Dadasaheb Phalke's legacy stands diluted as 'Excellence Awards' are handed out as an ego-pandering exercise

Gautam Chintamani

Apr 30, 2018 13:08:31 IST

Even as he thanked HBO for giving him an award, comedian Jerry Seinfeld could not help but quip that “all awards are stupid.” Seinfeld was in the presence of friends and he had them in splits as he ranted –“the whole feeling in this room of reverence and honouring is the exact opposite of everything I had wanted my life to be about.” This year’s Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards, which like most awards believes that it honours individuals from the entertainment industry for their outstanding contribution towards the growth and development of cinema and television, is yet another reminder how most film awards today have come to underscore what Seinfeld felt about awards in general.

Dadasaheb Phalkes legacy stands diluted as Excellence Awards are handed out as an ego-pandering exercise

Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon won the top honours at Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards 2018. Facebook

Besides recapping how stupid these citations are, the list of winners, and this writer says this with no malice towards anyone on it, shows how unlike once upon a time people winning awards, now it is more like awards winning people.

Amongst Shahid Kapoor and Kartik Aaryan who were judged the Best actor (male) and Entertainer of the year respectively, Ranveer Singh walked away with the People's Choice Award for the Best Male Actor. Not to be left out Rajkummar Rao and Rana Daggubati too were given an award for their Outstanding performances. But it was categories such as ‘Pride of Indian Cinema’ and ‘Socially Conscious Performance of the Year’, which was given to Rani Mukerji, that makes the awards stand apart. In a year where his comeback film Bhoomi (2017) not only fared below expectations but was also panned across the board, Sanjay Dutt being given the ‘Pride of Indian Cinema’ award would probably go down as one of the silliest things. If you thought that could not be topped off then wait till you hear who won the statuette for being the ‘Path Breaking Producer of the Year’ — Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma.

A function that has three different categories for best actor and actress so that everyone is a winner besides one for ‘Socially Conscious Performance’ and such would have been fun had it been like The Golden Raspberry Awards or the Razzies that recognise the worst in film. Remember the Golden Kelas that tried to replicate the Razzies experience in Hindi films and was successful to a certain extent as well? In 2010, Abhishek Bachchan graciously came to the function to accept the Dara Singh Award for his attempt to speak with an American accent in Delhi 6. But when an award shares its name with the individual who pioneered the art form in India and doles out an award for Entertaining Performance in a Reality Show (Hina Khan for Bigg Boss) then the joke is on us.

Christened after Dhundiraj Govind ‘Dadasaheb’ Phalke, the man who made India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, the Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence awards is one of the four awards named after the legendary filmmaker. Besides the Excellence Awards, there is, of course, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest film award given at the National Film Awards ceremony every year and then there are the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation Awards and the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards.

According to Chandrashekhar Pusalkar, the grandson of the Dadasaheb Phalke, owing to differences that sprang out in 2015, the Academy awards split into Film Foundation and later the Excellence awards. Since then, he has been going to three different functions. Pusalkar also complained that the government of India, which hands out the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, has sidelined the family of the founding father of Indian cinema by not being invited to any of the government award functions. The honour that the government gives out is more emotional as a token of respect to Dadasaheb but besides the Phalke family, it is also the film industry that needs to take greater care of the legacy of stalwarts.

Mads Mikkelsen felt awards mean absolutely nothing if you do not get it but they were the best things in the world if you do get it. As long as there will be show business, there shall be a need to put on some show but the manner in which these functions go on creating categories to ensure that marquee names show up needs to be done away with.

Last year, the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards honoured Priyanka Chopra in a newly constituted category named ‘Internationally Acclaimed Actress Award’ and it was at the same event where Kapil Sharma was honoured for his “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema and TV.” Perhaps at times, the sheer audacity of what an individual has achieved takes over most logic and nothing can stop awards from finding winners. Even though there is no comparison between a Kapil Sharma or Sanjay Dutt getting these awards for no reason, this does bring to mind the manner in which President Barack Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 just eights months into his first term. Even when he remitted office in 2016, he jokingly confessed that he still did not know why he got it.

(Also read — Dadasaheb Phalke's 148th birth anniversary: Notable awardees of the highest honour in Indian cinema)

Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 14:28:50 IST