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FTII Alumni Condemn Institution's 'Antagonistic Attitude' Towards Students, Faculty

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The Wire
16th October, 2019 13:15 IST

New Delhi: Over 200 alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune have written a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting expressing disapproval over the institution’s decision to no longer allow heads of departments to be a part of the academic council.

The letter, which has been signed by numerous prominent members of the alumni including Academy Award winner Resul Pookutty, film directors Anoop Singh, Arun Khopkar, Umesh Kulkarni and Nishtha Jain and several other actors, directors and cinematographers, registered a strong protest against the decision and said that the administration had “adopted an unnecessarily antagonistic attitude towards students and faculty” which was “creating an extremely unhealthy atmosphere on the campus”.

Last month it was reported that the involvement of department heads at academic council meetings at the FTII was curtailed after it was deemed “too time-consuming” and that unnecessary time was spent discussing “small-time affairs”. Previously, the involvement of students in the academic council had also been curtailed in 2017.

The letter, addressed to the ministry’s joint secretary Ashok Kuma Parmar, also pointed out that students and teachers are the “highest stakeholders” and needed to “be represented in all important committees and councils of the institution that affect their academic eco-system”.

Citing a report in the Pune Mirror, the signatories also drew attention to the decision of the academic council to strip students of the right to have a say in which films will be screened on campus. Pointing out that “it has been a long standing tradition” to have student representatives interact with faculty members who are appointed to oversee the screening committee, the signatories called the council’s decision “a misguided act to enforce “discipline” that will achieve nothing except more turmoil”.

Also read: The Dictatorial Jump Cut at FTII

The letter also held that film screenings were a “part of the academic curriculum” and that the “actual responsibility of formulating the screening schedule” was the students’ and “an imperative part of their growth as filmmakers”.

The letter also referred to other instances that had raised concerns amongst members of the alumni that the atmosphere at FTII was “not conducive to any learning or teaching”. Drawing attention to instances where police officials were present during a film screening which amounted to “surveillance in an academic space”, members of the FTII alumni said that several students were distressed about having spent time protesting these unfair measures than studying.

The letter also condemned the “constant feeling of hovering threat” and an atmosphere that was inciting fear and disrupting the campus and held the “current FTII administration completely responsible for creating the current state of affairs”.

The full text of their letter is reproduced below.

 §

To
Shri Ashok Kuma Parmar
The Joint Secretary (Films)
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
New Delhi

CC: Shri B.P. Singh Chairman, FTII, Pune
Shri Bhupendra Kainthola, Director, FTII, Pune
Members of Academic Council, FTII, Pune
Members of Governing Council, FTII, Pune

Sub: Concerns regarding recent developments at FTII

Dear Sir,
This letter represents a cross section of alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. We are writing to you in order to collectively express our concerns regarding many recent developments at the Institute.

As the most pressing matter, we have come across two news reports, which are attached for your reference as links ‘A’ and ‘B’ at the end of this email.

Link ‘A’ informs us that the Heads of Departments will no longer be a part of the Academic Council. It is stated in the report that the Governing Council has arrived at this decision, stating as a reason that “AC meetings were too time-consuming and spent discussing unnecessary small-time affairs…”

This news is shocking, and if it is true, we wish to register a strong protest and request that this decision be reversed.

The Academic Council of FTII was formed in 1974 at the recommendation of the GD Khosla Committee, that was especially created by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to enhance the status of the FTII as a prime academic institution. Formation of an Academic Council was considered extremely important to bring FTII on par with the best practices followed by similar institutions worldwide. As you are aware, FTII today is known internationally as one of the best film schools in the world and it has done India proud over the last 59 years.

In a visionary institution like FTII, students and their teachers are the highest stakeholders. It is obvious that they must be represented in all important committees and councils of the institution that affect their academic eco-system. However, over the last few years, the administration has adopted an unnecessarily antagonistic attitude towards students and faculty in a misinformed attempt at “reform” that is only creating an extremely unhealthy atmosphere on the campus, affecting the academics as well as the daily running of the Institute.

Link ‘B’ attached below states that the students will no longer be allowed a say in which films are to be screened on the campus.

All of us who have graduated from FTII and now hold positions of repute in the film industry as well as academic institutions worldwide, can vouch for the fact that the incredible variety of films we watched as students shaped our creativity and taught us as much as our teachers or the faculty. It has been a long standing tradition that student representatives interact in a healthy way with the faculty members who are appointed to oversee the screening committee, that plans the much loved daily screening in the Main Theatre. We fail to understand what the administration hopes to achieve by removing students from this process. Once again, it appears to be a misguided act to enforce “discipline” that will achieve nothing except more turmoil.

