A common allegation that one continues to hear since the Modi Government came to power is that they are saffronizing the institutions, or agents of the RSS are taking over the Government, or the rightists are hounding out the scholars, or Modi “bhakts” are appointed to key posts, and variants thereof.
In the last few days, one heard such fulminations surrounding the manufactured FTII ruckus. Ever since Gajendra Chauhan was appointed the Chairman of the FTII, a certain section of the students at FTII have been protesting the changes in the administration.
They allege that the Modi Government, in collusion with the State government, is saffronizing the institutions of the state and FTII happens to be one such institution. Their charge is that FTII, along with many other institutions and pretty much everything else in the country, is turning Right.
To an uniformed newcomer, it would seem as if the so-called Right in India is orchestrating a whole-scale invasion of the Centre and the Left. And so, as is usual in such cases, one needs to question the basics with the first obvious question: is it really true? Is FTII really turning Right? And even if it is turning Right, is it turning from the Centre, or from the Left?
Before we answer those questions, we need to know a little about the foundations of FTII.
What is now known as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) was established in 1960 in the premises of Prabhat Studios in Pune. In 1960, it was just the Film Institute of India (FII). The television wing was added later in 1974. The stated aim was to train a new generation of visual and performing artists through the medium of motion pictures. However, there is more here than the eye can see.
The 1960s was a really heady era.
Nationalism was an unutterable, obscene word in both India and abroad. It was barely thirteen years since Indian independence. The assassination of Gandhi had helped Nehru consolidate his hold over power. And Nehru never hid his love for Communism.
Communism was dominant, the Cold War was escalating and India had unwittingly chosen the Soviet side. Communist propaganda flowed freely in India. Every policy in India was a copy of a Soviet policy. Every institution was modeled on its counterpart in the Soviet Union. The Five Year Plans of India were a perfect example. In the Soviet Union, their aim was to nationalize economy and to extend the government’s all-seeing eye, down to the lowest level.
To a lesser degree, Nehru achieved the same with his Five Year Plans. They were nothing more than a tool to control the country and its institutions by a patron-privilege system, ensuring the continued hold of the Congress Party over the nation.
The Communist leaders of the Soviet Union did not stop at nationalizing economy and agriculture. They provided their guiding hand in cinema and theatre too. They were a crucial media and could not be left free from state control. They were necessary to consolidate the hold of Communist ideas over the minds of the young generation. It was with this goal that the various institutes in literature, drama, cinema and theatre were set up in the USSR in the 1960s.
The FTII in 1960 was set up in imitation of its Soviet counterpart in order to control the minds of the young generation and to turn them Leftwards.
Interestingly, FTII in India is one of the only five institutions in the world which teaches a proper film course and which are funded by the State. The other four are in Russia, Germany, Cuba and Australia.Two countries in this list were communist until the recent past. One is still a State-run communist dictatorship.
The FTII in 1960 was set up in imitation of its Soviet counterpart in order to control the minds of the young generation and to turn them Leftwards. In this historical context, we need to examine the question of whether the FTII is turning Rightist. Under the rule of the first truly-centrist government in Indian history, the institute of FTII is cleansing itself of the Leftist influence and is turning neutral. The only real sense in which the institute can be blamed for turning Right is in the case that it is turning away from the Left. But then can it really be blamed for doing that?
In its earlier avatar, the FII started running film courses in 1961. From 1962 to 1971 the institute was run by Jagat Murari. The job of painting the institution Red was not complete yet. Nehru’s dictatorial daughter had arrived on the political scene of India. The country was to experience its first post-independence brush with absolute dictatorship.
Between 1967 to 1971, Indira Gandhi had achieved near-absolute control over the government and the Congress Party. She had nationalized many private institutions. The Press was not untouched. It was 1971 and the Emergency was yet to come but freedom of speech and expression in the country was already being suppressed.
It was in this atmosphere that the Television Wing was added to the Film Institute of India in 1971 and it was rechristened Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The stated goal was to provide ‘in-service training to personnel from Doordarshan’. The unstated goal was to control the media by controlling news and training journalists and TV artists in a State-run enterprise.
Had it been just a matter of State control, things wouldn’t be so bad. In the 1970s Indira Gandhi had her famous tryst with Communism. A deal was struck. In return for passive support to the Congress Party in areas in which the Communist Party was not directly influential, the academia and media of the country was handed over to the Communists on a platter.
Dr. Nurul Hasan, cherry-picked by Indira Gandhi, inducted from the Rajya Sabha, became the Union Education Minister in the fateful year of 1971. He was an avowed Marxist who wore his political orientation on his sleeve. Under him, the Leftists went on to capture every institution in the media and academia, throwing out great scholars, genuine historians and talented artists. Within a decade, the rout was complete. The country was painted Red. The nation had turned Left. We are still to recover from that.
