Amid Row, President Ram Nath Kovind Presents National Film Awards

The attendees were reportedly informed that the President would only be giving awards to 11 of them.

5 min read
The attendees were reportedly informed that the President would only be giving awards to 11 of them.

I&B Minister Smriti Irani presents the National Awards 2018

Posted by The Quint on Thursday, May 3, 2018

President Ram Nath Kovind presented the National Awards in 11 categories on Thursday, 3 May, amid controversy over his apparent snub.

Prior to Kovind, Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had given out the awards in the first phase of the ceremony.

Just hours before the ceremony, more than 70 recipients had conveyed their intention to not attend it on Thursday, a day after they were informed that President Ram Nath Kovind would be presenting only 11 awards.

In a letter written to Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, Directorate of Film Festival, along with the President’s office and the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, the recipients said they were “disheartened” and “disappointed” with the development.

It is only a day before the ceremony that we have learnt through Chaitanya Prasad that a large segment of the Awards will not be presented by the President of India. 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.
Recipients of National Film Awards, in a letter
Amid Row, President Ram Nath Kovind Presents National Film Awards
(Photo: The Quint)

The letter also stated that despite discussing the matter with I&B Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday and being promised of a reply, they were not given one. It had also clarified that while they were planning to be absent for the awards ceremony, they “do not intend to boycott the award”.

However, a few of the recipients who had signed the letter were seen attending the awards ceremony eventually.

‘Rashtrapati Bhavan Surprised by 11th Hour Questions’

Meanwhile, expressing "surprise" at the “11th hour questions”, Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement that the President attends all award functions for a maximum of one hour and this was conveyed to the I&B Ministry, reported PTI.

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.
Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the President

‘Breaking Convention’

Among the signatories to the letter were noted singer KJ Yesudas, named this year's best playback singer, Bengali filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly, whose film "Nagarkirtan" has been named the best Bengali film, and winner of the best supporting actor award, Fahadh Faasil.

Director NR Nanjunde Gowda, whose film "Hebbettu Ramakka" was named best Kannada film, said this was breaking convention.

We all represent different parts of the country and it is an honour that we receive (our awards) 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.
NR Nanjunde Gowda to PTI

Chaos at Rehearsal Ceremony on Wednesday

On Wednesday, there were reports of chaos at the rehearsal ceremony for the National Film Awards, arising out of the same issue.

Sridevi in a still from <i>Chandni</i>.
Sridevi in a still from Chandni.
(Photo Courtesy: Youtube/YRF Songs)
Pankaj Tripathi.
Pankaj Tripathi.
(Photo: PTI)

The Quint had learned that soon after everyone was seated for the rehearsal on Wednesday, Prasad proceeded to make some announcements. He said there was going to be some deviation from previous years and awards would be given out in two parts.

There was a confusing murmur but it was only when the schedule was distributed that realisation hit home. It was announced that President Kovind would be giving away only 11 awards, while the rest 100 odd awards would be distributed by Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

The awards are traditionally presented by the President of India. However, this year, the President reportedly had only an hour to spare for the ceremony.

Change of Plans at the Last Moment

For the past 64 years, it is the President who has always presented the National Awards. And this year too, the email sent out to the recipients clearly stated that the President would be giving away the awards.

People had flown in from various parts of the country (the film division takes care of the air travel and stay for the winners – their guests have to make their own arrangements) in the expectation that they will be awarded by the President.

While Prasad had failed to calm the tempers of the awardees on Wednesday, he had said that Irani would be coming in herself to pacify the attendees and keep them from boycotting the ceremony.

Most awardees had waited till the rehearsals were over to question the additional director general. Once Boney Kapoor and his daughters left the venue, several people asked Prasad why this decision had been taken.

Shortly after that, Irani reached the venue and told the attendees that the President’s office had given them just one hour for the ceremony and they had to make the best use of his time. She added that she is a mere minister and could not defy the constitutional authority of the President.

However, the minister had failed to answer the following questions: If the President’s office had made it clear he had little time for the awards, why were they conducted on the day they were? Why were the awardees not informed in time that they would not receive the award from President Kovind? Why were invites sent specifying the President’s name?

The Awardees

The 65th National Film Awards were announced on 13 April by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

While Vinod Khanna has been honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award posthumously, the late Sridevi has been awarded the Best Actress Award for her film Mom. Sridevi’s family, including daughters Khushi and Jhanvi, had flown down from Mumbai to collect the prestigious award.

In a breakthrough moment for Assamese cinema, Rima Das' directorial Village Rockstars was named the Best Feature Film.

11 Awards to be Presented by President

Here are the 11 awards which were presented by the President of India at the ceremony on Thursday, as per the programme.

  • Dadasaheb Phalke Award: Vinod Khanna
  • Best Actress: Sridevi, Mom
  • Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration: Dhappa (Marathi)
  • Best Book on Cinema: Matamgi Manipur – The First Manipuri Feature Film (English)
  • Best Direction: Nagraj Manjule, Pavasacha Nibandha
  • Best Jasari Film: Sinjar
  • Best Male Playback Singer: KJ Yesudas, “Poy Maranja Kalam” Viswasapoorvam Mansoor (Malayalam)
  • Best Music Direction (Songs): AR Rahman, Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil) + Best Music Direction (Background score): Mom
  • Best Actor: Riddhi Sen, Nagarkirtan (Bengali)
  • Best Direction: Jayaraj, Bhayanakam (Malayalam)
  • Best Feature Film: Village Rockstars (Assamese) + Best Editing: Village Rockstars

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