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A small-time actor with a dubious body of work is made the head of a film institute revered by thousands across the country. FTII happens to be one of the few in the country where some very talented and successful Indian filmmakers have learnt the tricks of the trade. The students of the said institute, understandably, rise in protest against the new appointment. Especially because it smells of a conspiracy – very recently the censor board of the country too got a new chief, one whose only talent is by his own admission unwavering allegiance to the country’s ruling party and the PM. The new head of the film institute has talents that sound very similar to his colleague at the censor board.
While the Hindi film industry, following an initial period of silence, did protest against Pahlaj Nihalani’s antics and even met the MoS, information and broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to sort issues out, they have been uncannily silent on the FTII issue.
Though it’s unfair to expect them to get involved in the students’ protest, it would have helped immensely if some of them had expressed their opinions on the current state of affairs at the film school. If nothing else, they surely would have an opinion on how suitable Gajendra Chauhan is to head a film school. However, despite their active social media lives, none of the big Bollywood stars took interested in the trouble brewing at FTII.
However, Ranbir Kapoor stood apart from the lot when he recently appeared in a video where he spoke about the need for a film institute to have someone inspiring as its head.
That actually amounts to him saying that Gajendra Chauhan is neither inspiring, nor does he deserve to be the head of a film institute.
“Don’t think what the students are asking for is illogical, don’t think they are asking for the moon. They are just asking for a fair chance, a fair opportunity, correct faculty, correct syllabus,” said the Bombay Velvet star.
“I think all they require is an aspirational figure to look up to, someone with a large body of work,” Kapoor said, adding, “When you come from an institute of art, there needs to be freedom of speech.”
Though the video was shot as a part of FTII’s initiative and the students must have approached Kapoor themselves, not a lot of stars in the industry would actually agree to comment on an issue that is deeply related to the politics of the government at the centre. In that context, Ranbir Kapoor’s comment is both brave and a refreshing break from Bollywood’s predilection for playing safe. Especially when Kapoor doesn’t stand to profit from his comments in any way. We are decades away from Kishore Kumar sticking his neck out and thumbing his nose at the Emergency.
It’s not like Bollywood stars don’t air their opinions on controversial issues, (we are looking at you Aamir Khan), but they choose lesser adversaries to take on. For example, it was easy for Aamir Khan to critique Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor and the AIB over the ‘roast’, but the government and it’s dubious appointments is a can of worms no star wants to open. In Bollywood, the higher you are up on the popularity ladder, the fewer your opinions are on controversial issues, especially if it involves the government.
Kudos to Kapoor who chose to break that convention.