Privatisation of film institutes : Part 1

Bobby Wahengbam *

Manipur Film personalities during a break from shoot of the film 'Eegi Khongul'

Manipur Film personalities during a break from shoot of the film 'Eegi Khongul' :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao

In the midst of strong lobby for the establishment of a third film school of the country in the Northeastern region (strong contenders being Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur), the Central Government is already talking about privatization of the existing two premiere institutes - Film and Television of India, Pune and Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata.

The plan of the government of India leaks out after following a line of investigation by various news agencies in to the Gajendra Chauhan controversy. Students of FTII are on strike against Chauhan's appointment as the Chairman of the Institute. Many have criticised the appointment as highly political questioning about Chauhan's merit who is small time actor but command a strong link with the BJP.

Actors like Rishi Kapoor and Anupam Kher, who belong to the Bollywood commercial world, have expressed their concerned and discontentment on the appointment. Rishi Kapoor even commented that Respect should be gained not forced. If the students say 'we don't want you', he should quite. How can the institute function when there are conflicts and mistrust around (National News Channels, July 10, 2015).

Chauhan too countered them by asking who Rishi Kapoor and Anupam Kher were to comment on his appointment and he was just following the order of the government to render his sincere service. Right now the government is spooning more money to fulfil earlier promise to accord the institutes the status of 'institutes of National importance'.

But the concern, here, is relating to the setting up of the third institute in the north east. In view of the situation, the dream of a film institute here in the north east is far from realisation. As a melodramatic 'U turn' is at sight, one can't be hopeful for the venture. But to be optimistic, if the government is committed enough for such a project, Assam has an edge over the rest logically considering privatization involved.

Rightful Manipur does not have a chance as the venture is going to be a business proposition. And we are coupled with weak lobbying as well. Strong lobby of Arunachal is said to have negative impact for its poor infrastructure and absence of a film industry. Many professionals including Mahesh Bhutt, Anupam Kher supported privatization claiming that no film school in the world is run by government and also criticized that taxpayer money was being wasted.

As a matter of fact, the government is spending Rs. 10 lakh per student annually. Why the taxpayers' money should be spent on producing film industry professionals when it would be better utilized building primary schools, health care and infrastructure? (Bhatt Mahesh, The Telegraph, Guwahati, 9th July, 2015; p.4). With privatisation, entry to such an institute will be very dear for the poor north easterners.

There are hardly parents, in our case, even to afford the existing highly subsidised fee of Rs. 51,000 per year. Fees after privatisation would be beyond our reach. At the same time, the mentality of the present government can be seen from the fact that 'commissioned programme' of Doordarshan which used to be bread and butter for thousands of film makers in the region has changed into a profit making business enterprise untouchable by our film makers finding sponsors highly difficult.

In the scenario, the government may turn Prashar Bharati, now a corporation, totally privatised in near future like they are planning for film institutes and the directorate of film festivals. At the same time, number of commission of films by Films Division, another department of Information and Broadcasting, has been decreasing each passing year.

Doordarshan's support to Public Service Broadcasting Trust, a Delhi based Commissioning Trust has stopped for now. In the present circumstances, small film industries in the north east are totally disoriented and left bankrupt critically creating huge unemployment.

Many studios in Guwahati have closed down with their expensive equipment lying idle and make the owners highly in debt paying interest for the loan they took to buy the equipment.

It would have been better if one has not ventured into the business at all. On top of that, such equipments become absolute so soon with the swift development of digital technology.

To be contd...

* Bobby Wahengbam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was webcasted on November 03 2015.


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