Anupam Kher

Anupam Kher said he had not informed anybody at FTII Pune about his surprise visit because he wanted to go back to the institute, where he studied 40 years ago, not as its chairperson but as a humble student. (IANS photo)

PUNE—Newly-appointed Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Chairperson Anupam Kher on Oct. 16 visited the campus of the iconic institution unannounced and promised the students that he is on their side.

In a live video on social media, Anupam Kher revealed that he was on his way to FTII. He caught the guards, students and faculty by surprise when he walked the streets of the institute where he once studied around 40 years ago.

"I am heading towards an institution where I had studied in 1978, which was very important for my foundation as an actor. And today, I have not informed anybody at this institute that I am coming, because I wanted to go back again as a student.

"I did not want to go there feeling important, and feeling 'Oh my God, now I have done 508 films and I have been in movies for 33 years, I have done more than 120 plays. I wanted to go there as a humble student," he said.

The veteran actor, 62, also focussed his camera at the FTII gate, saying: "This is the amazing gate which gave me an amazing insight into life, and into the life and times of great filmmakers like Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen."

Kher was on Oct. 11 announced the new Chairperson of FTII. He succeeded the controversial Gajendra Chauhan, whose appointment in 2014 had triggered widespread student protests.

As the actor made his way into the institute and met the guards, some students, and a faculty member, he also heard a "welcome band." It was in fact, a group of students who were protesting with a banner that read: "12 hours shift is inhuman."

It is one of the nine key issues that were raised by the FTII Students' Association in an open letter addressed to Kher a day after his appointment.

The students had pointed to how "limitations have been brought into exercise norms as part of the new syllabus."

Citing the norms brought in place for dialogue exercise in the third semester, the letter read: "These limitations are logistically not feasible, like the three-day eight-hour shift has been reduced to a two-day twelve-hour shift which would be exhausting and also inhuman to force the lightmen, carpenters, painters and make-up artists and actors to work at such a stretch."

During his visit here, Anupam Kher assured the students that he would work out solutions with them.

"We will work on all this... I have come here to be on your side. That's the most important thing," Kher said as one student continued to beat the drums.

"First of all, you have to know that I am on your side, completely... I don't want to bring any baggage of Anupam Kher. I am here for what I have done over the last so many years because of the six months that I spent here. Don't worry about it (the problems) because I know every student who comes to this place, comes to study so that they can work on their future when they go back.

"You are the contributors of our society, the future filmmakers, actors... So let's sort out these problems and work on these issues," he said.

He tried to pacify the crowd with the title of his play "Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai."

"Wahi hoga (That will happen)," Kher stressed, urging students first to share their issues, after which he would share his vision with them.

He also said he was keen to take an acting class at the institute.

"The biggest joy for me is to teach in the place where I was a student," said the actor, who has his acting institute called Actor Prepares, in Mumbai.

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