National awardees deserve better

The national film awards ceremony is one of the most prestigious ceremonies during which the President honours celebrities of the film world for their contribution to various fields of filmmaking. The event is ritually held every year on May 3 and has become something of a hallowed tradition. The 65th national film award ceremony this year, however, stirred up discordant notes. Nearly 50 filmmakers and top artistes skipped the event because President Ram Nath Kovind had time to present awards to only a handful of them. The rest of the awards were presented by Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. In an open letter, the artistes who boycotted said they “felt dejected rather than honoured” on being informed at the last minute that the President would give away only 11 awards.

The boycott was, perhaps, unfortunate and could have been avoided. In fact, some of those who wrote the protest letter did change their minds and attended the ceremony. But so was the departure from the tradition by the ministry and the President’s Office. In the history of the national film awards, it was for the first time that the President attended the second half of the ceremony honouring only a few of the veteran artistes and winners in major categories. His office has sought to explain away the fiasco by asserting that President Kovind attends functions for not more than one hour. This, however, does not explain the departure from the tradition of his predecessors. Former President Pranab Mukherjee, for instance, made it a point to stay through the entire ceremony in every national film award function during his tenure.

As President Kovind observed during his speech at the award ceremony, “It is indeed a special moment for each of the 125 award winners.” His decision to make it special for only a handful of them was unfortunate and may appear discriminatory and can be seen as inadvertently humiliating the rest of them. It is also difficult to explain his selective approach to only attend a part of the ceremony and skip the rest because the date of the ceremony is fixed to coincide with the birthday of Dadasaheb Phalke and the invitation letters from the ministry had mentioned that the President will be giving the awards. The abrupt change at the last moment does not reflect well on either the ministry or the President’s office. The ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the President’s office should have sorted out the matter in the interest of the importance attached to the national film awards ceremony.

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National awardees deserve better

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