Was Amitabh Bachchan’s Name Unduly Pushed for the National Award? 

Was politics at play at the recently announced National Film Awards? Find out

5 min read
Amitabh Bachchan in <i>Piku</i>

So was Amitabh Bachchan’s name unduly pushed for the recently announced National Award for Best Actor? Was there more than just films and talent at play when it came to deciding who deserved to get national honour at the 63rd National Film Awards? Well, a popular independent blog seems to suggest so.

The blog begins by commenting:

Since we strongly believe that any award always say more about the jury and less about the film, we had to figure out this jury panel which went with Baahubali as the Best Film. A decision which was criticised strongly by many. In an era when most prestigious film awards brag about their strong jury, two desi jury panels are still kept as a secret – National Film Awards and the jury which selects India’s entry to Oscar Foreign Language Film. Strange. Why? We are scared of being answerable for making bad choices?
Filmmaker Ramesh Sippy at the press conference to announce the 63rd National Film Awards (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Filmmaker Ramesh Sippy at the press conference to announce the 63rd National Film Awards (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

It then goes on to explain in detail how exactly the process of selection by the various jury members works.

What’s most interesting is that as per the blog, an insider (a jury member from the South panel, to be more precise) has revealed how several final selections and rejections for the National Film Awards were made on certain whims and prejudices of the top panelists.

While the blog does not take names, the clues are more than indicative of who exactly is being talked about. Here’s what the blog reveals and who we think is actually being talked about:

Revelation 1:

“In one of the acting category, the final choice that was made was not even recommended by any of the panel. The choices that were given was discarded by the Jury Chairman and he proposed a new name, and strongly struck to it. The chairman discarded one of the proposed names (who is easily one of country’s best actor) saying he is not in lead role in the film. When one of the members pointed out that by the same logic, the name that he is proposing is also not in lead role, the argument was dismissed blatantly.”

Our Guess:

Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in <i>Piku</i>
Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in Piku

This seems to suggest that Ramesh Sippy proposed Amitabh Bachchan’s name for Piku out of the blue, without it having come from any panel. The chairman also seems to have rejected Irrfan Khan’s name which was proposed for Best Actor, for the same film. Sippy’s argument was that Irrfan wasn’t the lead in Piku, but the argument that neither was Bachchan the lead in the film seems to have been dismissed.

Revelation 2:

“A film which got unanimous rave reviews (nationally and internationally) when it released, had got strong recommendation in 4 categories (debut, screenplay, best supporting and special jury). But none of them were considered. There was an unwritten rule that nothing will go to this film as one of the producers of the film had made headlines when he returned his previous National Award.”

Our Guess:

Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi in <i>Titli</i>
Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi in Titli

This probably indicates that Kanu Behl’s Titli was in contention in 4 categories, but since the film’s co-producer Dibakar Banerjee belonged to the group of filmmakers who had returned their Awards in protest against the government, the film was rejected.

Revelation 3:

“Another film which had a great production design (for its period setting) and was close contender for best production design as it was strongly recommended by the first panel,  it was also dismissed because of same reason – the director was part of #awardwapsi gang.”

Our Guess:

Sushant Singh Rajput in <i>Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!</i>
Sushant Singh Rajput in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

Strike two for Dibakar for taking a stand against the government and returning his National Award. Though the film was a critical and commercial failure, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! did have great production design.

Revelation 4:

“An actress was in running for Special Jury Award for an unreleased film. But since she had voiced her opinion strongly about a recent news event, and had even written about it, her name was quickly dropped.”

Our Guess:

Swara Bhaskar and Ratna Pathak Shah in <i>Nil Battey Sannata</i>
Swara Bhaskar and Ratna Pathak Shah in Nil Battey Sannata

This indicates that actress Swara Bhaskar was in contention for a Special Jury Award for her unreleased film Nil Battey Sannata, but since she strongly wrote in support of JNU student Umar Khaled, her name seems to have been rejected.

Revelation 5:

“A major talent who is not really pro government, has bagged an award this year. The jury member said there was no chance that he was going to win. Luckily, there was hardly any good submission in the category. And his work was exemplary in that category. So they had no choice but to award him. Last time when his film bagged few awards, his name was put in the “to be watched” list.”

Our Guess:

Vishal Bhardwaj with team <i>Talvar </i>at a promotional event
Vishal Bhardwaj with team Talvar at a promotional event

This hints that Vishal Bhardwaj got lucky in bagging the Best Screenplay Writer (Adpated) for Talvar only because there was no competition in the category.

If these revelations made by the ‘insider’, who is no less than a jury member from the panel which chose the winners of the 63rd National Awards are indeed true, then the selection this year too is quite controversial, putting the spotlight back on the politics at play behind such state-sponsored honours.

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