Resul Pookutty, the Oscar-winning Indian sound designer, has alleged that he was denied his scholarship by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry after he protested against privatisation at the Film and Television Institute of India.
Pookutty, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for the 2009 film Slumdog Millionaire, took to Twitter and wrote: “I was denied my meagre Rs.500/- scholarship by I&B Ministry for protesting privatisation in my final year. I was heartbroken then, for that was my only source, [the] rest you all know. So students, be the conscience keepers of this vast, wide and diverse nation. The universe will conspire.”
This comment came after a tweet from journalist Nidheesh MK about filmmaker Payal Kapadia went viral. Nidheesh had pointed out that in 2015, Kapadia, whose film A Night of Knowing Nothing won her the Oeil d’Or for best documentary at the Cannes Film Festival 2021, was slapped with “disciplinary action” after she had boycotted classes and led the four-month-long protest against the appointment of actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson of the FTII. He also noted that while the university had cut her grant then, she has now won the prestigious award at Cannes this year.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, an FIR was also filed against Kapadia for holding then director of FTII Prashant Pathrabe captive during the student protests of 2015. However, the report states, in 2017 the institute had offered Kapadia help with travel after her 13-minute film Afternoon Clouds was chosen for screening at Cannes as a Cinéfondation selection.
Her latest film, A Night of Knowing Nothing, which won the prestigious award for best documentary at Cannes, follows a university student in India who writes letters to her estranged lover.
“Through these letters, we get a glimpse into the drastic changes taking place around her. Merging reality with fiction, dreams, memories, fantasies and anxieties, an amorphous narrative unfolds,” reads the film’s log-line posted on the official website of Director’s Fortnight, a section that runs parallel to the main festival in Cannes.
The film was up against 27 other documentaries showcased across all sections at the festival.