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The 65th National Awards ceremony held on 3 May 2018 at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi raised some eyebrows when 69 artists and filmmakers decided to walk out of the hall, boycotting the award function. Smriti Irani, who was to present the award, was greeted with a largely empty hall, whose absence was made even more apparent by the nameplates of the award recipients that marked their seats. The award recipients boycotted the award after they found at the last-minute that President Ram Nath Kovind would only present the award to 11 recipients out of a total of 140. Those who did receive the awards from the President included Boney Kapoor, who received the award on behalf of his late wife, Sridevi), Akshay Khanna,on behalf of the late Vinod Khanna and Bengali actor Riddhi Sen.This is the first time in history that a serving President has not been available to present the award. The group who staged the walk-out had written a letter the day before, which was read out by Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, Director of Film Festival. “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(sic) a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.” In response, the Rashtrapati Bhavan attempted to justify the change by issuing a statement that said, “The President attends the award functions and convocation maximum for one hour.” But it should not forgotten that one of the reasons why the national award is considered prestigious and important for the winners is because the award is given by the President of India and not by a random cabinet minister.
The Indian Cultural Forum spoke to multiple filmmakers about their decision to boycott of the 65th Nationl Award Ceremony. Here is what they had to say:
“65th National Film Award winners, including myself, have boycotted the function because this is an unprecedented situation. This has never happened before in the last 65 years where the President refuses to present the award. This is part of a larger political agenda to bypass the President’s power so that the country is under the control of a certain political party. Some of us have decided to take a stand. We refuse to receive the award from a BJP Minister, and boycott the award distribution ceremony.” Aneez K Mappila , Director, The Slave Genesis
“They are breaking a tradition of 65 years. We are not commercial filmmakers. They could have told us in advanced, then we would not have come here. President should present us the award. That is our right. It is a tradition that the President give the award. Its one his duties. It takes years to make a film. And it takes a minute for the President to present the award.” Meghnath, Filmmaker
“It is very important for us to protest. But we are not boycotting the award itself. In the letter we received, it was mentioned that the President of India will give away the award. If the President was not available, they should have mentioned it before hand that a Cabinet Minister will be presenting the awards on behalf of the President the awards will be given. There’s discrepancy in what the letter states and what actually happened. If they are saying that the President of India is giving away the award, then it should be him, not anyone else. We are very unhappy with this decision. We are not a union; we are a group of independent film makers who have been working in this field for years. Now we have decided to boycott the award function.” Teenaa Kaur, Director, When the Sun Didn’t Rise.
Read the full draft of the letter here:
Sreelakshmi is a member of the editorial collective of the Indian Writers' Forum.
Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum