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December 3, 2001

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In limbo

Michael Gonsalves in Pune

The fate of 40 first year students at the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), a premier film training centre in Asia, hangs in balance with no faculty to teach them.

"We cannot announce the date for the commencement of the classes for the new students without the minimum adequate faculty," FTII director, Dr Mohan Agashe tells rediff.com.

He says that 40 new students for the three-year diploma course in film and television with specialisation in direction, editing, cinematography and audiography have been admitted for this academic year.

While the written test was held in August and the interviews in October, the academic year was to start on November 1, but problems of recruitment have been plaguing the institute no end.

The frantic students, whose careers are at stake, have now been getting a standard reply to their inquiries to "check with the office later."

"We have been pulling along somehow without filling up 23 posts of professors, assistant professors and lecturers from a sanctioned faculty strength of 52," Agashe says.

The vacant posts are: Dean, Film, professor and assistant professor of editing, professor and assistant professor of Direction, professor and assistant professor of cinematography, professor of television production, professor of TV set designs and graphics, professor of TV technical operations, assistant professor of production management, assistant professor of audiography and so on.

"Although the selected students for the course have recieved their letters, we have not accepted the course fees," Agashe says, adding "with 54 second year students already in hand, the existing faculty cannot cope with the new batch."

He says the staff was already burdened with 17 each second-year students for cinematography, editing, 16 for direction and four for audiography.

The FTII director says that he had written to Information and Broadcasting ministry's joint secretary AC Duggal on November 9, "that it had become extremely difficult to manage the academic programme of the present batch of second-year students and that at least without contractual appointments of the faculty, it will not be possible to commence the new academic course on time".

Dr Agashe says that without twelve essential faculty appointments in various departments at least on contract, the new course cannot be started.

"I do not want to start the course and invite strike at the campus from the students," he quips.

He says that he was pursuing the faculty recruitment problem with the Information and Broadcasting ministry since July with a call two days ago to sanction permission for recruitment.

Satish Kumar, professor of sound engineering, who is working as coordinator of academics in the absence of Dean, Films wing, says, "Out of the 30-odd existing faculty, half of them belonging to Television Wing, have to adapt or upgrade themselves to be able to teach film students as television and film are distinctly two separate disciplines requiring different expertise."

Kumar, after a meeting of the heads of departments, wrote to Agashe on November 29 stating that it was not possible to start the new course until a minimum faculty was recruited.

"We need a minimum of one professor, assistant professor and two lecturers per direction, editing, cinematography and audiography departments to teach ten students permitted for each of these specialisation," he says.

Although the institute had made an exception in the editing department where 17 students were enrolled due to their keen interest, there are only two editing lecturers.

Kumar says that he has given a letter to FTII Governing Council chairman Vinod Khanna, veteran film star, on October 25 when he visited the institute to take up the matter with the I & B ministry on an urgent basis.

He says that all the selected students were sent letters on November 6 to enquire with the office the dates for the commencement of the course after November 26. "There have been many e-mails and phone calls from the worried students, but we cannot announce the dates for the commencement of the course unless the acute recruitment problem is solved," Kumar says.

Interestingly, there had been no advertisements for any posts since the last eight years while some were recruited on contracted basis like Professor L Kunchal (script writing) and Dr Shreekari Marathe (multi-media and computers). However, both left within a year.

Established in 1960 on the famed erstwhile Prabhat Studio premises, FTII is considered a centre of excellence in the country and in Asia and Europe.

Films made by the students of the institute are entered in film festivals both in India and abroad. Many of them have won national and international awards.

Well-known filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Mahesh Bhatt and Girish Karnad have served as the chairman on the Governing Council of FTII.

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