By Prarthana Mitra
The country’s premier film school, Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India, has been the site of massive student demonstrations for the last fortnight, over an acute shortage of studio space, cameras, manpower and academic structure amongst other things.
Led by the 2017 batch, the students of FTII have long expressed their grievances over the lack of an academic and governing council, even as Anupam Kher’s chairmanship will be completing a year next month.
The absence of these bodies has, in turn, created severe logistical and curricular problems for the students, some of whom are unable to finish or film their diploma projects owing to faculty vacancies, outdated equipment, and stagnant infrastructure. The unavailability of infrastructure extends to the cinematography department which is bereft of essential camera equipment and even a classroom, in spite of a sanctioned budget of Rs 18 crore from the Central government in 2016-17. The dearth of technicians working day and night shifts, and defunct tracks and trolleys were also brought to the administration’s attention over the course of these protests.
Furthermore, the overhaul of the decades-old syllabus and assessment structure has left the students in the dark regarding the new Choice-Based Credit System, in the absence of a detailed circular on the refurbished course-plan, implementation, and timeline. But the Academic Council which makes the decisions on these matters, cannot come into effect until the Information and Broadcasting Ministry nominates civil members from the film, art or music industry, to constitute the FTII governing council.
“We are not in favour of abandoning classes, but we can’t help it, because the lack of infrastructure and planning has caused many of our classes to clash with the others, thus creating a shortage of resources,” a student of cinematography from 2016 batch told Hindustan Times, requesting anonymity. Students also complained of substandard lectures and dependence on external workshops. Another student from the cinematography department told Pune Mirror, “While we met with the authorities, there are two or three officials who make the final decisions. We are always told that there are no funds. But there is a budget — it’s just not spent in the right manner. It is high time experts from the industry intervened to resolve the situation.”
Although students have been raising these concerns for a long time, their complaints fell on deaf ears, provoking them to boycott classes after classes began this semester last month, and causing the Students’ Association to deposit petitions to the authorities. Posters railing the administration’s laxity were put up all over the campus.
FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola met with the students last week but was unable to resolve the matter amicably. Protests continued amidst other alarming issues concerning surveillance and censorship, as final-year student Harishankar Nachimuthu’s documentary on Kabir Kala Manch was banned from screening, allegedly over security concerns spread by ABVP. It was later screened privately amidst heavy police security.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.