Saturday, June 22, 2024

FTII congratulatory tweet for Payal Kapadia sparks fuss over past disciplinary action

Indian filmmaker Payal Kapadia cliched the prestigious Grand Pix Award for her debut feature “All We Imagine As Light” at the 77th Cannes Festival. This historic win for the country, coming after a long gap of 30 years, had stirred up congratulations from all corners of the film industry. But a tweet from Kapadia’s alma mater, the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), set off a chain of reactions on institutional hypocrisy and the treatment of dissenting students.

On May 26, 2024, FTII posted a message on X (formerly Twitter) congratulating Kapadia and other alumni. The tweet read, ” It is a moment of pride for FTII as its Alumni create history at Cannes. As we witness a phenomenal year for Indian Cinema at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, FTII cherishes the glorious achievements of its Alumni at this Mega International Stage of Cinema.”

This tweet which sounded harmless, earned sharp criticism from industry actors like Ali Fazal and Academy Award-winner Resul Pookutty, both of whom pointed to FTII’s past action against Kapadia and called the message a ‘hypocrisy’ claiming that the institution seemed to be speaking in double tone for claiming the credit of Kapadia’s success

Back in 2015, Kapadia faced disciplinary actions for spearheading protests against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as president of FTII. The Pune Police also filed a chargesheet against her 34 other students for holding the then-FTII director, Prashant Pathrabe as captive. This eventually resulted in the cancellation of Payal’s scholarship and all the other students involved further leading to their arrest.

The institute’s decision to penalize her and other protestors was seen by many as an attempt at stifling student dissent. This was the context that fueled the backlash against the congratulatory tweet by FTII, given its past action against Kapadia in direct contrast to claiming credit for her success.

Ali Fazal, known for roles in Mirzapur and the Fukrey franchise, re-tweeted FTII’s message with a sarcastic caption “Uhhh… please don’t. Just don’t “.

Pookutty further shared a post on Facebook, echoing Fazal’s sentiments, “But the big win came from #payalkapadia #AllWeImgineAsLight. It would be interesting to pause for a moment and think, has the Indian Film Industry anything to do with this win?! None! who all are been taken to Cannes by Govt. Of India as a delegation every year?! The usual suspects and familiar faces from mainstream Industry… What makes Payal’s win so important?! Not just that she is from FTII, that she is from a group of people/ students’ enthusiasts who are regular people who come from varied corners of India and signed themselves to be strugglers for the rest of their lives”

Meanwhile, celebrated lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar took to social media to welcome Kapadia’s success, which stood in sharp contrast to the controversy. Akhtar said in an emotional post, “Dear Payal Kapadia, heartiest congratulations to you. It is a great achievement. Very very proud of you. Do get in touch whenever you are in Mumbai. Shabana and I will love to host you for a meal.”

As Payal Kapadia basks in the glory of her Cannes triumph, the mixed reactions to FTII’s message underscore ongoing tensions about the role of educational institutions in nurturing versus disciplining creative talent. This debate is likely to continue as the industry reflects on how best to support its rising stars without compromising their right to dissent and express themselves.

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