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Awards: Highs & Lows

Friday, April 18, 2014
By Deepa Gahlot

There was unanimous cheer when Gulzar was selected for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement, which is announced along with the government’s National Awards for cinema. The poet, screenwriter, lyricist and filmmaker is a real treasure and richly merited the award; in fact considering his immense contribution to cinema, the honour came a bit late, which is better than never.

The National Awards were announced a few days later, and the general opinion is that they are fair this year, with the jury recognising popular choices but not mainstream Bollywood, which, does lobby rather hard for the only awards that are considered genuine. There is always a bit of subjectivity involved when people from disparate backgrounds with different tastes in cinema are thrown together to pick winners from a very large number of entries (310) pouring in from all over the country. If they are actually able to come up with unanimous decisions, that is proof of admirable mutual understanding and a democratic approach.

Still, there is always a sneaking suspicion that Hindi films tend to get the most favoured treatment, even if is by a small margin. Quite often a film that stands for a cause is preferred over one with purely artistic merit. Also, seldom has a comedy won, or a film that simply entertains but has all the other artistic qualifications. Apart from the main categories, there are several more in the non-fiction category to reward these ‘cause’ films, so that should hardly be a criterion. Hindi filmmakers send the largest number of entries, even though it takes some nerve to send a film like Ghanchakkar. Bollywood biggies like Chennai Express, Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Goliyon Ke Rasleela Ram Leela, Satyagraha, Raanjhana, Kai Po Che,Lootera and Anybody Can Dance had also sent in entries, but the jury was not impressed.

Everybody has noticed that the film that proved to be popular both in India and abroad—The Lunchbox—was totally ignored, maybe because it was too popular or because it wasn’t high-minded enough. A couple of other internationally acclaimed films like Monsoon Shootout and Peddlers also came up empty. Because regional language films do not get adequate exposure in other parts of the country, except at film festivals, they are not able to gather enough traction in terms of building popular opinion in their favour. There is also the tendency to please all regional lobbies and whichever state has more representation in a particular year, manages to swing the vote.

There is no perfect audience, no perfect jury and no perfect awards that can please everybody.

In the feature film department, Hindi films from Mumbai seem to have bagged quite a few—Ship of Theseus, Shahid,  Miss Lovely, Jolly LLB, Kaphal, Madras Café, Jal and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag—which is a good haul. Add to that a good number of Marathi films – Yellow, Astu, Tuhya Dharma Koncha, Fandry, Aajcha Diwas Majha—and an English film, The Coffin Maker, and the state’s film industry has done very well for itself.

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