Demand to sack K R Narayanan film institute director gets louder as protest reaches IFFK

Students protest
Students Council of the institute has been on an indefinite strike demanding removal of Shankar Mohan from the post of institute’s director. Photos: Special Arrangement

The demand to sack the director of K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA), Kottayam, who has been facing charges of caste bias, got louder with prominent figures of the Malayalam film industry offering solidarity to the protesting students of the film school. A group of acclaimed filmmakers and artistes joined the students’ protest at the venue of the ongoing International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday night. Several prominent people from the film fraternity joined the students’ protest at Tagore Theeatre, the main venue of the film festival.

The Students Council of the institute has been on an indefinite strike demanding the removal of Shankar Mohan, a former actor and filmmaker, from the post of the institute’s director as they have accused him of behaving with a casteist mentality on multiple occasions. The charges against him include forcing sanitisation workers of the institute to do domestic work including cleaning toilets at the director’s private residence, breaching reservation rules for student admission and showing caste discrimination to students and employees.

KRNNIVSA is an autonomous institute established by the Kerala government at Thekkumthala, Pallikkathode, in Kottayam district. The students launched the protest after a group of sanitisation workers came out against the director recently. The tussle between the students and the administration escalated after the institute cancelled the accommodation arranged for the students attending the film festival.

“We cannot allow this to happen in Kerala at a time when everyone upholding progressive values are fighting against caste discrimination. You students shouldn’t allow the state to go back to the pre-renaissance period,” filmmaker and former chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy Kamal said, addressing the protest meet.


Students and filmmakers during the protest
Several prominent people from the film fraternity joined the students’ protest at Tagore Theeatre, the main venue of the film festival. Photo: Special arrangement

Probe sought

Ashique Abu demanded that the government initiate a probe into the allegations against the director. “These are no silly allegations. Whatever happened in the institute are clear cases of crime,” Abu said.

Addressing the protesters, Jeo Baby blamed the mentality of ‘certain aged people’ for allowing the injustices being reported from the institute. “Every time I go there I witness similar issues. We have built a world-class institute there. We shouldn’t allow it to become a centre of shame,” the Great Indian Kitchen director said.

Sajitha Madathil called for the government’s intervention to sensitise the heads of the institute about caste discrimination. “One can make a great film and be known to the world. But he need not be sensitive about caste discrimination. It’s the government’s duty to sensitise such people,” the actor said. She also mentioned a letter written by a staff of the institute to the government against the caste discrimination he had to face from Mohan. She was apparently referring to the letter written by Nikhil, a clerk at the institute, to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan against the director of the institute.

Filmmakers Mahesh Narayanan, Pratap Joseph, Vidhu Vincent, Krishanth and Kamal K M, music composers Bijibal and Shahbaz Aman were among those who offered solidarity to the protesting students at the IFFK venue.

The Students Council, in a statement said, the protest will continue until the director resigns.

Adoor denies charges

Shankar Mohan is yet to respond to the allegations against him. However, renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is the chairman of the institute, has denied all the charges. In interviews to some web portals, he has said a section of workers and students who fear they would lose their job and position because of their fault was behind the allegations. He has credited Mohan for bringing in discipline to the institute. The students, in an open letter, had accused Adoor of shielding Mohan.

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