Kerala film school strike: Adoor’s South First interview stirs a hornet’s nest, students pen an open letter

Internet community fumes at filmmaker's arguments even as the KRNNIVSA Students Council raises several questions.

BySreerag PS

Published Dec 12, 2022 | 3:24 PMUpdated Dec 12, 2022 | 3:24 PM

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

The Students Council of KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science of Arts (KRNNIVSA) on Monday, 12 December, wrote an open letter to renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, refuting his arguments in defence of the film school director Shankar Mohan.

The rebuttal came two days after South First published an interview with Gopalakrishnan, Kerala film school strike: Students spreading blatant lies as allegations, says Adoor Gopalakrishnan. 

The interview has created an uproar in Kerala, with several members of the internet community criticising Gopalakrishnan. Some even accused him of “lying” and suggesting that “upper-caste rationale (is) at work”.

Gopalakrishnan is the chairman of KRNNIVSA.

National award-winning film director VC Abhilash said he had lost all respect he had towards Gopalakrishnan.

Another Facebook user, Archana Ravi, felt Gopalakrishnan made a “casteist statement” by speaking about the institute director’s nobility. She also said the filmmaker “is lying”.

Taking to Facebook, art critic and curator Johny ML opined that the upper-class rationale that one born into a noble family could never commit a mistake is at play. He was referring to Gopalakrishnan’s reference to Mohan’s family background.

He also asked how a student ceases to be one if he or she goes on strike.

The students of the Kottayam-based KRNNIVSA have been on a strike demanding the resignation of Mohan, accusing him of caste discrimination against students and staff members.

The institute cancelled rooms booked for first-year students attending the ongoing 27th International Film Festival of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram.

Gopalakrishnan justified the institute, saying “As they are on strike, the institute cannot do anything. Why should the institute provide accommodation to students who are on strike?”

Also read: Fifty years of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Swayamvaram

Questions galore

Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Filmmaker and Chairman, Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Filmmaker and Chairman, Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

Referring to the interview in South First, the Students Council decried Gopalakrishnan terming the discrimination they have been facing and their truths as “lies.”

The council sought to know if Gopalakrishnan had talked to students or staff members who have been levelling serious allegations against Mohan.

The letter hinted that the institute chairman did not respond to the complaints the students had submitted to him nor initiate a discussion.

Referring to Gopalakrishnan’s statement that Mohan was “born to a noble family” the students asked how his family background Could become the response to the allegations against him.

The council reminded Gopalakrishnan that the same body to which he had administered the oath has been demanding the resignation of Mohan.

Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

Shankar Mohan, Director, KRNNIVSA. (Source: KRNNIVSA)

The Students’ Council also questioned Gopalakrishnan refuting news reports on the breach of reservation norms at the institute.

The students demanded the chairman explain how only students from the general category were admitted to the Department of Direction in 2022.

The council also pointed out the denial of a seat to a student, Sharath, despite four seats reserved for SC/ST students being vacant. “If there was no breach of reservation norms, how did the court direct the institute to admit him,” they asked.

Sharath later got admitted to the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute in Kolkata “despite being unqualified as pointed out by Shankar Mohan”, the open letter said.

Gopalakrishnan had stated that institutes outside Kerala did not admit Malayali students since they were considered vazhakali (troublemakers).

The students also sought to know if it was with his knowledge that the institute made each student sign a stamp paper containing clauses that breach the rights of the students.

The letter concluded by saying Gopalakrishnan should have responded after hearing them and the staff members, and not just the justifications of the director.