Group of filmmakers raise concern about I&B ministry’s proposed restructuring of public institutions

Group of Indian filmmakers, academics, students and members of civil society has come together to write to the I&B ministry on its proposed restructuring/merger of CFSI, FD, NFAI and DFF with NFDC

Photo courtesy: IANS
Photo courtesy: IANS

Namrata Joshi

A group of Indian filmmakers, academics, students and members of the civil society has come together to write to the ministry of information and broadcasting on its proposed restructuring/merger of Children's Film Society of India (CFSI), Films Division (FD), National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) with National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).

It criticises the unilateral decision taken by the government without taking any of the stakeholders into the consultation that has led to wide speculation about its agenda to privatise the national archives and government properties, thereby destroying the rich national film heritage of the country. The letter aims at making the ministry accountable for its action and demands clarity and transparency in the process to safeguard the history and future of Indian cinema.

“We hoped that an exercise as important as this will involve detailed discussions with the stakeholders including members of film fraternity and the employees of the above-mentioned institutions amongst others. Hence, it was a surprise to know that the High-Powered Committee under Shri Bimal Julka submitted its report without engaging with the primary stakeholders,” the letter states.

It says that the fact that this report has not been made publicly available despite an RTI application raises further questions about the legitimacy of the whole process: “We are concerned about the inaccessibility of this report especially in light of the recent announcement of the government of shutting down three of these units [CFSI, FD and NFAI, including their archives] as early as January 2022.”

At the time of going to the press there were 843 signatories to the letter, including actor Naseeruddin Shah and Nimisha Nair, Nandita Das, lyricist-writer-comic Varun Grover, filmmakers Nishtha Jain, Subasri Krishnan, Anand Patwardhan, Gitanjali Rao, Payal Kapadia, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, Pushpendra Singh, Batul Mukhtiar, Vani Subramaniam, Haobam Paban Kumar, Priya Sen, Ramchandra PN, Anamika Haksar, Gargi Sen, Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Sourav Sarangi, Lipika Singh Darai, Supriyo Sen, filmmaker-editor Arjun Gourisaria, editors Sameera Jain and Hemanti Sarkar, academic Anjali Monteiro, and editor and artistic director of International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) Bina Paul.

Their demands include:

  1. That the report of the High-Powered Committee headed by Shri Bimal Julka should be released immediately.

  2. Public funded institutions like FD, NFAI and CFSI must not be merged with a corporation like NFDC.

  3. Consultations in a transparent and open manner should be undertaken with various stakeholders including filmmakers and employees of these institutions.

  4. The government must declare the FD, NFAI, CFSI archives as National Heritage–funded by public money and belonging to the general public. It must commit to protecting the archives and give written assurances in the Parliament that they will not be sold or auctioned either now or in the future.

  5. Concerns and anxieties of the employees working at these public institutions should be addressed at the earliest.

  6. Any overhaul of the public institutions under the MIB must consider the larger ecosystem of public-funded film education, film production (both fiction and documentary), distribution, exhibition and archiving in the country.

The letter states that the current process of re-structuring of these public institutions should be put in abeyance till the pending issues of transparency and public consultation are addressed.

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Published: 21 Dec 2021, 6:11 PM