A day after actor Anupam Kher was appointed chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the students’ association has, in an open letter, pointed out key issues troubling the country’s premier school for film education.
The letter, signed by Robin Joy and Rohit Kumar, president and general secretary respectively of the association, was uploaded on the FTII Wisdom Tree Facebook page on Thursday.
While wishing to know Mr. Kher’s take on "issues persisting in the iconic institute", the letter expressed concern at how the institute was being reduced to an establishment that allegedly ran "short-term crash courses for generation of funds".
It cited the case of a new course launched earlier this month, titled ‘a short Course in Fiction Writing for Television’, with a 20-day duration."Every student is being charged ₹20,000, which we find 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 section shouldn't be driven by the agenda of funds generation, which currently seems to be the aim of these courses which has also been the case with government-run institute/universities across the nation," said the letter.
They further objected to the spending of "lavish" amounts on events like ‘Open Day’ and ‘Foundation Day’ and suggested that the administration would do well do divert much-needed funds on infrastructure and overhauling equipment to help facilitate completion of students’ projects on time.
The letter further elaborated on this contentious issue, alleging that students were being "forced to sign undertakings to finish their courses on time" with the administration not providing the necessary resources to aid them.
Mentioning problems with the new syllabus, students pointed to alleged ‘limitations’ imposed on exercise norms (like the dialogue exercise) in their new curriculum while demanding permanent faculty in lieu of contractual ones.
The letter alleges that five students were suspended without any show cause notice because they intended to question the changes in exercise norms. "Even lightmen have been reduced to contractual labour although in the past they used to be permanent employees," the letter said.
It rebuked the administration for excluding student representatives from Academic Council discussions, claiming it was "against the constitution of the institute".
"FTII has been producing filmmakers who are working at various platforms. Some choose not to work in industry and others find alternate ways. But students at various instances have been asked to look at the industry practice where cinema is just being looked at as a commodity and not as an art form which serves the larger human cause."
A 139-day strike by the students had paralysed FTII after Gajendra Chauhan was handpicked by the Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Ministry to helm the institute in June 2015.