We have yet again communicated with the I&B ministry to open a second round of discussion. A letter was sent yesterday, to which we are yet to receive a response. Meanwhile, many claims and counter claims are being made with respect to FTII, the students and the academic culture of the Institute. With no communication coming forth from the ministry, it becomes imperative to clear air of speculations and faulty, misunderstood facts, and provide context to the allegations made. For without perspective, they are no better than half-truths.
The alleged backlogs of certain batches is not a recent phenomenon but a result of government policies imposed on the institute from 2004-05. To quote Mr.Pankaj Rag, IAS officer and former Director of FTII (2008 – 2011), “….In 2004-05 eight new short term courses were started, and that suddenly increased the number of students. The Supreme Court ruling regarding the increase of reservations quota also added to the number of students. Despite this rise in the number of students the infrastructure and human resources of the institute were not increased and upgraded, which should have happened simultaneously…”
Adding to that, earlier the three-year course for the four main disciplines of film-making – Direction, Cinematography, Editing and Audiography, catered for 8 students per department. As of now there are 14 students per discipline and for some batches the figure rises to 16. Hence more number of student films is being made per year without adequate infrastructure support. This obviously leads to delay as students helplessly wait for the equipment and infrastructural support to be available.
Also in the recent years, within the practice of film-making, the technology has rapidly shifted from analog to digital. While earlier we used film negative rolls to shoot films, now the practice is to use digital cameras and equipment. With this shift, the accompanying upgradation in skills of faculty and staff vis-a-vis these new technologies was not undertaken. Apart from a few short workshops by experts from the industry, no effort has been made to offer an in-depth, holistic training to the students. Hence we are left to our own means to learn and use this equipment. This is a major reason for delays in completion of students’ projects.
Infrastructure crunch adds to our woes. There is only one Sound mixing studio for all the projects happening on campus. So, while the projects are shot on time, at the post-production stage students have no option but wait for a previous project to close. Why are students alone being blamed for the delays? Why would Post-Graduate level students extend their courses and compromise on the productive years of their lives? Without understanding the real day-to-day problems, faced by a student on this campus, allegations regarding our conduct and academic sincerity are misinformed and conveniently hide various Governments’ repeated apathy towards the Institute.
Number of Strikes
Here we reiterate the need to discern the difference between a protest and a strike. FTII, we repeat has not witnessed 39 strikes. The number is preposterous. We ask those who make such allegations to back their claims with evidence. To our knowledge, as per official records FTII has seen 32 protests and six strikes till date, the current strike being the seventh in number. Also, it’s important to get a perspective on the reasons for the strikes called in the past. The first strike was called in 1971 to protest changes in course structure and syllabus. In 1979 strike was called against the decision to discontinue the acting course which took another 28 years to restart. All the following strikes in 1984 – against administrative issues, in 1989 – against syllabus change and director’s apathy, 1994 – proposed syllabus and privatization, 2001 – against fee hike and revised course structure, points less towards restless students and more towards successive governments’ lack of commitment and vision to address recurring systemic issues. It also highlights a historic oversight, repeated till date- syllabus and academic changes made without accounting for the needs, aspirations of students along with a lack of pedagogic vision for the study and practice of film making.
This has led to the present scenario where on paper, even in an ideal situation, second and third year syllabi and projects cannot be completed within a year. A knee-jerk solution to this is repeatedly offered in ways that dilute course inputs and project based practice to fit the three year time frame. However, constructive suggestions to revitalize the syllabus, teaching approach and quality of inputs are not taken into account. Dilution rather than dedication seems to direct education policy approach.
After sixty years of independence, students are still not considered important stakeholders and therefore collaborators in devising education policies. Why such a top down approach? How can a young India bear the burden of such old values?
Tax Payer’s Money:
Comparing the functioning of FTII to that of an IIT, IIM or Medical college is both unfair and misleading. All four institutes cater to different academic and professional pursuits. In FTII students are required to make films using state-of-the-art technology that is in accordance with standards followed across the world. These equipments are manufactured outside the country and cost per unit is high. For example, one Arri Alexa camera used to shoot student projects cost between one to two crores, this includes cost of lenses and other accessories. This very camera is hired out for Rs. 25000-30000 per shift of 8 hours. Similarly other equipment like the sound recording devices, studio lights, post production software and hardware, used throughout the process of making a film are expensive. Hence film-making is resource heavy. So the alleged amount a Government spends per student must be understood in this context, of many students sharing limited resources.
Per batch FTII trains around 60 students in the 5 main disciplines of film-making. Acting enrolls another 12 students. An IIT trains, on an average, 500 students per year. Comparisons made to compare per student expenditure in the two institutes are misleading as nature of resources needed are different.
Here we humbly ask the government to provide a concrete break down of the alleged 12 lakhs being spent on each student because our daily struggle with diminishing academic resources point to the opposite. We indeed want more transparency to locate where the funds are going?
Also, the government grants FTII about 20 crores per year. Whereas IIT Guwahati gets Rs.110crores and IIT Bombay gets Rs.100crores. Then is the current debate about whether arts are as relevant as science and technology, to a country like India. Isn’t it the duty of any responsible and progressive government to equally support the arts and crafts of a country? How can the plural fabric of our nation and culture be democratically represented without patronage of the various arts and crafts, whether it be classical dance, music, folk art or cinema.
In fact, for a country so zealously building its international reputation, cannot afford to ignore the appeal and soft power of its cultural art forms and cinema. Delegations and heavy dossiers don’t win over as convincingly as simple yet powerful truths; art has the power to communicate. Therefore, the recent tarnishing of FTII’s image is short-sighted and regrettable. An institute that is a cultural asset for this country both nationally and internationally is being asked to justify its very existence. And, above all these facts, the government should take note on one thing that any forms of art cannot be quantified in material terms.
In this regard, the cut in allocations to education and heath from the GDP is a step that retreats than fosters growth. As repeatedly mentioned by renowned economists, education is the building block of any nation that aspires to be developed. A strong nation needs strong and empowered citizens.
Students’ Association, FTII
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