The Malayalam film industry is once again in the news for a call to boycott the National Film Awards.
Some crew members of the award-winning Malayalam film ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ have decided to skip the esteemed ceremony to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
About 50 winners of the National Film Awards had boycotted last year’s ceremony because it was declared that, breaking tradition, that the President would present only 11 awards and the rest would be handed out by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani.
The call by ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ director Zakariya Mohammed to boycott the National Award over the citizenship issue is more significant as the film tells the story of a refugee’s difficulties.
The film focuses on a football club in Malappuram district in North Kerala, and on a Nigerian player and his bonding with the local people, who endearingly call him a ‘Sudani’ even after coming to know that he is Nigerian.
The film also touches on the difficulties the footballer faces while trying to get a passport.
Apart from the Zakariya, other members of the crew, including script writer Muhsin Parari, actor Savithri Sreedharan and the film’s producers, will boycott the National Awards presentation.
The film has won ‘Best Malayalam Film’ at the National Awards, while Savithri got a ‘Special Mention’ for her role as an elderly Muslim mother, who struggles between her son and her second husband.
‘Sudani from Nigeria’ was a popular and critical success in its home state, winning the award for ‘Best film with popular appeal and aesthetic value’ at the Kerala state film awards.
After Zakariya posted the crew’s decision to boycott the award on social media, he was flooded with responses appreciating his stand, while there were also some critics.
“In protest against the CAA and National Citizen Register, myself, scriptwriter Muhsin Perari and producers of ‘Sudani from Nigeria’ will boycott the National Film Award distribution ceremony,” Zakariya’s post had said.
Savithri, who announced her boycott separately, told Showtime that the decision to boycott the award presentation, which is scheduled to be held on December 23, was an individual decision and that there was no external pressure or compulsion.
“I wanted to convey my concerns over the developments and hence decided to keep off the award presentation. I neither discussed it with Zakariya, nor did he discuss it with me,” the actor said.
‘Sudani from Nigeria’ was also caught up in a row last year after the Nigerian actor, Samuel Abiola Robinson, alleged that the producers had underpaid him for the film and that this amounted to racial discrimination. Robinson was then paid a higher amount, after which he said that his allegation was due to a misunderstanding.