FTII row: Give me a chance, says under-fire Actor Gajendra Chauhan

After going on a flash strike, students of the prestigious FTII today decided to continue their protests against the appointment of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the new chairman of its governing council.

Chauhan, who played the role of ‘Yudhishthir’ in popular television serial Mahabharata, on his part remained unfazed and said he should be given a chance and allowed to work.
About 150 students pursuing various streams of film- related courses at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) went on a flash strike yesterday, boycotting classes and shutting down administrative offices on the campus. They demanded that the appointment of Chauhan be revoked, calling it a “political appointment”.

At the gate of FTII, a billboard was put up by the protesting students asking “Gajendra resign and leave”.

Asserting that they would continue their protest till the demand is met, the students body alleged that it was purely out of consideration of his affiliation with BJP that Chauhan was chosen for the key post. “A person who has an official affiliation with the ruling BJP and who lacks the vision and stature of the past chairpersons in film-making, has put a question mark on the process of selection for the post earlier held by eminent people like Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalkrishnan,” Harikrishnan Nachimuthu, who heads the FTII students’ association, told PTI.

Chauhan has been a member of the BJP for over two decades, the student leaders said. “Please give me a chance. Let me work. My only agenda will be the betterment of the FTII,” he said.

Chauhan said that he wanted to speak to the students and tell them that without knowing his background and capabilities it was not fair to protest his appointment. “Let’s meet across the table and discuss. After that we can decide what to do.” Chauhan said, adding that his name was recommended by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and it must have been done after due diligence. “It is not only that I am associated with the party(BJP). I have been working for Film and Television industry for 34 years and I know the in and outs,” he added.

FTII director D Narayanan told PTI that the institute authorities have opened the channels for dialogue with the students. “We are having a dialogue with the students to find a way out amicably”.

A final year student pursuing course in film direction said Chauhan lacked the “experience and stature and quality” of his predecessors to merit his new posting, which is “politically coloured”.

Meanwhile, the students’ association has decided to send their representation on the issue objecting to Chauhan’s appointment to Information & Broadcasting ministry. “We will re-look the current protest only after getting a positive response to our demand by the authorities,” Nachiputhu said.