The 65th National Film Awards, which was held Thursday afternoon, was mired in controversy after more than 60 awardees skipped the event. The awardees were furious after it was revealed that President Ram Nath Kovind will hand over just 11 awards.
Breaking the tradition, Kovind gave away only 11 awards and this irked several awardees, as they felt it was the demarcation of awards. The rest of the awards were given by the minister of information and broadcasting Smriti Irani.
In protest, more than 60 awardees skipped the award ceremony. The awardees in an open letter announced that they would skip the ceremony and it was signed by recipients, including singer KJ Yesudas, filmmaker Nagraj Manjule, and filmmaker Prasad Oak. They also mentioned in the letter that this move was not to boycott the ceremony but to express their disappointment.
"Getting the National Award from the President of India is a huge honor. Any recipient treasures that one photograph with the President for life. We have given a signed petition to the directorate of film festivals stating that we will be absent from the ceremony if the awards aren't given by the President," director Indrani Chakraborty, whose Ladakh Chale Rickshawala was named as the Best Exploration/Adventure Film, told the Indian Express.
Dummies replaced absentees
As the awardees skipped the event, two rows of the seats were vacant and it was later filled with dummies. The organizers removed the nameplates of the awardees and people sitting in the back row were made to shift to the front seats.
"The empty seats were later filled with dummies," an award winner told the publication.
President's secretariat issues clarification
The president's secretariat issued a clarification and said that it was notified to the information and broadcasting ministry long before that the president would attend the award show for only an hour.
"The 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. Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised by the 11th-hour questions that have been raised," the president's secretariat said.
Boney Kapoor's take on National Film Awards controversy
Filmmaker Boney Kapoor, who attended the award ceremony to accept the Best Actress award on behalf of his wife and late actress Sridevi, said he doesn't understand the fuss and would have been happy even if Irani would have given the award.
"I would have been equally happy if the Minister (I&B) had given me the award. It is ultimately the recognition of your work. I don't understand what the fuss is about," he told ANI after the award ceremony.
"I'm extremely happy and proud. This is what she's got after working for 50 years in the industry, she would've cherished this award all her life. This's the highest honour. We miss her & today we miss her even more," he added.
Kovind presented 11 awards Thursday, May 3, at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
Here are the 11 National Awards winners:
Dadasaheb Phalke Award: Vinod Khanna
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 Nibandha
Best Jasari film: Sinjar
Best Male Playback Singer: KJ Yesudas, "Poy Maranja Kalam" Viswasapoorvam Mansoor (Malayalam)
Best Music Direction (Songs): AR Rahman, Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil) + Best Music Direction (Background score): Mom
Best Actor: Riddhi Sen, Nagarkirtan (Bengali)
Best Direction: Jayaraj, Bhayanakam (Malayalam)
Best Feature Film: Village Rockstars (Assamese) + Best Editing: Village Rockstars