June 20, 2024



Payal Kapadia’s film winning jury prize at Cannes is a proud moment for me too – Beyond Bollywood

3 min read

Kapadia was one of those who had agitated against the then Chauhan-led governing council of the Film and Television Institute of India. The former FTII chairman says that talent and discipline are two different things, and he’s never met the All We Imagine as Light filmmaker. Chauhan also criticized Resul Pookutty, saying that he had complained against him to the late BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Gajendra Chauhan

By Mayur Lookhar

All We Imagine As Light, an international co-production, helmed by an Indian filmmaker, has won the Grand Prix – the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This is a moment to celebrate for the nation, but it’s also reopened some old wounds. All credit to Academy Award-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, who in a long post on facebook condemned mainstream cinema, the establishment, and pointed out how Kapadia, director of All We Imagine As Light, was one of those students from the Film and Television Institute of India who was arrested for agitating against then chairman Gajendra Chauhan and his governing council.

With FTII congratulating Kapadia, social media users slammed the Pune institute for its hypocrisy. Beyond Bollywood spoke to Gajendra Chauhan, who was gracious in saying, “This is a proud moment for me also because I was heading the institute then. I congratulate her.”

Chauhan downplayed the events of the past, saying, “Things happen when you are a student. Discipline and talent are two different things. One makes mistakes during student life. Everyone makes mistakes, and you get punishment for it. There were 35 students; I don’t remember if she was one of them. They were accused of harassing, locking FTII director Prashant Pathrabe in a room. This episode had nothing to do with me.”

Payal Kapadia

Following the FIR, Kapadia was among those whose scholarship was taken away by the institute.

Chauhan’s tenure [2015-2017] was marred by controversies. The seasoned actor, best known for playing Yudhishthira in B.R. Chopra’s epic TV series Mahabharat, expressed satisfaction over his tenure. He shared some appreciation certificates, notes from the government, and the CAG report of 2017, which heaped praise on his management of the prestigious institute. “I got the diploma converted into a PG Diploma, which has never happened in the history of FTII,” said Chauhan.

Chauhan felt that he was needlessly targeted by the media and his credentials were questioned. “Some people used to say that he doesn’t know cinema. I’ve spent 40 years in the entertainment industry. I think my knowledge is as good as anyone who questioned my credentials. I challenge such people to come and talk cinema with me,” said the former FTII chairman.

Following the completion of his tenure, Chauhan was succeeded by seasoned actor Anupam Kher. He has long dispelled talks of him being removed from the post.

Resul Pookutty had stated that mainstream cinema has nothing to do with Kapadia’s success. Pookutty also appeared to be taking subtle digs at the establishment governing these institutes. “My only request is whoever or whatever or whichever dispensation is at the helm of affairs, do not destroy the atmosphere which took generations to nurture,” wrote Pookutty.

Slamming Pookutty for his comments, Chauhan said, “Just because he has won an Oscar, he thinks he owns the world. Let me remind you, he was the one who had then complained to the late Arun Jaitley, asking to remove me as FTII chairman. Jaitley, however, refused to entertain him.” The late Bharatiya Janata Party leader was the Information & Broadcasting Minister from 2014-2016.

Following his term at FTII, Chauhan is currently running the Dada Laxmi Chand State University of Performing and Visual Arts in Rohtak, Haryana. He expressed his joy at how three films by students from this university had screened at the International Film Festival of Goa last year.

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