Shailesh Kapoor: FTII Row: The Chauhan School of Delusions

10 Jul,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


The student strike at FTII, in protest against some key appointment, in particular that of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairperson, has found its way to primetime news, after almost a month of cursory headline coverage. It took a YouTube video by Ranbir Kapoor for mainstream media to take up the matter in all earnestness. It may not be a burning issue of national importance, given the killer scam that’s being unearthed in another part of the country, but with an unmistakable political slant, the FTII story should not be restricted to the entertainment sections either.


There aren’t too many layers to the story. It’s like the proverbial open-and-shut case. You have an actor who has played supporting parts or bit roles in about 300 films and 700 serials (I’m sure he means episodes when he says serials), and has no fraternity support worth talking about, no previous academic experience, not even writing or directorial experience. In the merit list of probable FTII chairpersons, he would struggle to make it to the first million. But here he is, a BJP hand, at the helm of the film school, with the blessings of the Government.


Last night, on The Newshour, Gajendra Chauhan decided to make an appearance in person to field questions. He came up with some gems, which only worsened his position:

1. You are questioning my body of work (which he also called ‘body of stature’). I’ve worked with Salman Khan. (I’m sure that doesn’t win him any support at FTII!)


2. If a film is a hit, it is an A-grade film. (That hit Jungle Love was a silver jubilee was spoken with great pride too as an example)


3. I refuse to answer that question (when repeatedly asked what, according to him, is good cinema)


That he has never attended MAMI or any other International film festival was also admitted candidly, perhaps fearing another GK Test if he said he had. At the end of it all, Anupam Kher had clear advice to give Chauhan, asking him to just step aside with dignity. Just leave it, he said.


Chauhan’s false sense of confidence on the show, as indeed over the last few weeks, is not surprising. The film and TV industry can be a delusional world, we all know. There’s little room for reality check when you have an ecosystem that’s populated with people telling each other how good they are.


One can make some sense of the delusion if the big stars, producers or directors were to display it.But in all my experience, they are the most grounded, at least in relative terms. Perhaps because they have seen the highs and the lows. It’s the bit players who try and hide their insecurities, sometimes mediocrity, by portraying success, almost demanding to be respected at times. It’s an archaic idea that has little foothold in this day and age.


I’ll be surprised if Chauhan can hold on for too long. He has nothing going for him. Stepping down from FTII and taking up a Bigg Boss invitation will be a good idea. But he may tell you that the former is not a pre-condition for the latter anyway!


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