Mumbai, July 26: Filmmaker Shyam Benegal Saturday urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to intervene and save Whistling Woods International Institute for Film, Fashion and Communication, founded and run by film director Subhash Ghai from closure. “Whistling Woods has, over the years, got itself an enviable reputation for being among the best institutions for film education in India. Not only does it attract students from different parts of India but also from countries abroad,” Benegal said in a communication to Chavan.
He said that closing down such an institute of international repute would be an “unmitigated disaster” and brings credit neither to the Maharashtra government nor the nation as a whole. Referring to the plans to create a cultural centre in its place, Benegal urged for better sense to prevail over the issue. Ghai, in a note recently on the subject, has said that after the recent developments: “I felt helpless. Where to go?”
“We felt destroyed, shocked and numb. The government is being awarded with money and we are being punished so much with no fault of ours. Neither (the) court pointed out any of our fault in all of this,” he said Referring to his desperate attempts to save the institute, he said he had submitted three workable options under law but there was no response from the state government for two years, and his best attempts to meet Chavan also failed.
Ghai said that meanwhile Culture Minister Sanjay Deotale has forwarded “his ambitious plan” to the media of the government opening a cultural university on the campus of Whistling Woods, asked their own agency, PWD, to value the building and sent us a notice July 14 to pay Rs.60 crore and vacate the building by July 31. He lamented that now the institute has to pay more than Rs.60 crore, plus hand over the building to the government after running the campus for eight years with a Rs.100 crore investment and a Rs.62 crore debt in its share.
“The worst we feel today is when we admit new aspiring students with a condition that we may not run our institute on this same campus with five star custom made facilities for cinema students after July 31.” he said. Ghai noted that presently Whistling Woods is consistently ranked one of the top 10 film schools in the world. Top Bollywood personalities have come out in support of Ghai and the institute and appealed to the government not to shut it down.