The 65th National Film Awards winners were notified by Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, (Directorate of Film Festival) on the day of rehearsal about the new protocol in the National Film Awards ceremony. Accordingly, only 11 of the 137 recipients were chosen for the honor of receiving the award from the President himself during the second phase of the awards ceremony . The Information and Broadcasting Minister, Smriti Irani and Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore were to distribute the awards during the first phase of the ceremony .
After sitting through the rehearsal and waiting for Boney Kapoor and his daughters to leave the venue, the miffed awardees had questioned about notifying at the 11th hour about these changes in the schedule to one of the award ceremonies that had followed a strict protocol all through the last 64 years. Also the email to each of them from the I & B ministry had stated clearly that the President would be giving away the awards. Ms. Irani who came to the Vigyan Bhavan to pacify tempers told that the arrangements were “to make the best use of the President’s time” .But, she had no answers for any of their questions –
If the office of the President had communicated about the President not being able to spare enough time for the award ceremony why was the award ceremony not scheduled on another day accordingly?
Why would the awardees not informed earlier that they would not be taking away the award from the President?
Why were the invites specifying the President’s name if he was not giving away the awards?
The awardees sent out a letter to Prasad , President’s Office and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting citing their distress at the developments.
An excerpt from their letter—–
“It is only a day before the ceremony that we have learnt through Chaitanya Prasad that a large segment of the Awards will not be presented by the President of India. It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy”
“We request that the dignity and eminence of this award is maintained and that there is no display of hierarchy at the event. [..]We are left with no choice but to express our disappointment and convey to you that, at the end of the day, we feel dejected rather than honored for our work. In the circumstance of not receiving a response for our grievance, we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award, but not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent and are awaiting a more just solution”.
THE CEREMONY – What actually happened?
Around 55 awardees were absent from the ceremony and one third of the expected attendance for the ceremony was missing in the venue because the Ministry did not bother replying to their letter. The President gave away the awards for the select categories which had been designated for him .
“Nowhere are we insulting the jury’s decision. We have all accepted the awards. We were deliberately absent because the promise made to us was not honored. All the invitations and advertisements had mentioned that the award will be given by the President. Suddenly, that decision changed and it hurt my self-respect.”
Atanu Ghosh, Director (Mayurakshi)
“It’s an important award and will remain an important one. But it’s not a political award. People from even the small industries sometimes sell their properties to make an award-winning film. They come to receive the award from the President of India.
-Prosenjit Chatterjee (starred in Mayurakshi)
“Our protest is not against who is getting the award from the President. Everybody should be given by the President or the ministers. Discrimination is very humiliating. It’s like artistes have been categorized into A and B.”
– Praveen Morchhale (Director, Walking with the Wind*)
“We all represent different parts of the country and it is an honor that we receive (our awards) at the hands of the President. They are not called the President’s National Awards for no reason. If not the President, then at least the Vice President should give away the remaining awards, not the ministers.
-N R Nanjunde Gowda to PTI
The Office of the President “expressed surprise” at the “11th hour questions” citing the protocol of “maximum-of-one-hour-for-all-award-functions-and-convocations” ever since the current President assumed office.
“President attends all award functions and convocations for a maximum of one hour. This has been the protocol since he took office. It was conveyed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the Ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapathi Bhavan is surprised by the 11th hour questions that have been raised”
-Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the President
I am very amused at the reason cited by Mr. Malik. How can he cite “maximum-of-one-hour-for-all-award-functions-and-convocations protocol” for National Film Awards which was touted as the ‘President’s Awards’? Does the office not consider the established protocols for award ceremonies and other occasions where the President is expected to grace the occasion before applying their new “protocol?”
Secondly, as pointed out repeatedly, what is really irksome for anybody who has followed the National Film Awards drama is the preferential treatment meted out to a section of the awardees. Take a look at the people or categories handpicked for the Presidential honors. Even the order in which the awardees were felicitated is an indicator to the hierarchy system followed at the awards ceremony .
