Raising concern over the running of the Country’s top Film institute in the past, students of FTII wrote an open letter to the newly appointed chief Anupam Kher on Thursday. Government on Wednesday announced the appointment of Kher as chairman of FTII.
FTII students have raised many concerns which are affecting the reputation of the institute and study. They have highlighted the faculty and how the learning process in the institute has been affected. They have also raised academic issues and have also questioned Kher about contractual labour and the rationale behind conducting short-term courses whose only aim, they allege, is to generate funds.
Gajendra Chauhan’s tenure – marked by controversies and protests by the student community of the top film institute of the country ended on March 3 this year.
In fact, the government had to face a lot of flaks from several quarters including from students and the Opposition for appointing its own loyalists to top posts with many alleging that Chauhan was lacking the credentials for the post.
The letter, signed by Robin Joy and Rohit Kumar, President and General Secretary, respectively, of the Students' Association, was posted on FTII Wisdom Tree's Facebook page on Thursday.
They are concerned that FTII, a premier film institute, is now "slowly being turned into an institute that runs short-term crash courses for generation of funds".
Read the full text of the letter here:
"To, Mr Anupam Kher
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 filmmaking 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.
Robin Joy (president);
Rohit Kumar (general secretary)"
Anupam Kher has been considered as a long time BJP loyalist and his wife Kirron Kher is a BJP parliamentarian from Chandigarh in Punjab.