THE National Awards for last year were announced earlier this week, and as usual there were a few surprises and shocks.
Over the last few years, Bollywood has been dominating the National Awards, everyone aiming to add one to their collection, since popular awards have become industry-pleasing entertainment events, rather than recognition for excellence. But sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that Bollywood or mainstream cinema juggernaut constantly rolls over independent cinema.
Maybe, it has something to do with the constitution of the jury. It takes great powers of resistance to withstand the pressures from various camps and lobbies. The way awards are apportioned to please various states is well-known. Major stars and production houses have been rumoured to plant their chosen ones on juries to ensure wins for themselves and their films.
No matter how well-deserved it is, one award more or less does not matter to Amitabh Bachchan, but would have mattered a great deal to Atul Kulkarni, who gave a wonderful performance in a very demanding role in Natarang. And surprising too is an award for Farooq Shaikh, in a film like Lahore, which also won a Best Debut Award. A film that came and sank and did not even get rave reviews! Even most technical awards seem to have gone to the mainstream cinema from Mumbai and the regions.
What is heartening then is the other awards for non-features that don’t get media attention, but there you get to see real artistry. For instance, the package of films by FTII students – Ekti Kaktaliyo Golpo by Tathagata Singha and Vaishnav Jan Toh by Kaushal Oza, sharing Best Debut Non-feature Film of a director, Gaarud - Best Cinematography (Deepu S. Unni) among them. Very deserving too is the Best Compilation Film, Pancham Unmixed by Brahmanand Singh. Some of the regional films awards are fine too, but Best Hindi Film for Paa may be a bit too much, since there were several other contenders. And the universally panned Delhi-6 also squeezing in a couple of awards – Best Film on National Integration? Very weird.