As FTII was a State-sponsored, State-run institute, it also swayed to the Left, even more than before. A quick look at the Presidents of the FTII society since 1974 confirms the suspicion.
Anwar Jamal Kidwai was the President of the Institution from 1974 to 1977. He was another bureaucrat, cherry-picked by Indira Gandhi. He created the Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi. With no experience in filmography, his was a clearly political appointment.
The second President of the Institution was S M H Burney from 1975 to 1977, with part of his tenure overlapping with that of Kidwai. He was the vice-chancellor of Jamia Milia Islamia. Another cherry-picked government bureaucrat during the Emergency, another one from Jamia Milia Islamia… one wonders what was the fascination of FTII with Islam and Jamia Milia Islamia in its initial stages. Burney also had zero experience of filmography.
It was these two Muslim government bureaucrats from Jamia Milia Islamia who steered the FTII during the Emergency, making sure the institute did not even budge against the dictatorship of Indira Gandhi.
And a counter question to all those who question the efficiency of Gajendra Chauhan and Prashant Pathrabe: have you ever tried to find the truth behind the founding Presidents of FTII? Will your artistic sensibilities be equally appalled at finding out that the founding Presidents of FTII had no artistic background whatsoever? That they were just spineless stooges of Indira Gandhi?
In 1977, the nightmare of the Emergency was over. The Janata Party came to power. FTII also saw better days. R K Laxman was appointed its President, and ran the institution from 1977 to 1980. He was a genuine artist who observed politics from a distance. But he too had zero experience of filmography.
The first three Presidents of FTII, thus, had nothing to do with filmography.
In 1980 the Janata Party government fell and in the subsequent elections Indira Gandhi came back to power. Responding to the political mood of the country, FTII chose Shyam Benegal, as its next President. His prowess in movie-making is questioned by none, but he is an arch-Communist, a died-in-wool Nehruvian, who believes every word of Nehru’s Discovery of India.
In his famous documentary, ‘Bharat ek Khoj’, based on Nehru’s book, he shows the imaginary Aryans invading India on horses, but makes no mention of the very real invasion of Islam.
Next in line for the throne of this Leftist institution was Mrinal Sen who ran FTII from 1984 to 1986, a reputed film maker. However, he too was a staunch Marxist. He has openly declared his Marxist and Naxalite sympathies.
From 1987 to 1995, the institute was run by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. This was a comparatively creative period for FTII, even while the politics of the nation was in turmoil.
Since 1995, FTII took an even uglier turn than before. So far, it had been following an overtly leftist agenda with veiled attacks on Hindu society and philosophy. In 1995, Mahesh Bhatt was appointed its President. In the three years till 1998, the institute became openly and virulently anti-Hindu. Mahesh Bhatt is not just a leftist; he has declared sympathies for terrorists and considers India to be the terrorist state, instead of Pakistan. Under his reign, FTII just became an institute which produced C-grade movies, producing bile in the name of social activism.
The situation went from bad to worse under the two-year reign of Girish Karnad from 1999 to 2001. Of course, several things can be said about Girish Karnad. But one thing is certain: he is the epitome of the modern anti-Hindu. Karnad has demonized Hindus and Hinduism in his plays, all the while extolling Islamic dictators and invaders as paragons of virtue.
And so in Bali, the Sacrifice, he portrays the Hindu king as a blood-thirsty monster who goes about killing people, usurping people’s rights, while the Jain queen is an exploited creature who reels under the barbarity of Hinduism. In his other play, Tale Danda, he tells how Hinduism and Brahmins smothered a reform movement in north Karnataka but completely blanks out the historical fact of how, just after the events depicted in Tale Danda, Islam wiped out Jainism and any other kind of reform in the same region.
Karnad also depicts ancient India as a time and place for constant debate between the violence of Hinduism and the non-violence of Jainism. However, he holds a beef-eating ceremony in Bangalore for protesting the beef ban in another state. Apparently, for Karnad, it is not violence when the Muslims commit it.
Girish Karnad is also notorious for ad hominem attacks on personalities like Arun Shourie, scholars whom he cannot counter intellectually. Kannada literary legend S L Bhyrappa has accused Karnad of turning bloody tyrants into national heroes.
And it was this very anti-Hindu Girish Karnad who ran FTII from 1999-2001.
The next to hold the reins of FTII was Vinod Khanna from 2002-2005, after which the institution again went into the hands of the virulent anti-Hindu U R Ananthamurthy, a venomous critic of S L Bhyrappa. Anantamoorthy stands firmly on the extreme Left of the political spectrum. He was fond of taking public vows of abstentions from certain public events in protest of the works of great litterateurs like Bhyrappa.
Like most Leftists, Ananthamurthy was more than happy to declare his political orientation in public.He immersed himself deeply in politics. An open enemy of the BJP and Narendra Modi, he made an unsuccessful run for the Lok Sabha in 2004. His stated goal was to stop the BJP. One wonders why a man of arts has such strong and irreconcilable political views. Like most Leftists, he used to make unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable claims like ‘beef eating is mentioned in the Mahabharata.
During the run-up to the 2014 General Elections in India, like many other self-declared guardians of humanity, he declared that he would not live in a country ruled by Narendra Modi. After Modi’s victory, again like most of his kin, he did not of course, forsake the privileged life in India that he was leading.
One wonders what an anti-Hindu, Marxist luminary like him would be doing in an institution teaching filmography. Neither was Ananthamurthy qualified in any aspect of film making. Should an arts institution tolerate someone with such radical and communal views? But then he headed the institution twice!
The credentials of Saeed Akhtar Mirza, who succeeded Ananthamurthy, were even more radically anti-Hindu than his predecessor. He is a member of the Congress-backed, foreign-funded, anti-India organization called ANHAD, established by Shabnam Hashmi, the Muslim communalist working undercover as a secular activist in India.
Other members of the organization are famous Marxists like Harsh Mander and K N Panikkar. ANHAD was established in 2003, as a response to the Gujarat riots and has been pursuing a political vendetta against Narendra Modi since then. The organization is known for its backing by the Congress Party and Sonia Gandhi. It is known for repeatedly accusing Modi for the Gujarat riots, filing legal petitions again and again, even in contempt of the Court.
Behind the very thin veneer of secular activism, ANHAD is nothing but a front for Islamists, Communists and Leftists who have a bone to pick with Narendra Modi, the BJP and the Hindu society at large. Apart from ideological leanings, this violent anti-Hindu posturing helps it get foreign funding, mainly from Christian missionary organizations.
Saeed Akhtar Mirza proudly conforms to the political ideology of ANHAD. What is such a man doing as the President of a film and television institute?
From the history of the FTII, ever since its inception in 1960, its makeover in 1971 and through the history of its Presidents, it is clear that it is a State-sponsored, taxpayer-funded institute, meant not for training students in arts, but for creating a generation of propagandists who will toe the Leftist ideology.
In reality, FTII is an ultra-Left organization, maintained for propping up the corrupt rule of Congress and communists, even after they lose their hold on actual political power. It is institutes like this which keep legitimizing the corrupt rule of the Congress and its State ideology even after their electoral defeat.
The current protestors accuse the present Chairman and President of putting an end to the “independent” voice of the institute ignoring or forgetting or deliberately suppressing the fact that FTII was never an independent institute. It was a mouthpiece of the Congress-communist regime that has been in charge of the nation for the past 65 years.
The institute has followed the political fortunes of New Delhi very closely, swaying the way the political wind was blowing in the corridors of power in Delhi. A State run film institute, it has been everything but independent. In fact the very raison d’ atre, behind the establishment and funding of FTII was NOT to let fine arts and performing arts function independently in India. The very motto to establish such institution was to establish Leftist control over performing arts of the country.
The budget of the institute runs into crores of public money, and is funneled into this bottomless pit of anti-Hindu mediocrity.
The demise of global Communism meant that the unholy alliance of the Left and the Islamists on the global scale would bear fruit in India too, and FTII since the 90s has become an institute dedicated to the purpose of churning out anti-Hindu and communalist propaganda with strains of borderline racism.
The budget of the institute runs into crores of public money, and is funneled into this bottomless pit of anti-Hindu mediocrity. Now that the Congress government is no more, such State-funded, Soviet-style institutes should be disbanded. The State should not interfere in the arts. Most countries in the world have long disbanded such State-run Leftist institutes when global Communism collapsed in the 1990s. India is one of the few shameful exceptions.
Since the Modi government came to power in 2014, the Left has steadily lost its political patronage. And as the FTII was an ultra-Leftist organization, it suddenly found itself without patrons. The new appointments since the regime change in 2014 have focused on apolitical candidates with at best a mild centrist political affiliation. Gajendra Chauhan is not known for his strident political beliefs, nor is Prashant Pathrabe for that matter.
The Leftist camp followers and their foreign-funded Leftist patrons cannot digest this massive loss of patronage to their political beliefs. They are writhing in pain, smarting under the fact that their privileged, State-funded luxurious lifestyles are now in danger. It is this Leftist ‘independence’ of FTII that is in danger now that apolitical candidates are chosen for positions of power in the institute.
The institute of FTII is not actually turning to the Right, as the chest-beaters at its gates falsely proclaim. It is in fact, turning away from the Left, to a decidedly neutral ground. And this development should be welcomed.
Pankaj Saxena is a scholar of History, Hindu Architecture and Literature. He has visited more than 400 sites of ancient Hindu temples and has photographed the evidence. He’s also writes articles, research papers and reviews in various print and online newspapers and magazines and is the author of three books.