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Breach of Trust, Unfortunate: National Award Winners Express Dissent Over President Not Felicitating All Winners

Several film fraternity members took to Twitter to express their dissent and disappointment.

Updated:May 3, 2018, 5:14 PM IST

More than 68 winners of the National Film Awards on Thursday said they would boycott the ceremony after it was announced that President Ram Nath Kovind would be felicitating only 11 winners out of the total 137 recipients.

An official statement from the Rashtrapati Bhawan expressed "suprise" at the "11th hour questions" saying that the president attends all award functions for a maximum one hour and that this was conveyed to Information and Broadcasting Ministry days before. "President attends all award functions and convocations for a maximum of one hour. This has been the protocol since he took office. It was conveyed to Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised by the 11th hour questions that have been raised," said Ashok Malik, press secretary to the president.

The function, being held at Vigyan Bhawan today, will take place in two phases. "The first set of awards will be conferred by Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and the Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from 4 pm. The second set will be presented by the president from 5.30 pm," reports PTI.

Several film fraternity members took to Twitter to express their dissent and disappointment and still others are commenting on the controversy at the award ceremony.

Pankaj Tripathi, who has won Special Recognition for his performance in Newton, said one shouldn't disrespect any award. "Ab baarat aa chuki hai, dulhan koi bhi vida karde. I was also expecting that the president will give away the award but it’s ok. I can’t express it in words. Still, I feel that we shouldn’t boycott it because every recognition is important we shouldn’t disrespect it," he told at the ceremony.

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion producer Prasad Devineni said that he did not want to insult the awards by not taking them. "My sympathies are totally with them. I have also felt the same, I just didn't want to insult the awards by not taking them. Otherwise, they have every right to feel how they are feeling," he said at the ceremony.

Akshaye Khanna, who has arrived to receive the Dadasaheb Phalke Award on behalf of his late father Vinod Khanna, refused to comment on the controvery but shared that it's an emotional moment for the family. "It's an extremely emotional day for our family because my father is not with us. It's a prestigious honour. Had he been here, he would have been extremely happy. I can't express it in words."

Producer Manish Mundra, whose film Newton has won the National Award for best Hindi film, wrote, "The whole inherent and intrinsic value of #NationalFilmAwards is due to the fact that it's being given away by @rashtrapatibhvn Otherwise it's just one amongst the other many film awards mushrooming across the country! #NationalFilmAwards."

Oscar-winning sound artiste Resul Pookutty took to Twitter to express and wrote, "If the Govt.Of India cannot earmark three houres if it’s time, they should not bother us giving us #NationalAward. More than 50%of our sweat you take it as entertainment tax,the least you could do is respect the values we hold dear!"

Filmmaker Rahul Dholakia, who had previously won National Award for his film Parzania, wrote, "one of the reason the National Film Awards are prestigious is because they are handed by the @rashtrapatibhvn -not a minister. This is a moment of a lifetime for Film makers ; please don’t deprive them of their merit / glory #NationalFilmAwards."

Ashoke Pandit shared it pains to know that the president does not have time to be with the winners. "Respected @rashtrapatibhvn, 🙏 #NationalAwards are 1 of the few genuine & dignified awards that we in the #FilmIndustry wait for. We work hard for it & expect respect for what we create. Pained to know that u don’t hv time to be with the winners & aren’t presenting all the awards."

Filmmaker Ashwini Chaudhary, who has directed films like Laddoo, Dhoop and Jodi Breakers, termed this day as a dark day in the history of National Film Awards. "The Indian Film Industry should come out in open and take a stand against the humilation of National Film Awardees who are going to skip the award ceremony today. Dark day in the history of #NationalFilmAwards," he wrote on Twitter.

Speaking to, Kaushik Ganguly, whose Bengali-language film Nagarkirtan won four awards, including Special Jury Award (Feature Film), National Film Award for Best Actor (Riddhi Sen), Best Costume Design (Gobinda Mandal), Best Make-up Artist (Ram Rajjak), said, "It’s quite unfortunate. They (the government) must not forget that they are national award winners, they are the best in the country. And if the President doesn’t have time for them and he can’t spare two hours on a prefixed date, it’s pretty unfortunate. Secondly, the moment you ask a minister to hand over an award it becomes political. Cabinet minister belongs to a party or a government. Only the president and vice president are above everything." While the filmmaker will not be attending the ceremony, he said, "Riddhi will be going because his category is under control, so he’ll be there. But we won’t be taking our award."

A filmmaker said on the condition of anonymity that this is a very difficult decision. "For now, we all have not yet decided anything. But we might go there and see what can be done. This is a very difficult decision. I also invited my film’s team members and they are also very disappointed. I’m in touch with many winners. Some of them are going while others have decided to skip it. It’s extremely disappointing for artistes like us who are very new to this industry. The worst thing is that we don’t even know what exactly is happening. Nobody is informing us anything. Honestly, it will be a momentary decision, to be made at the time of the ceremony. Right now I can’t really say anything because this is not for today, it’s more about how we’re going to take it for tomorrow. This is very difficult for me. But yes, we are just keeping up our spirits right now."

Director N R Nanjunde Gowda, whose film Hebbettu Ramakka was named best Kannada film, said it was breaking convention. "We all represent different parts of the country and it is an honour that we receive at the hands of the president. They are not called the President's National Awards for no reason. If not the president, then at least the vice president should give away the remaining awards not the ministers," Gowda said.

In an open letter, addressed to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, several artistes said they were informed about the change in the schedule on Wednesday by Chaitanya Prasad, additional director general of the Directorate of Film Festivals. The invite given to them clearly states that the winners will receive the award from the president himself.

The artists expressed their displeasure and said they were disheartened. The said they "felt dejected rather than honoured" on being informed at the last minute about the change.

"It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy," read the letter, signed by more than 70 filmmakers and artistes from across the country.

The signatories include noted singer K J Yesudas, who was won the best playback singer, Bengali filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly, whose film Nagarkirtan has been named the best Bengali film and best-supporting actor winner Fahadh Faasil.

"We request that the dignity and eminence of this award is maintained and that there is no display of hierarchy at the event. We are disappointed to know that the Hon'ble President will be presenting the Award to just 11 Awardees and not the remaining of about 120 of us," read the letter.

The artistes also said they had discussed the matter with Irani last evening and were promised a reply but haven't heard anything from her yet. "In the circumstances of not receiving a response for our grievance we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award but are not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent and are awaiting a more just solution," they said in the letter.

(With inputs from PTI)

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