Apart from these two immediate matters, we wish to draw your attention to the concerns that FTII students have shared with us time and again. We are aware that they have sent several letters regarding these matters to you as well.

In a letter dated 12.09.2019, we learnt about the presence of Special Branch Police officers during a film screening, due to which the screening was cancelled and later allowed. Such surveillance in an academic space is shocking and entirely unwarranted.

Again on 28.09.2018 the Students’ Body had written a letter to the alumni sharing their concerns about academic deterioration, infrastructure deficits, arduous day to day functioning, Ad-hocism, etc.

On 01.10.2018, it was reported that a camera crane came crashing down during a film shoot and two students suffered fractures due to this. Upon enquiry, it came to light that the FTII admin had rented the crane from an outside vendor in spite of earlier bad experiences by the students, who had informed them that this equipment was substandard. And internal enquiry committee was formed to examine this mishap, but much to our dismay, this committee’s terms of reference did not mention any recompense or relief for the students who had been hospitalised. There was no student representation in this committee. Even though the enquiry was supposed to fix responsibility for the accident, we have not heard of any admin person being penalised for it. These were the “measures” taken after a life-threatening event occurred on the FTII premises.

On 18.02.2019, another letter narrated to us the ordeal of one student of the ADPD 2016 batch. He was unfairly suspended from academics and evicted from the hostel; and unable to get a hearing, he chose to protest peacefully by camping outside the Institute gates. His local guardian, who tried to intervene on his behalf, was interrogated and intimidated by the police. An officer of the IIS who was not even a part of the FTII administration, was involved in this, seeking personal information regarding a student who was living on the streets alone. It was an intimidating tactic of the kind that is suited to criminals in custody, surely there are more appropriate ways to deal with a student pursuing a film diploma.

The FTII students have stated time and again that they are keen to get an education and make their careers, not spend their time in protests. They even created the hashtag #LadneNahiPadhneAayeHain. They have tried their best to approach the FTII Director and even the I&B Ministry with their issues, but they have been greeted either with cold silence or with needlessly harsh repressive measures.

Sir, all the above issues are raising our concern about our Alma Mater by the day. Instead of lessening the gap between the administration and students, there is a constant feeling of hovering threat. This atmosphere is clearly not conducive to any learning or teaching. On the contrary, it is inciting fear and is disrupting the campus. We hold the current FTII administration completely responsible for creating the current state of affairs and we want to ask what do they hope to gain from all this?

Coming back to the pressing current issue, as FTII alumni, we wish to lodge our very strong protest regarding the GC’s decision to disbar the faculty department heads and student representatives from the AC. Teachers and students are the ones who directly bear the consequences of every single decision taken by the AC and they must be a part of it.

The decision to strip students of their participation in the film screening committee must also be reversed. Such a decision points to a scenario where the narrow minded administration wishes to decide what is to be seen and how it is to be seen. Film screenings are very much part of the academic curriculum, and such curtailment will severely narrow down the scope of learning from the vast range of films that are treasured in the vaults of the FTII and NFAI. Mentors and faculty can and should guide them, but the actual responsibility of formulating the screening schedule should lie with students, as this is an imperative part of their growth as filmmakers. We as alumni of this prestigious Institute can strongly vouch for that.

In fact, for us, it is quite surprising that such a time has come when we have to explain such a basic essence of the academic curriculum in so many words. Never in the six decades FTII’s history has such a situation arisen.

We wish to discuss this and well as other related issues with you in person. Through this letter, we submit our concern and we request you to give us an appointment so that a delegation of FTII alumni can meet you for an amicable talk, suggestions and hopefully, constructive resolutions.

We wish to clarify that this letter comes to you from a wide cross section of FTII alumni and not from the official alumni association GraFTII. We request you to respond to us directly.

Yours Truly
Concerned Graduates of FTII.

Attachments of Media Reports:
LINK ‘A’ (Dated: 23.09.2019)

LINK ‘B’ (Dated: 26.09.2019)

