50 winners skip National Film Awards

Rosalie Gross
May 7, 2018

"We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once in a lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us".

A news flash by PTI said that more than 60 National Film Award recipients said that they will skip ceremony this evening because President Kovind will present only 11 awards. Why weren't we informed about the President's inability to give away the awards?

Ms. Irani spent almost 45 minutes during the dress rehearsal placating the agitated awardees, explaining to them the new protocol established by Mr. Kovind. As a matter of protocol he attends all award functions, convocations and such events only for an hour. Officials have said that from next year, the President would give away only one award and the minister the rest.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore handed out the remainder of the 125 awards at the event, which was also devoid of a musical performance unlike every year. It was this that sparked off the protests by the winners. "You can't invite them to receive the President's Award and then have them receiving the award from someone else's hands".

On Thursday, Shekhar Kapur, eminent filmmaker and the head of the jury for the 65 National Film Awards, along with another filmmaker and jury member Rahul Rawail, also met the awardees and tried to persuade them not to boycott the ceremony.

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Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said not only had the Ministry been informed in advance, there were several discussions on the venue too after the Ministry suggested changing it from Vigyan Bhawan - where the awards have traditionally been held - to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"The ministry is contemplating to send the National Film Awards to those who missed the function, through post".

Notably, the prestigious award is presented by President of India in the presence of Minister of Information and Broadcasting every year. Every President has stood there for three hours personally giving the award to every victor. In the music category, he gave away the award for Best Playback Singer (Male) to KJ Yesudas but Shashaa Tripupati, who was judged the Best Playback Singer (Female) was awarded by the two ministers. At the same time, the organisers could have done a better job of giving adequate notice to the winners about the schedule of the President. And that's the reason why they are such a big deal - not because the President hands them out. "It took us a lot of time to process what had actually happened".

A letter written by the recipients to Chaitanya Prasad, additional director general of the Directorate of Film Festivals, specified that their move did not constitute a "boycott", but was merely an expression of their disappointment over the President's decision.

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