National Film Awards Row: Over 60 Awardees Threaten to Skip Event Today

Artistes upset at being informed at the nth hour that only 11 of the prestigious awards will be presented by President Ram Nath Kovind, the rest by I&B minister Smriti Irani.

New Delhi: Over 60 recipients of the prestigious National Film Awards are planning to skip the event on Thursday evening, citing disappointment that only 11 awards will be presented by President Ram Nath Kovind and being informed of it only a day before the event. In a major departure from tradition, the rest of the awards will be presented by information and broadcasting minister Smriti Z Irani, who has been part of Hindi television serials before plunging into politics.

In a letter addressed to the Directorate of Film Festivals, Office of the President of India and the I&B Ministry, the 60 awardees, cutting across regions, said they were “disheartened” on being “informed at the last minute that the President will present only 11 awards.”

“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,” the letter read,  PTI reported.

The artistes, many of whom have already arrived in Delhi for the function, said they had discussed the matter with Irani on Wednesday evening and were promised a reply. “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.

Copy of the letter written by National Film Award winners. Credit: Twitter

Rashtrapati Bhavan, too, seems to have been taken by surprise by the break in tradition and the President’s role being cut in the award-giving ceremony.

The President’s office said he attends all award functions 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,” NDTV quoted Ashok Malik, press secretary to the president.

Terming the decision as a “breach of trust”, the artistes said the awards were considered “most pristine and unbiased” and that they failed to understand why “65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.”

“We as filmmakers and artists put in all that we have and tenaciously stick to our dreams in a field of work where appreciation does not come easily. We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once in a lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us.”, said the letter.

Marathi film director Prasad Oak, who has been awarded for the best film in Marathi, told NDTV that: “I believe this is disrespect of my art, he should have informed us earlier. This is happening for the first time in history.”

Prasad Devineni, the producer of the film Baahubali, said: “At least they should have told the awardees before as sentiments are involved not that we want to insult the awards…If an award is an award, you can send it by post.”

The 65th National Film Awards were announced on April 13 by the I&B ministry.

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