SIGNATURES:
1. Abhijeet Mazumdar, Film Direction
2. Abhinav Gupta, Film Direction
3. Abhinav Kashyap, Film Editing
4. Aditi Sharma, Electronic Cinematography
5. Ajay Bhatia, Electronic Editing
6. Ajayan Adat, SRSE
7. Ajit Singh Rathod, SRSE
8. Alima P Tigga, Electronic Cinematography
9. Alok Arora, Film Acting
10. AM Padmanabhan, SRSE
11. Anadi Athaley, Film Editing
12. Andrea Innetta, Film Direction
13. Anil Radhakrishnan, SRSE
14. Anindya Shankar Das, Film Direction
15. Anish John, SRSE
16. Anita Rajagopalan Lata, ADPD
17. Anuj Dhawan, Electronic Cinematography
18. Anuj Ujawane, Film Cinematography
19. Anup Singh, Film Direction
20. Anurag Goswami, Film Direction
21. Amala Popuri, SRSE
22. Ameya Gore, Film Direction
23. Amit Gupta, TV Direction
24. Amrita Mahadik, Film Editing
25. Aravindan GP, Cinematography
26. Archana Ghangrekar, Cinematography
27. Archana Menon, Film Direction
28. Arjun Gourisaria, Film Editing
29. Armin Turel, Film Cinematography
30. Arun Khopkar, Film Direction
31. Arun Sethi, MPP
32. Arun Varma, MPP
33. Aseem Sinha, Film Editing
34. Asheesh Pandya, SRSE
35. Ashmaki Acharya, Film Direction
36. Ashwini Malik, Film Direction
37. Ashwini Sharma, SRSE
38. Ashudeep Sharma, Cinematography
39. Atika Chouhan, SPW
40. Avanti Sindhu, Electronic Cinematography
41. Bharat Bhushan Chawla, Film Acting
42. Bigyna Bhushan Dahal, SRSE
43. Bipin Chandra Naria, MPP
44. Chandita Mukherjee
45. Chandra Shekhar Dutta, Film acting
46. Charu Takkar, Film Editing
47. Christopher Rego, Film Direction
48. CK Muraleedharan, MPP
49. Deepak Menon, Film Cinematography
50. Deepali Sahay, TV Direction
51. Deepti Khurana, Film Direction
52. Devas Dixit, Film Acting
53. Dipika Kalra, Film Editing
54. Dilgrace Kaur Sahota, SPW
55. Dilip Ahirwar, SRSE
56. Dileep Subramanium, SRSE
57. Dinesh Yadav, Film Editing
58. Dinker Sharma, Film Acting
59. Donald Regan Gracy, ADPD
60. Firoza Khan, Film Direction
61. Fowzia Fathima, Cinematography
62. Gadadhar Puty, Film Editing
63. Gagan Singh Sethi, Film Acting
64. Gargey Trivedi, Film Cinematography
65. Gautam Nair, SRSE
66. Gorakshnath Khande, Film Editing
67. Gouri Pathwardhan, Film Editing
68. Govinda Raju, Film Direction
69. Gurpal Singh, Film Direction
70. Hari Nair, MPP
71. Harishankar Nachimuthu, Film Direction
72. Harshvardhan Waghdhare Cinematography
73. Heer Ganjwala, Film Direction
74. Hemanti Sarkar, Film Editing
75. Heramb Kirtany, SPW
76. Irene Dhar Malik, Film Editing
77. Jabeen Merchant, Film Editing
78. Jacob G Thottathil, Film Editing
79. Jigmet Wangchuk, Film Cinematography
80. Jill Mistry Direction, Screenplay Writing
81. Jitendra Dongare, Electronic Editing
82. Jatinder Kumar Sharma, Cinematography
83. Jugal Kishore Debata, MPP
84. Jyoti Nisha, SPW
85. Kamal KM, Film Direction
86. Karma Takapa, Film Direction
87. Kaushal Oza, Film Direction
88. Kavita Joshi, Film Direction
89. Kirti Naakhwa, Film Editing
90. Kislay, Film Editing
91. Krishna Thakur, ADPD
92. KT John, SRSE
93. Kumar Saurabh, Cinematograpgy
94. Kundan Chowdhary, Film Acting
95. Kuriakose Vasan, TV Direction
96. Kushal Nerulkar, SRSE
97. KU Mohanan, MPP
98. Kush Badhwar, TV Direction
99. Laxmi Keluskar, ADPD
100. Lipika Singh Darai, SRSE
101. Lochana Subbaratnam, SRSE
102. Madhusmita, ADPD
103. Maheen Mirza, Electronic Cinematography
104. Maisam Ali, Film Direction
105. Mahadeb Shi, Editing
106. Manes Madhavan, Film Cinematography
107. Maryann Dsouza, Film Editing
108. Maya Rao, Film Direction
109. Meghna Shrivastava, Film Editing
110. Naina Sareen, Film acting
111. Nakul Singh Sawhney, TV Direction
112. Nandan Kudhyadi, Direction & SPW
113. Nandkishore, Electronic Cinematography
114. Namita Nayak, SRSE
