Did Akshay Kumar's Performance in Rustom Truly Deserve a National Award?
In the year of a Tommy Singh and a Ramchandra Siras, giving award to a fairly average or even below average Rustom Pavri, perhaps undermines the credibility of National Awards a bit.
After over two decades of being a part of the Hindi film industry, Akshay Kumar has finally won an award and that too, the most prestigious one in the country. At the recently announced 64th National Film awards, Kumar bagged Best Actor for his role in Rustom. Directed by Tinu Suresh Desai, Rustom was a crime-drama loosely based on the famous Nanavati Case of 50s' that brought an end to the jury system in India. Akshay portrayed the role of Naval Officer Rustom Pavri who shot his wife's lover and later, during a long-drawn court battle, revealed how the culprit had hatched a plan which could threaten national security. While the film made money at the box-office, critics all over thrashed it for being extremely stretched and for its confusing plot.
Let's face it, Akshay Kumar wasn't at his best in Rustom. His performance as Pavri was restrained to the fault and extremely bland. With minimal emotions and poor dialogue delivery, Akshay was unable to live up to the expectations and gave a below average performance. Thanks to his fans and smart promotion prior to its release, the film worked well against Hrithik Roshan's Mohenjo Daro. However, the film didn't get any mention at any of the award shows this year. Neither did Akshay get any recognition for his forgetful role. Not that Indian Award shows are any parameter of judging any actors credibility or talent in Bollywood, but such ignorance of an A-Lister pretty much indicates the stature of the film in the eyes of critics and jury members. But looks like, what the entire film fraternity ignores, gets picked up and awarded by the National Award Jury.
The film which actually made big noise during the award season and among the critics as well was Abhishek Chaubey's gritty drama Udta Punjab. Apart from bringing in notice the menace of drug abuse in India's agricultural capital, the film also battled against piracy and unjustified dictatorship of CBFC. Shahid Kapoor's performance as drug abused Punjabi rockstar gabru aka Tommy Singh was hailed as the highlight of the film. The actor was crazy to the core and made a character like Tommy Singh believable and relatable. Apart from various mentions, Shahid won critic awards for his terrific performance.
Similarly, Manoj Bajpayee for his extremely nuanced performance as a gay professor fighting for justice in Aligarh was one of the best performers of the year. Just like Udta Punjab, Aligarh touched upon a sensitive issue of homophobia and taboos attached with it. The film also had to fight it's way through CBFC for the release.
Now in the year of a Tommy Singh and a Ramchandra Siras, giving award to a fairly average or even below average Rustom Pavri, perhaps undermines the credibility of National Awards a bit.
Another reason why Akshay might have got the award is because of the wave of nationalism that is prevalent in the country currently. If we look deeper, both the films Akshay starred in 2017, Airlift and Rustom, brought back a certain sense of patriotism and national integration. A hero figure who comes back to his motherland, and a hero who kills a man over corruption in defence and hides it to safeguard the sanctity of the defence. Thus, maybe his ideal image of a perfect hero in the eyes of the government appointed jury made him shine more than other deserving performances. It's all about presenting the right example it seems.
While, one can't deny the talent of Akshay Kumar and of course he is one of the most entertaining actors in Bollywood right now, but surely he didn't deserve a National Award for a film like Rustom. This underwhelming selection by the jury needs to be reflected upon so that next time, a much deserving and relevant performance doesn't get snubbed by the political thoughts going around at that time. Art should be kept away from ideologies and forceful implementation of moral policing.
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