‘WE WERE HOP­ING SOME­ONE WOULD HEAR US’

Dibakar Ban­er­jee, who re­cently re­turned his Na­tional Award, says this was needed to strengthen the next phase of protest

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Front Page - Diby­o­jy­oti Baksi diby­o­jy­oti. baksi@ hin­dus­tan­times. com

Re­cently, Dibakar Ban­er­jee, along with 11 other film­mak­ers, an­nounced that he would be re­turn­ing his Na­tional Award to of­fer sup­port to the stu­dents of the Film and Tele­vi­sion In­sti­tute of In­dia (FTII). Th­ese stu­dents have been protest­ing against the ap­point­ment of Ga­jen­dra Chauhan as the pres­i­dent of the in­sti­tute for over four months. Dibakar says that it’s im­por­tant to make the FTII “free of po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence”. Here, the 46-year-old tells us what prompted him to ac­tively join the ag­i­ta­tion, and more.

What prompted you, and the other film­mak­ers, to re­turn your Na­tional Awards?

We were hop­ing that some­one would hear us, see the logic of the stu­dents’ protest, and then act on it con­struc­tively.

Why did you take so long to join the ag­i­ta­tion?

If it (the act of re­turn­ing the awards) was done ear­lier, some­one would have said, “Why now?” Just like some­one could say, “Now? Why not then?” None of us had fore­seen that some­thing so ba­sic and clear would get con­vo­luted into this non­sense about the right, left and the cen­tre. And when we heard that the stu­dents were go­ing back to the classes, but will still con­tinue the protest, we de­cided that we needed to strengthen the next phase of their protest.

Sev­eral peo­ple are call­ing this a pas­sive re­sis­tance move­ment. Do you think this move will help?

Pas­sive re­sis­tance made us to­day’s In­dia, from a starv­ing, ex­ploited Bri­tish colony.

Why aren’t we see­ing an ac­tive ag­i­ta­tion by the alumni of the in­sti­tu­tion and by the mem­bers of the film industry from across the coun­try?

The alumni of the FTII have been work­ing tire­lessly for the past four months with the stu­dents at ev­ery step to bring this sit­u­a­tion to a pos­i­tive res­o­lu­tion. There may have been dis­agree­ments, but ev­ery­one wants an FTII free of po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence. The last let­ter that was sent out to the gov­ern­ment was signed by 200 film­mak­ers from all over In­dia.

How do you think your stand will in­flu­ence the mem­bers of other film in­dus­tries in In­dia?

I hope they will be more aware of the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, and start rais­ing their voice.

Do you think, like the IITs, es­teemed in­sti­tu­tions like FTII should also be made au­ton­o­mous bod­ies, com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of any kind of po­lit­i­cal say?

Ab­so­lutely; this is needed if In­dia wants to keep its head high in the world com­mu­nity for its high stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion that has seen In­di­ans be­come world-fa­mous en­trepreneurs, CEOs, bankers, in­vestors, writ­ers, artists and film­mak­ers.

The alumni of the FTII have been work­ing tire­lessly for the past four months with the stu­dents at ev­ery step to bring this sit­u­a­tion to a pos­i­tive res­o­lu­tion

Dibakar Ban­er­jee, film­maker

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