The 67th National Film Awards were announced this week and while many hailed the jury for its apt selection, some cried foul at the choices. However, this is not the first time that people have been divided over who deserves an award and who doesn’t. In recent years, film awards in India have been under the scanner due to various factors and the audience – including critics – have not always approved of the winners.
Most film awards in the country are handed out by private media companies and while they were coveted till a few years back, now they are just being perceived as gimmicky and biased. Numerous Bollywood stars have been vocal about the favouritism and how ‘shallow’ they are. Four-time National Award winner, Kangana Ranaut, who bagged the National Award for Best Actress 2019 this year, stopped attending and believing in private award ceremonies post 2014 after she was late to an awards event and the award was handed over to another actor. Aamir Khan stopped attending commercial awards shows in the 90s because he felt they were of no value to him. Akshay Kumar has openly spoken about how people from awards shows have called on him to perform in exchange for an award while Naseeruddin Shah has questioned their credibility. But Bollywood is not the only film industry where awards ceremonies have lost their shine. In south India too, there have been controversies around film awards handed out alleging bias and favouritism and some media houses in fact stopped handing out awards.
The big question is this – how much value does a film award carry for an actor or a technician in the film industry? Other the National Film Awards which are announced for the entire Indian film industry and handed out by the Government of India, all other awards are adjudged based on state or region and highly commercial in nature. Television TRPs are the name of the game and the better sponsors they get along with more celebrity glitz and glamour, the more money they make. Those working in the film industry want to be appreciated and recognised for their talent and hard work but the commercial nature of these film awards have increased considerably in the last decade. In fact, there are more number of film awards that exist today than they a decade back after marketeers realised they are money spinners and can give brands a visibility sans pareil. From London to Macau to Dubai and more, award ceremonies moved to foreign locales and foreign governments started to woo the Indian film industry awards as they saw it as a boost to tourism and hence their economy. Meanwhile, many in the film industry felt the awards themselves were becoming more diluted and losing credibility thanks to commerce taking precedence. Mass films that were box office successes seemed to be gaining mileage over those that had tremendous performances. Reel took precedence over real and people from the film industry started to express their discontentment openly.
In this scenario, does a film award matter any more? The answer is yes. While the appreciation of the audience comes in various forms – through box office success (not necessarily the Rs 100 crore club), social media comments and so on – the culmination of it all is the recognition by an unbiased jury. Currently, it is the National Film Awards which is the last bastion and despite the fact that people may not agree with all the jury choices, for the most part the awards are in tandem with the audience’s opinion. While private award ceremonies may come and go, the National Film Awards continues to provide the Indian film industry the much-deserved encouragement and impetus for better cinema. There is no must-attend celebrity list, song-and-dance routine, speeches or TRPs here to decide who is a winner — it’s all just about raw talent, skill and hard work. Congratulations to all the National Film Awards 2019 winners including Manoj Bajpayee, Kangana Ranaut, Pallavi Joshi, Vijay Sethupathi, Naga Vishal, Mathukutty Xavier, R Parthiban, D Imman, Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri and Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan.