File Photo: Actor and BJP Member Gajendra Chauhan.
Oscar winner Resul Pookutty, reknowned filmmakers Saeed Mirza and Kiran Rao, actors Rajat Kapoor and Piyush Mishra have all joined the growing ranks of those protesting against little-known actor Gajendra Chauhan being appointed to head the country's top film institute, but the man at the centre of the storm remains unruffled.
Gajendra Chauhan - best known for playing Pandav king Yudhisthir in a long-running TV version of the epic Mahabharat
- once again told NDTV that he is "capable" but has been "misjudged by biased opinions," and that the protests against him will not compel him to resign.
"Don't judge me by my body of work," he said.
Mr Chauhan's critics say he does not have an adequate body of work to qualify him for chairman of Pune's Film and Television Institute of India or FTII. Students at the prestigious film institute, who are up in arms, say that Mr Chauhan's ineligibility is compounded by the fact that the actor's work on screen includes films like Jungle Love and Khuli Khidki. In fact, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan had described some of Mr Chauhan's work as "soft-pornography."
An indignant Mr Chauhan today sought to clarify that he has worked in "certified adult films, not soft-porn."
Protesters have also alleged that Mr Chauhan owes his appointment to his status as a BJP worker. He had campaigned energetically in last year's national election.
Mr Mirza - director of parallel cinema films like Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!
And Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai
- and a former FTII chairman himself, too took to the streets along with Kiran Rao and hundreds of students. "FTII has a legacy. That has to be respected. I have nothing against Mr Chauhan personally but he is not the ideal candidate," he explained.
Kiran Rao too urged the government to make a fresh appointed pointing out that cultural institutes were a reflection of the country.
Resul Pookutty, an FTII alumnus who won the Oscar for best sound mixing for the film Slumdog Millionaire, said about Mr Chauhan's appointment, "I think that it is cheating. A government cannot cheat its people. To me at a philosophical level the whole appointment is politically motivated and also the fact that there is no academic credentials that have been taken into consideration," he said.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has invited FTII students, on a strike now for three weeks, for talks tomorrow, Friday.