The National Film Awards presentation ceremony on Thursday turned into controversy after it was announced that President Ram Nath Kovind will confer the award to only a select number of winners. In what came as a break from tradition, the ceremony, held at Vigyan Bhavan, was divided into two phases. First, the set of awards were presented by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and the Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Later, President Kovind presented awards to select set of winners, which included posthumous recognitions for Vinod Khanna and Sridevi (Dadasaheb Phalke and Best Actress respectively).
However, the protest from the artistes came much before the presentation ceremony when they came to know about the change in schedule.
In an open letter to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, over 70 artistes said they were skipping the ceremony as they “felt dejected rather than honoured” on being informed about the last-minute change.
“It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us 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 jiffy,” the letter, signed by prominent names such as director Kaushik Ganguly, best supporting actor award winner Fahadh Faasil and singer K J Yesudas read.
Ganguly, whose film “Nagarkirtan” won multiple awards, too decided to skip the event in a gesture to support the fraternity. Nagarkirtan won the award for the best actor, special jury, makeup and costume and best actor award.
However, film’s lead Riddhi Sen, who won the award for best actress attended the ceremony.
Traditionally, it is the President who presents the awards to artistes. Commenting on the row, Rashtrapati Bhavan expressed surprise and said that information about the schedule was communicated to the ministry weeks ago. It added that President can’t be present for any such event for more than one hour as per the protocol .
Paying homage to Vinod Khanna and Sridevi, the President recalled their “finest films” — Khanna’s “Mera Apne” and Sridevi’s “Lamhe”. “They are more than just box office successes. They tug at our hearts,” Kovind said. Later, Irani also paid warm tributes to Sridevi and Khanna. “Today on this stage we also honoured a woman who is not among us anymore. It is her first win… I remember Sridevi, who not only left a great impression on the film world but on our lives as well,” she said.
Irani, who herself has been a former actor, recalled the “calibre” of Khanna and said that he created history not only in cinema but also in politics.