Every year, when the National Awards are announced, there is a mandatory round of grumbling. There’s always another film, actor, director who deserved it more. Some regional groups are unhappy about inadequate wins for films in their languages. There are always glaring omissions, and many ‘how-did-this-slip-in’ queries, but then, when choices have to be made out of a huge lot of films in so many languages, with Bollywood lobbying hard to bag awards that validate its existence as no popular awards can, then it is not an easy task to come up with a winner’s list that would please all. Popular awards have a smaller number of films to work with, and know which camps or power bases they have to please that year.
At least nobody can say Irrfan didn’t deserve the award for Paan Singh Tomar, or Annu Kapoor for Vicky Donor. Even though Bollywood films do manage to dominate most years, this time the jury ignored the actresses. Vidya Balan’s Kahaani performance deserved a nod, and poor Priyanka Chopra’s excellent performance in Barfi has been unfairly overlooked by all this year. In fact, Barfi, which was selected as India’s entry for the Oscars won nothing at all at the National Awards level.
Marathi cinema carries on its triumphant march, with Vikram Gokhale sharing the best actor award with Irrfan for Anumati. Usha Jadhav beat her more glamorous counterparts from the Mumbai industry and other filmmaking centres to win the Best Actress award for the film Dhag, about the life of a family that makes a living from cremating the dead. Amazingly, the film that was moving and well-meaning, but not otherwise distinguished also got Shivaji Lotan Patil the Best Director award.
The one category in which the selection is usually off the mark, is the ponderously named Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and then given to commercial films that are most unwholesome. This year the award went to Vicky Donor, which was funny, original and deserved the acting awards it got for Kapoor and Dolly Ahluwalia, but whether a film about a man who makes a living out of sperm donation is wholesome, can be debated.
Like the popular awards juries that want to please as many people as possible, the National jury also gave out special jury mentions in wholesale numbers — seven in all, in which Parineeti is included for for Ishaqzaade.
Still, the film industry covets all awards, National Awards in particular. After box-office success, awards keep them going.