Govt must act to end film institute row

The celebrated director has alleged a deliberate attempt by some disgruntled elements in the institute to sabotage its operation.

Published: 19th January 2023 01:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th January 2023 01:01 AM   |  A+A-

Students of KR Narayanan National Institute protest demanding the resignation of the institute's director alleging caste discrimination. (File Photo, BP Deepu, EPS)

Kerala’s K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, named after the first Dalit president of India, has been on the boil for some time. A majority of the students and a few staff members of the state-run film institute have come out against its director Shankar Mohan, who happens to be the former director of the Kolkata film institute. They have raised many allegations against the current administration, including caste discrimination and deliberate attempts to undermine the reservation in admissions. While an office staffer has approached the SC/ST Commission, the casual sweepers have moved the Women’s Commission, complaining of discrimination by the director’s wife. Several new-generation filmmakers like Rajeev Ravi and Aashiq Abu and actors have extended solidarity to the protesting students and have supported their demand to remove the director. With regular classes getting affected, the students have even started organising parallel classes where new-generation filmmakers take classes for them.

Renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the institute’s chairman, also drew flak for publicly backing the director while categorically rejecting all allegations of caste discrimination. The celebrated director has alleged a deliberate attempt by some disgruntled elements in the institute to sabotage its operation.

The situation at the institute has been allowed to drift far too long. The government must act now and decisively. The students’ complaints, if genuine, need to be addressed. Caste-based discrimination should not be tolerated. At the same time, the authorities must consider all aspects of the issue before taking action. Adoor and Shankar Mohan are experienced film professionals, and their views also need to be considered to ensure an unbiased resolution. The ongoing social media trial, primarily targeting Adoor, does in no way augur well for a progressive society like Kerala. The government-appointed commission led by former chief secretary K Jayakumar to look into the issue has reportedly found some merit in the students’ complaints. The students have written an open letter to Adoor flagging alleged casteism, indicating they are in the mood to stand down. With CPM leaders throwing their weight behind the filmmaker and thus indirectly backing the administration led by Shankar Mohan, the situation is heading towards an impasse. That should be avoided at any cost. Putting all considerations aside, the government must act in the interest of the film institute and its students.


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