National Film Awards 2018: Resul Pookutty, Parvathy and 70 filmmakers, artistes react to President's absence

FP Staff

May 04, 2018 19:00:18 IST

The 2018 National Film Awards made headlines for reasons other than the awards ceremony held at Vigyan Bhawan.

The issue first arose when more than 70 winners of the National Film Awards said they would skip the ceremony after a last minute announcement that President Ram Nath Kovind would be presenting only 11 awards, a departure from tradition.

The winners were upset at the development and wrote an open letter marked to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The artists said that they were informed about the change in the schedule on Wednesday (2 May) by Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General of the Directorate of Film Festivals.

The open letter stated that the artists were disheartened and "felt dejected rather than honoured" on being informed at the last minute that the President will present only 11 awards. "It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy," read the letter, signed by more than 70 filmmakers and artistes from across the country. 

"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 disappointed to know that the Hon'ble President will be presenting the Award to just 11 Awardees and not the remaining of about 120 of us."

Oscar winning sound designer Resul Pookutty was among the 2018 National Award winners who expressed their disappointment at the decision. Pookutty took to Facebook to blast the government's "classist attitude".

Other winners also expressed their disbelief and concern at the decision that the President will hand awards to only 11 winners at the ceremony. Among them were director Ashwini Choudhary (Dhoop) who wrote, "The Indian Film Industry should come out in open and take a stand against the humilation of National Film Awardees".

Director of National Award Winning Parzania Rahul Dholakia said the following:

Praveen Morchhale, whose Walking With the Wind won three National Awards including Best Film (Ladakhi), said, "We did not ‘boycott’ the ceremony nor did we disrespect anyone — we simply skipped it. We would have been happy if the I & B minister would have presented all the awards instead of a select few being chosen to receive them from the President."

More reactions came in from Newton producer Manish Mundra.

And director Nagarkirtan director Kaushik Ganguly said, "This does not mean that we are rejecting the awards. But the president is supposed to give us the award. It is something special that cannot be replaced and there was no information given to us."

According to The News Minute, Sandeep Senan, producer of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum said: "We haven't boycotted the event or refused to receive the award. In the letter we received, we were told that the President will give us the award. But yesterday, we came to know that the President will give awards to only 11 people and that all of us will get a chance to take a group photo with him. We have not attended the ceremony, because we feel the sanctity of the award has been lost. The sanctity is in getting it from the President of India, for our hard work. For that 1 minute of the President handing over the award to us, we have all come here with our friends and family. We are really sad at how things have turned out to be."

Actor Parvathy, who received the jury's Special Mention for her performance in Take Off said: "Our families have come here to see us get the award. We are only raising a reasonable grievance here. No agitation, no violence. Yet, we did not get a reply for our letter at all, we have waited for 24 hours now. Our absence at the ceremony is what we want to show. We are upholding the National Awards, no doubt".

This is not the first time the National Film awards have courted controversy.

In 2000, when Kirron Kher won the National Award in the Best Actress category for Bengali film Bariwali, it was alleged that the actress did not dub the film in her own voice. Bengali television and film actress Rita Koyral claimed she dubbed the entire role for Kirron Kher.

"Anupam Kher called me several times. He wanted to know about the dates of the dubbing, etc. Then he said that I deserved 50 per cent of the National Award remuneration if I had dubbed for Kiron," Koyral was quoted as saying. Koyral also claimed that she dubbed every frame of the film; from dialogues to weeping and breathing.

In 2001, before the 17-member National Film Awards jury could announce the list of winners, two members quit, alleging that "a political cartel had turned the awards into a farce". There were accusations about the "saffronisation of the awards" with cracks in the jury coming out in the open.

Four films rejected in the initial rounds were later recalled and went on to bag some prestigious awards. Among them were Daman, which fetched Raveena Tandon the award for the Best Actress, and Pukar, which won Best Film on National Integration and the Best Actor award for Anil Kapoor.

It was also alleged that popular onscreen villain and Raveena Tandon's maternal uncle, Mac Mohan, was on the jury and played a big role in her selection as Best Actress.

In 2005, when Saif Ali Khan won his first and only National Award in the Best Actor category for the movie Hum Tum, there were many who openly called out the decision as ridiculous. It was even alleged that Saif Ali Khan's mother Sharmila Tagore, who was then the Chairperson of the Censor Board of India, influenced the National Film Awards jury to help her son bag the prestigious award.

Director Sudhir Mishra, who was the jury Chairperson back then, defended the choice saying: "Why must the Best Actor award always go to a heavy-duty performance? Can’t an actor leave an impression without having to quiver his lips and deliver high-pitched soliloquies?"

Updated Date: May 04, 2018 19:02:30 IST

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