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'Talent Is All Very Fine. But...'

May 29, 2024 13:08 IST

'Being disciplined is also very important.'

IMAGE: Payal Kapadia receives her Grand Prix award from actor Viola Davis at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, May 25, 2024. Photograph: Reuters

Payal Kapadia made history by becoming the first Indian film-maker to win the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film All We Imagine as Light.

Once a student at Pune's Film and Television Institute of India, Payal and her batchmates were part of a 139-day protest against Gajendra Chauhan's appointment as FTII chairperson.

Payal was one of 35 students whose name was registered in a complaint by then FTII director Prashant Pathrabe for alleged forcible detention.

A few days later, seven students including Payal were arrested by the Pune police and later released.

"There is a vast difference between being talented and being disciplined," Gajendra Chauhan tells Subhash K Jha after Payal Kapadia's historic triumph at Cannes.

Payal Kapadia has won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. As a former chairperson of her film school, what would you like to say?

I would just like to say, we are all very proud of her. I'd like to congratulate her for her achievement.

She was very vocal against your appointment as FTII chairperson.

Yes, the matter is in court now. Let me tell you, Jha Saab, that, there is a vast difference between being talented and being disciplined.

Talent is all very fine, but being disciplined is also very important.

Do you feel the protests against your appointment at the FTII were unjust?

I do know about film-making although I may not be familiar with Woody Allen and Akira Kurosawa.

But when I was told I was not qualified to head the FTII because I don't know about cinema, it hurt.

I am not the kind of person who would take on a job without being knowledgeable.

There are so many parliamentarians who don't even attend Parliament. No one points an accusing finger at them.


IMAGE: The FTII strike in protest against Gajendra Chauhan's appointment. Photograph: Archives

Was disciplinary action taken against Ms Kapadia?

I don't remember correctly if her name was on the charge-sheet.

But a large group of students had held and confined, actually hijacked, then FTII director Prashant Pathrabe. He was diabetic and was held against his will for 12 to 14 hours.

I think the court proceedings are on. I have moved on in life.

After my full tenure at FTII, I was chairman of a news channel, Now I am the vice-chancellor of the Pandit Lakshmi Chand State University of Performing and Visual Arts in Rohtak.

Some sections are ridiculing your appointment at the FTII and supporting Payal Kapadia.

Unka kaam hai yehi karna. I pay no attention to such loose talk. They claim I was sacked. Get your facts right before trolling.

The truth is, I completed my tenure as the chairperson and then I left.

I was commended by the ministry of information and broadcasting for the good work that I had done. I have the letter which I am sharing with you.

Many news outlets continue to claim I had resigned from the FTII. Or that I had been sacked. I neither resigned nor was I sacked.

This is the narrative that was spread by those who protested against my appointment.

I am proud of what I achieved at the FTII. I was not an absentee administrator.

Now as an educationist, I go to Rohtak for three months at stretch. I have changed the entire educational system at the Lakshmi Chand State University.

IMAGE: Gajendra Chauhan took charge in January 2016 as chairperson of the Film and Television Institute of India seven months after his appointment. Photograph: Archives

At that time time when you were appointed FTII chairperson, did you feel persecuted?

Sab koi toot pade hain mujh par. Lekin yeh faisla (of being the FTII chairperson) was not mine.

I think I was chosen for my capability and availability.

With due respect to the people who held the post earlier I felt I had more time to give to this job than them.

And I felt those names that are said to have been superseded in my favour (Gulzar, Anupam Kher, Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan) were way too eminent and busy to devote ample time to the FTII.

The same is true of those who held the post after me, Shekhar Kapur and Madhavan. The job needs a person who can take up the challenges that face the FTII.