagements of students of the premiere institution of film education not just in the country but all of Asia.” The festival will kick off on Tuesday.

Retracing Freedom features films by RV Ramani, Satinder Bedi and Aadesh Keluskar along with other films by FTII students, including those featuring their protests. Listing a litany of angst, Vats said the organisers of IFFI had already done away with a regular section at the festival which deals with students’ films and had even denied registration to over 30 students of FTII at this year’s edition of IFFI.

“Attending film festivals is a part our school curriculum at FTII. Students are not doing anything illegal by attending IFFI,” Vats said.

Two FTII ex-students, Kislay and Shubham, were arrested on Friday for shouting slogans and hoisting placards with messages against the Central government at the IFFI inaugural venue, where Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley, Union Minister for Defence Manohar Parrikar and Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore were present. The duo was released on conditional bail after spending a night in police custody.

Ashutosh, a current FTII student, was also picked up by the Panaji town police on Saturday allegedly for wearing a T-shirt bearing his institute’s name. “The police picked him up for wearing a T-shirt and hanging out on the IFFI campus legitimately, with a delegate pass. He was later released on a bail bond,” Ashutosh’s lawyer Albertina Almeida said.

According to Vats, a group of 10 FTII students were also temporarily detained and questioned by the police who wanted to know their motive for attending IFFI on Sunday.

While the IFFI directorate has not issued a formal reaction to these allegations, Festival Director C Senthil Rajan has been quoted on Sunday confirming the incident involving Ashutosh.

“The registration was cancelled because he went and told the police, I will protest... If the person is coming and saying he will stop the programme, how can we allow it?” Senthil has said.

Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Monday rejected the accusation that FTII students were being harassed, but also added that he does not believe that protesting in Goa was the right of the FTII students. “I do not believe that protesting is a matter of their right. We are organising it (IFFI). They could meet the concerned individually,” Parsekar told Firstpost.

“If something wrong or objectionable happens in IFFI, it reflects directly on the functioning of the government. Therefore, they should not be doing this here. Why get into confrontation with the state government without reason?” Parsekar asked.

The chief minister’s comments, however, did not pass muster with three independent Opposition legislators Vijai Sardesai (Fatorda), Naresh Sawal (Bicholim) and Rohan Khaunte (Porvorim) who maintain that Parsekar’s rejection of the right to protest amounted to dictatorship. “This is not an Emergency. And yes they are students. They have every right to protest against the treatment being meted out to them,” Rohan Khaunte said.

Sardesai said that the three legislators would provide a human shield if necessary, to ensure that the two-day alternative film festival planned by the students is a success. “If the police try to stop the festival, the police will have to go through us MLAs and people from our constituency to get through,” Sardesai said.

(The writer is a Goa correspondent for he Indo-Asian News Service)

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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2015 10:30:46 IST