Gajendra Chauhan finally takes charge of FTII amid protests

Pune, Jan 7 (IANS) Seven months after his appointment triggered massive protests, actor-filmmaker Gajendra Chauhan on Thursday took charge of the prestigious FTII here amid student demonstrations and police crackdown — and immediately got down to business.

Police used canes to disperse a large number of slogan-shouting students who massed outside the Film and Television Institute of India campus as Chauhan, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, arrived to attend his first meeting of the FTII Society as well as the Governing Council.

In no time, clashes erupted as the students tried to prevent Chauhan’s entry. At least 20 students were detained. Anticipating trouble police had been deployed in large numbers in and outside the campus.

The protesting students shouted slogans like “Go back Chauhan” and “Chauhan murdabad”.

“We were lathi-charged for trying to enter our own campus gate,” student leader Reema Kaur told IANS. Police said the student protest was violent but Kaur insisted it was not so.

Chauhan’s appointment as the FTII chairman in June 2015 triggered unprecedented protests by students and the institute’s celebrated alumni which questioned his stature to head the organisation that has produced some of the best known names in the Indian film industry.

The students launched an indefinite strike on June 12 against Chauhan but withdrew it in October after a morale-depleting 139 days.

Chauhan is best known for essaying the role of Yudhisthir in B.R. Chopra’s “Mahabharat”. He has also featured in small roles in films like “Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge” and “Baghban”.

At the meeting presided over by Chauhan, eminent television serial maker B.P. Singh was elected vice president of the FTII Society and also the vice chairman of the Governing Council.

“C.I.D.” producer B.P. Singh, an FTII alumnus, will also be new chairman of the institute’s Academic Council.

The FTII also nominated filmmakers and film personalities Rajkumar Hirani, Satish Shah, Pranjal Saikia and Narendra Pathak as well as veteran film journalist Bhawana Somaaya to the Governing Council.

Those who attended the FTII Society meeting included Subhash Sharma and Sanjay Murthy, additional secretary and joint secretary respectively in the information and broadcasting ministry, Satish Shah, Rahul Solapurkar, Hirani and B.P. Singh.

Also in attendance were Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak, Bhawana Somaaya, Urmil Thapliyal, Pranjal Saikia, FTII director Prashant Pathrabe and Chaitanya Prasad, officer on special duty in the ministry.

The Governing Council approved the annual report and statement of accounts of FTII for 2013-14 and 2014-15, while revised estimates for 2015-16 and budget estimates for 2016-17 were also sanctioned.

Earlier, Chauhan was accorded a warm welcome by the staff, administration and faculty on his first visit to the institute.

Addressing the gathering, Chauhan said he would do his best to solve their problems, including the long-standing demand for pension.

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