Where are the Padmas for Sandalwood?

Where are the Padmas for Sandalwood?

Artistes cry foul over politics, and ask state government to makes sure veterans get their due

This year, no personality from the Kannada film industry was conferred with any of the Padma awards. Time and again, film scholars and critics have argued on the unfair treatment meted out to the southern film industry with regards to national honours. 

Among the six to win the Padma Shri were Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Adnan Sami, Kangana Ranaut, Suresh Wadkar and Sarita Joshi.  The major grouse here is the choice of some of the Bollywood A-listers.

Karan Johar aka KJo is the son of famous producer Yash Johar, the founder of Dharma Productions. 
KJo, as a filmmaker, has contributed admirably to popular culture. Dharma Productions has offered opportunities to plenty, but no product from the KJo factory lives up to international standards.

Ekta Kapoor’s sought-after production house Balaji Telefilms has often been slammed for mediocre content. Kangana, a terrific performer, has acted in 32 films, many of which are forgettable affairs. Was it too early to present the actor the country’s fourth highest civilian honour?

There definitely exists worthy artistes from the Kannada industry who deserve awards of such high reputation. It’s a surprise for many that Anant Nag, the acclaimed actor, is yet to receive a Padma award. The fact that the stalwart’s career spans over 40 years is a testimony to his greatness. The winner of five Karnataka State awards and six Filmfare awards, is a respected figure in theatre as well.

Anant Nag, in the past, has called for restricting awards to school and college-going students. It shows his humility but doesn’t make him less eligible for big awards.
Some from the new crop of Kannada directors were understandably upset. “I don’t have any problem with Kangana Ranaut winning the Padma Shri. But it’s disappointing to see experienced actors like Anant Nag and Shivarajkumar being ignored. Once again, the government has been partial to the Hindi industry,” wrote director ‘Simple’ Suni on Twitter.

Veteran filmmaker Nagathihalli Chandrashekar points out that the respective state governments must make concerted efforts to recognise and nominate the names of able candidates.

He recollects that his name was once nominated but he was asked to pull strings in Delhi to make sure that he gets the award.

“I was not interested in asking for the award or hankering after it. State governments must not only nominate the names but also actively pursue it to make sure the deserving candidates get the award. It is not the duty of the candidate to do so. It is lack of political will that doesn’t catapult Karnataka’s cinema, music and art to the national level,” explains Nagathihalli.

It’s not the first time that the Karnataka government’s efficiency has been questioned in this matter. In 2017, to the surprise of many, celebrated Telugu director SS Rajamouli won the Padma Shri after the Karnataka government recommended his name. The filmmaker, who was born in Karnataka, hasn’t made a single film in Kannada in his 11-film body of work.

Suneel Puranik, president of Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, says while educationists and industrialists in Karnataka have been recognised, cinema, music and literary contributions have not got their due. “It would be nice if the state government could consider Karnataka’s contribution in the field of music and arts,” he feels.

The huge contribution of late Ambareesh and Vishnuvardhan, two titans of Kannada cinema, wasn’t recognised during their career.

An actor, who has performed in more than eight Indian languages, feels that there is a mafia operating behind nominating names for Padma and Sangeetha Nataka Academy awards.

“These awards are highly politicised and it has been going on for years. It is just that people have begun to react now and talk about it. It has now become a rule than an exception. The committees that decide the awards must work in a transparent manner. They must be honest and no nepotism must be involved. Merit should be the sole criteria for awarding people,” says the actor.

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