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Picture this - The death of FTII

Over the past fifty years, FTII has proved to be a central pillar in the evolution of Indian cinema, as we know it. With their continued contribution to mainstream as well as regional cinema, the alumnus of the Institute has ensured that FTII is recognized as a national centre for film education and practice.

Set up in 1961 with the aim of promoting good alternative cinema and setting new standards in film-making both aesthetically and technically, the institute has provided free space for thinking and learning to generations of would be film-makers. Over and above setting critical benchmarks for the film industry while nourishing it with highly professional and focused people, specialised in various aspects of film-making, FTII resonates in the halls of World Cinema with its sensitive understanding of life and film as a post-industrial art practice. . Along with the National Film Archives of India (NFAI), the Films Division and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), it has played a crucial role in the creation, preservation and propagation of our cross cultural heritage through the medium of Cinema.

All this had been made possible by our love for socio-aesthetic experience of life translating through the Government ensuring pluralistic democracy, celebrating varied shades of our interlinked racial memories. FTII has been unique in the world amongst all film schools, providing equal / non-discriminating and ample scope for experimentation and exploration, encouraging independent tendencies that challenge the conventional and perpetuate change. FTIIs emotional quotient, and fabric have attracted students from various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Its dynamism and richness are reflected in their work and concerns. Over the years, the students of this institute have contributed to and excelled in the various creative and technical aspects of Indian cinema both as practitioners as well as scholars. The excellent collection of films at the National Film Archives has acted as a rich resource for learning. The two institutes have together been a crucible for nurturing talent.

However, following a press report published by a PTI source mentioned FTII being re modeled as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) regarding the same, a draft report prepared by Hewitt Associates, Gurgaon, appointed by no less than the ministry apparently, proposes an embarrassing and ridiculous up gradation of FTII to international standards. The said report strongly advocates the launching of a number of exorbitantly priced, industry oriented, short terms courses to make the institute profit generating. The report clearly lays a blue print, which will ensure that in due course of time; the Government can withdraw all support, read responsibility, from the institute.

Mahatma Gandhi had observed, the real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock exchange market.
Also mounting over the past five decades, market forces have plagued the institute regularly. Almost in apology of FTIIs founding Nehruvian plan, various governments have, on more occasion than one, shown active interest to withdraw its support from the running of the institute. Crisis is not a stranger to us. This could only happen once academic interests become slaves to a numb blindness and indifference parading in the name of marketability. Cynical opportunism and shortsightedness prefer instant lotteries to lasting values. Constant hikes in the fee structure and recent trend of launching exorbitantly priced short term, industry oriented courses without any corresponding increase in the physical and intellectual infrastructure, are cases in point...in recent times, repeated attempts have been made to change / re-cast the independence, concerns, structure and functioning of the institute. The crumbling global-ised economy, its gambles and disasters have only pressed on harder to turn the institute into a mere profit machine. We are witness today to a complete subversion of FTII, its imminent the cultural death like most counterparts across the country. The students, with the continuous support of the alumni, filmmakers, artistes, academicians etc. have been resisting this mindset of the ministry towards FTII.

We feel that if the recommendations of the DPR are accepted then FTII will cater only to a certain set of people those who can afford it, making it exclusive and homogeneous, eliminating any of the plurality and diversity in creativity. Skills will be given precedence, and people will be trained for the job market rather than organic professionals looking at cinema also as an art and not just a craft. From being an art school which encourages plurality of cinema, FTII shall be relegated to being a facilitator in providing skilled labor for an assembly line production system. It will be designed and constructed as an institution along the lines of a profit making, giving no room for experimentation, or space to redefine the boundaries of film making. How will it grow? It will remain stunted. This fundamental alteration in the moral fabric of the institute will, we fear, mark the end of FTII and what it has stood It seems ironical that this is being pushed through at a time when the Deputy Chairman of the Planning commission, Mr.Montek Singh Alhuwalia himself has admitted that PPPs have not delivered much in the Health and Education sectors. Despite this, the Government is bent on shying away from its commitment to education and is seeking to privatize most educational institutes and is withdrawing financial support from them. The crisis faced by FTII is symptomatic of the onslaught on higher education throughout the country.

This is a matter of growing concern for us as students, especially because this Institute is one of its kinds in the country, which is able to draw out creative people from different parts of the country.

What is the purpose of higher education and its faculties In the light of the current assault on young people ,especially since it is education that provides the intellectual foundation and values for young people to understand ,interrogate and transform the when necessary the world in which they live? Matters of popular consciousness, public sentiment and individual and social agency are far too important as part of a larger political and educational struggle not too to be taken seriously by academics who advocate the long and difficult project of democratic reform
Prof. Henry A Giroux
In Youth Beyond The Politics of Hope

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