Dadasaheb Phalke Award: Vinod Khanna (posthumous)
Best Actress: Sridevi, Mom (posthumous)
Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration: Dhappa (Marathi)
Best Book on Cinema: Matamgi Manipur – The First Manipuri Feature Film (English)
Best Direction: Nagraj Manjule, Pavasacha Nibhandha (Best Debut Non-Feature Film )
Best Jasari film: Sinjar
Best Male Playback Singer: KJ Yesudas, “Poy Maranja Kalam” Viswasapoorvam Mansoor (Malayalam)
Best Music Direction (Songs) + Best Music Direction (Background score) [Mom]:
AR Rahman, Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil)
Best Actor: Riddhi Sen, Nagarkirtan (Bengali)
Best Direction: Jayaraj, Bhayanakam (Malayalam)
Best Feature Film: Village Rockstars (Assamese) + Best Editing: Village Rockstars
If the Best Actor, Best Actress can make it to the list why not the Best Supporting Actor and the Best Supporting Actress?
If the Best Male Singer can make it to the elite list why not the Best Female Singer?
Certain categories like the Screenplay and Production did not have a single representative. Resul Pookutty’s comments are fully justified when the Ministry chooses to overlook the off-screen (both technical and non-technical categories) team. Atleast Resul’s Oscar made the Technical team’s voice to be heard but we don’t have any other Oscars or awards from the non-technical categories like the Screenplay and Production to actually hear out artistes from those categories.
I would have loved if the Best Child Artist awardee Bhanita Das (Village Rockstars – Assamese) had also picked up the award from the President. With several of the winners absent, a couple of star kids finally hogged the spotlight for the silliest reasons ever in the history of National Film Awards when media have no other option but to capture several shots of them . The Honorable President and the Ministers too obliged the family with a few photos with them. The father of the star kids too was clueless about an event of this scale when he callously remarks “I don’t understand what the fuss is about”. Considering that the man is from the film industry, I guess that leaves us with knowing how much to expect from the family.
But there is hope – the 19 year old Riddhi Sen, probably the youngest winner in the Best Actor category who is yet another star kid in every sense summed it up perfectly
“The relevance of the awards lies in the people who make the decisions. [..] With due respect to the President and Smriti Irani , the jury comprises the most notable filmmakers, critics and writers who watch these films. They are the people who actually decide on the awards, who give away the honor to the artistes. So, I think the value of the National Award remains. The decision is taken by the jury and not the President and Mrs. Irani. After five years from now, people will remember the National Awards. It won’t be remembered by who is handing them over”.
People will remember the 65th National Film Awards for one of the most pathetic reasons in the history of the awards – the Government has shown to whom it will accord its respect . The off-screen teams who had been slogging at their thankless jobs with dreams that even their work will garner the attention and respect it deserves have been disappointed time and again by the fans . This time, the ceremony which has been known to throw some light on the off-screen teams’ work also gave precedence to noted names which is extremely unfortunate . It’s not the first time that awards has got embroiled in a controversy . Politics had played it’s hand previously but this is the first time the several of the winners too were left disheartened considering the treatment that has been meted out to them.
And that folks reduced the National Film Awards to something of a yet another film (y )awards show with drama taking the center-stage rather than talent.
P.S : Our press people had to content themselves with clicking away at two star kids during the major time of the ceremony. The good people made one of the star kids the trending topic. And the third day, with nothing better to write one of the newspapers comes up with this – “[You-know-who] looks stunning in this sari at the National Film Awards dinner party” . Our journalists ( specially the ones connected to some of the most-read and “reliable” newspapers ) need to work BIG TIME on their reporting if they are going to report every event like it’s a PAGE 3 event. Come on guys , get it right..
Although no film buff, I think the jury has done a commendable job with the selection as several regional films too have received their due .The full list here.