Well known film actor Om Puri was in Lucknow recently for the promotion of his new movie Ho Gaya Dimag Ka Dahi. Saurabh Sharma caught up with him for a quick interview, in which he spoke of the long strike by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India(FTII) over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman and the Governing Council. He spoke of the need for reputed and knowledgeable appointees but was not supported of the students strike.

The students have since called off the four and a half month long strike although they remain in ‘protest’.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: What is your stand over the protest by the FTII students over Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment.

Puri: See, I have said this on numerous occasions that FTII is a very highly reputed institute, and there was no need to bring in a 13 member team for the Governing Council. Just three or four members were required for the job, and these should have all been persons who have in-depth knowledge of cinema and can inspire the students.

Q: What type of cinema do you expect from the students of FTII?

Puri: The aim of the FTII is to produce students who can make good cinema, and satire, looking at the cinema of the 1960-1970 decade that carried a message, was infused with poetry and used good language. Students of FTII are not expected to make escapist movies.

Q: Who, according to you, could have been the best alternative for Gajendra Chauhan?

Puri: Listen, I am not going to make a personal attack on anyone. Let the students ask the appointed person what he will teach them and how he will teach them. A senior professor, who is teaching cinema from past many years could have also been considered for the post of chairman.

(Om Puri named legendary filmmakers including Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Jahnu Barua and others but made it clear he was not going to pick any one person from the list)

Q: How would have students tackled this issue, if not a hunger strike?

Puri: See, fighting with the government is no good option at all. The students could have talked to the appointed chairman and ask him face to face how he intended to inspire them and what contributions he has made to Indian cinema.

Q: Is the appointment of 13 people in the governing counsel going to affect the studies of students?

Puri: There was no need to appoint a 'baraat' for the work, three-four persons could have done the job but when they have been appointed by the government the students should have bypassed all such issues and instead concentrated on their studies, and completed their two years.

Q: Why were 13 persons in the governing council not required?

Puri: From where would you search 13 new persons, once their tenure is completed. “ Kaha se khooj ke layenge fir se 13 logo ki baraat, jab ek baar unka karyakaal poora jayega”.

Q: What should the students do now?

Puri: Resume their studies, complete their two years and make quality films.