Actor Gajendra Chauhan, the controversial new chairman of the Pune-based Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII), has decided not to step down despite an ongoing protest by students and harsh criticism from some of his well known colleagues in the Indian film industry.
Reacting to the escalation in protest against his appointment, Chauhan told NDTV that he "won't give up the FTII chairmanship." "Who are Anupam Kher and Rishi Kapoor?" asked Chouhan, questioning their authority to suggest that he must step down.
Chauhan (who is well known for his role as the eldest Pandava Yudhisthira on the popular TV show Mahabharata) was appointed as chairman of the institute’s governing council last month, amidst much criticism. Since June 12, the institute’s students have been on a strike, boycotting classes and protesting Chauhan’s appointment who they feel lacks "stature and vision" to head FTII.
On Thursday, actor and former Censor Board chief Anupam Kher extended his support to the FTII students. The actor said he did not find Chauhan qualified for the job.
In an interview to India Today, the actor said, "I personally feel that the FTII represents a certain art form. It does certainly need a person who has a great body of work, which means he is supposed to know world cinema as well as the present state of cinema, like editing. But certainly FTII needs somebody who is much more qualified than whatever Ganjendraji's qualifications are coming across."
During a heated television debate, Kher said that while Chauhan, who is a political appointee, had his own body of work, he was not suited for the role of the FTII Chairman.
This morning, Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor tweeted a word of 'advice' for Chauhan. Kapoor said he must resign voluntarily.
Advice. After all the protests and controversy,Gajendra Chauhan,the FTII Chairman should voluntarily retire. Will do good to the students.— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) July 10, 2015
"If they don't want you, they don't want you," the actor tweeted.
If they don't want you, they don't want you.By pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where.Let self pride play a role and retire!— rishi kapoor (@chintskap) July 10, 2015
Just a day before Rishi Kapoor's tweet, his son, Ranbir Kapoor announced his support for the ongoing strike against the FTII chairman. In a video, Ranbir spoke about the need for FTII to stay free of such control. "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 said.
And, it seems, it's not just the actors and the students who are upset with the appointment of Chauhan.
Oscar-winning sound mixer and designer Resul Pookutty claimed on Twitter that Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley said in a meeting that the government had not made the ‘best of choice’ on the appointment of Chauhan as the chairman. However, Jaitley said the government could not retract the decision, tweeted Pookutty.
According to NDTV sources, although the government is upset with the whole situation, Chauhan will continue as the chairman for now.
On July 3, in an hour-long meeting between a 10-member FTII delegation and Arun Jaitley, the minister hinted that the famed institute could be shut down or privatised, reported Indian Express.
According to another NDTV report, the government panel that was to pick the FTII chairman ignored the names of some bigwigs from the industry like Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan and Shyam Bengal, before settling for little-known actor Gajendra Chauhan.