The 65th National Film Awards 2018 ceremony was held at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi amid controversy. More than 60 National Film Awards recipients were planning to skip the ceremony after learning that President Ram Nath Kovind will be presenting only 11 awards, a departure from established tradition. The artistes from across the country wrote a letter addressed to the Directorate of Film Festival, Office of the President of India and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to express their disappointment. They were “disheartened” on being informed at the last minute that the President will present only 11 awards. The rest will receive it from the Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani. The question is that, has the government forgotten basic etiquettes? How can the government insult the post of the President and the people who worked hard to deserve the award? The government is for the people. Not the other way around. The National Film Awards is the most prominent film award ceremonies in India. Established in 1954, it has been administered, along with the International Film Festival of India and the Indian Panorama, by the Indian government’s Directorate of Film Festivals since 1973.
Every year, a national panel appointed by the government selects the winning entry, and the award ceremony is held in New Delhi, where the President of India presents the awards. This is followed by the inauguration of the National Film Festival, where the award-winning films are screened for the public. Declared for films produced in the previous year across the country, they hold the distinction of awarding merit to the best of Indian cinema overall, as well as presenting awards for the best films in each region and language of the country. Due to the national scale of the National Film Awards, it is considered the Indian equivalent of the American Academy Awards.
Awardees this year feel like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform them 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 tick. Those who have chosen to remain absent themselves from the ceremony because they will not be receiving their award from the President are doing the right thing. There cannot be any doubt that for many, this may be a once-in-lifetime opportunity and a great honour to be receiving a national adulation from no less a dignitary than the President of India. Therefore, it is certainly unfair that some are getting that honour while others are not. And, if not the President, then the only other acceptable option would be the Prime Minister. For the first time, awards to the film fraternity were awarded by the I&B Minister other than the 11 awards presented by the President himself.
President of India should present awards for lifetime achievers in the fields of sports, research scholars and brave soldiers for their contribution to the nation. This is what the President of India should do. What had happened all these days should be viewed as a past decorum. Why are the rules being changed? I don’t think there is much work for the President. So he should not insult the awardees.
The award winners had suggested that the speeches and other frills can be edited from the ceremony so that the President can accommodate more of them. The whole inherent and intrinsic value of National Film Awards is due to the fact that it’s being given away by the President. Otherwise, it’s just one amongst the other many film awards mushrooming across the country. A new tradition is being initiated. This should be strictly implemented during Republic Day also when martyrs are honoured. Except the first few, rest can be honoured by the Defence Minister. Similarly, Padma Awards function too, only Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan awardees should be presented by the President and remaining Padma Bhushan and Padma Sris must be presented by the Home Minister.
It’s a pity that the industry releases more than a thousand films in a calendar year and it doesn’t have a credible award in its kitty. Filmfare (the magazine that organises Filmfare Awards) and Times of India (The daily that organises TOIFA) are both owned by Bennett & Coleman and it organises two separate Bollywood awards shows every year. Contrary to that, Hollywood has its own Academy, which organises the Oscars and is the definitive one for Hollywood while Bollywood has at least 50 Awards and all of them claim to be the different. All the awards show, at the beginning of a year, are actually a TV event. Most of the entertainment channels like Sony, Star, Zee in collaboration with the film and gossip magazine organise these shows for their own programming and then there are paan and gutka companies to sponsor them. Our TV channels are really very poor in terms of creativity and programming. All the evening slots are overpopulated with kitchen politics of Saas Bahu circus and the repeat telecast on the day sessions. Award shows ensure two to three months of repeat telecasts on weekends. From the nominations to the participation to the awards, the entire process is fixed and infamous for nepotism and mediocrity. In such scenario, the President award was a real solace to the talented people of the film fraternity, but now that is also diluted below its dignity.
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