115. Natchiket Waikar, Film Editing
116. Neel Mani Kant, Film Direction
117. Neena Verma, Editing
118. Nidhi Yadav, SPW
119. Niraj Gera, SRSE
120. Nishtha Jain, Film Direction
121. Nitasha Kapahi, Film Cinematography
122. Nutan Sinha, Film Acting
123. Manisha Dwivedi, Film Direction
124. Mehul Bhanti, Film Cinematography
125. Monet Kanti Saha, Animation
126. Mugil Chandran, TV Direction
127. Palak Bhambri, SPW
128. Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Film Editing
129. Pankaj Sharma, Film Acting
130. Paramita Ghosh, Film Editing
131. Paresh Kamdar, Film Editing
132. Pooja Gaonkar, ADPD
133. Pooraj kapoor Tv editing
134. Pranjal Dua, Film direction
135. Prasad Borkar, SPW
136. Prateek Vats, Film Direction
137. Prince George, SRSE
138. Pubali Chaudhuri, SPW
139. Pushkar Zoting, Electronic Cinematography
140. Pushpendra Singh, Film Acting
141. Raghavender V, Film Editing
142. Rahul Pawar TV direction batch
143. Rahul Rabha, SRSE
144. Raju Biswas, Film Cinematography
145. Rajula Shah, Film Direction
146. Rajarshree Sarkar, Film Direction
147. Ramani RV, MPP
148. Ramchandra PN,Direction
149. Ranabir Das, Film Cinematography
150. Rangoli Agarwal, Film Cinematography
151. Rahul Rakesh, ADPD
152. Ranjan Palit, MPP
153. Ranjith Shankaran, Film Editing
154. Rashmi Jha, Film Editing
155. Rachita Gorowala, Electronic Editing
156. Ravi Kant, Film Editing
157. Ravi Kiran Ayyagari, Film Cinematography
158. Reena Mohan, Film Editing
159. Renu Sawant, Film Direction
160. Resul Pookutty, SRSE
161. Riju Das, Film Cinematography
162. Rita Ghosh, ADPD
163. Riti Kumar, SPW
164. Ronjini Chakraborty, Film Actin
165. Rukshana Tabbassum, TV Direction
166. Sahirr Sethi, SPW
167. Sameera Jain, Film Editing
168. Samvartha Sahil, SPW
169. Sanal George, SRSE
170. Sandeep Yadav, Film Cinematography
171. Sanjay Ghosh
172. Sanjay Kumar Sahu, Film Acting
173. Sanjay Tudu, Film Editing
174. Sanjeev Punj, SRSE
175. Sanjeev Sood, MPP
176. Sanjiv Shah, Film Editing
177. Sapna Chandra, ADPD
178. Satyajit Pande, MPP
179. Shabnam Sukhdev, Film Direction
180. Shan Mohd, Film Editing
181. Shanti Bhushan Cinematography
182. Shashwat Sharma, Cinematography
183. Swati Jaiswal, Film Editing
184. Shweta Rai, Film Editing
185. Shweta Venkat, Film Editing
186. Shreya Gupta, Film Cinematography
187. Shashank Walia, Cinematography
188. Shini JK, Electronic Editing
189. Shwetaabh Singh, Film Acting
190. Shubhangi Singh, Electronic Cinematography
191. Shubham, Film Acting
192. Shyam Rajankar, Film Editing
193. Sharth Rubal TV direction
194. Soumik Mukherjee, Film Cinematography
195. Sreya Chatterjee, Film Editing
196. Sriram Raja, Film Editing
197. Sonu, Film Cinematography
198. Sudheer Pulsane, MPP
199. Sunayana Singh, Film Cinematography
200. Surabhi Sharma, Film Direction
201. Suresh Rajamani, SRSE
202. Sushmit Nath, SRSE
203. Tathagata Singha, Film Direction
204. Tanmay Basu, SRSE
205. Tashi Dorje Gyamba, Electronic Editing
206. Tushar Paranjpe, SPW
207. Uma Tanuku, Film Direction
208. Umesh Kulkarni, Film Direction
209. Uthana Bharighat, SPW
210. Vandita Jain, Film Cinematography
211. Varun Saraswat, Editing
212. Vidhaat Raman, SRSE
213. Vikas Ur, Film Cinematography
214. Vikrant Pawar, Film Direction
215. Vikram Singh, ADPD
216. Vikram Srivastava, Film Direction
217. Vikrant Sidhu, Film Editing
218. Vinit D’Souza, TV Sound
219. Vinod Raja, MPP
220. Vipin Bhati, SRSE
221. Vipinkumar Krishna Waghmare, Electronic Cinematography
222. Viraj Tadwalkar, Electronic Cinematography
223. Virendra Saini, Film Cinematography
224. Vivek Satchitanand, SRSE
225. Yasha Ramchandani, Film Editing
226. Yashasvi Mishra, Film Acting

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