On Wednesday, actor Ranbir Kapoor announced his support for the ongoing strike by the students at Pune's Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII). A video featuring the actor talking about the famed institute, which has produced numerous talents working in the film industry, was uploaded on the FTII student body's YouTube channel.
Students have been on strike for nearly a month against the appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan, best known for his role as Yudhishtir in B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat TV series, as chairman of the governing council. According to them, Chauhan lacks the credentials and body of work to lead an institute of FTII's stature. His appointment, as well as those of alum Shailesh Gupta and Anagha Ghaisas, is also being challenged on grounds of his right-wing politics (he is a member of the ruling, nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party) and is being seen as an attempt to assert more governmental control on the institute.
In the video, Ranbir spoke about the need for FTII to stay free of such control. He praised its legacy, saying that it "gives opportunities to people with no film connections" and "you're always proud that your own country has an institute like FTII".
He went on to declare his support for the strike, saying, "I think all they require is an aspirational figure to look up to... with a body of work they can be inspired from. When you come from an institute of art, I think there needs to be a freedom of speech." He added that he doesn't think that would the students are asking for is illogical.
Several film industry personalities have lent their support to the strike, such as filmmakers Sriram Raghavan, Santosh Sivan, and Anand Patwardhan. Kapoor's voice, however, is almost an anomaly; he is the first mainstream leading actor to have spoken out so publicly. As was evident in a recent interview of Amitabh Bachchan conducted by TV journalist Arnab Goswami, Bollywood figures have generally been reluctant to declare their political stances and generally stay away from anything that may be anti-establishment. Kapoor's decision to appear on this video — snippets of which have been airing on television channels since Wednesday afternoon — is, therefore, significant.
Watch the video above.