The 64th National Award has brought the entire debate of impartiality to the forefront once again. While films like Dangal, Aligarh, Marathi film Natsamrat and Udta Punjab have been given a complete miss, stellar performances like that of Manoj Bajpayee (Aligarh), Amitabh Bachchan (Pink), Irrfan Khan (Madaari), Nana Patekar (Natsamrat) and Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab) too find no recognition anywhere in the winners’ list. In fact, the Best Actor win for Akshay Kumar for his performance in Rustom puts a big question mark on the honesty of ‘honourable’ National Awards.
Dangal, by all means, emerged out as the most successful Indian film released last year. Not just in terms of its commercial success, the film went on to garner every kind of critical acclaim possible. Starting from talking about gender equality, encouraging sports, highlighting father-daughter relationship and offering a brilliant performance-oriented story, the film had everything praise-worthy. Yet, how the National Award jury decided to recognise it was by giving the Best Supporting Actress award to Zaira Wasim for her performance as the young Geeta Phogat in the film. The young girl, who was surrounded by controversies recently for political reasons has beaten the likes of Rishi Kapoor (Kapoor & Sons), Rajkumar Rao (Aligarh), Diljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab) and Kriti Kulhari (Pink).
The decision that, however, seems like the biggest goof-up of them all is (a) presenting the Best Actor award to Akshay Kumar and (b) presenting it for his performance in Rustom. Clearly, the film wasn’t received very well by both the audiences and the critics alike. In fact, his performance in Airlift which released in January, last year was considered far better than any of his on screen performances in his 20 years of film career. What Akshay’s winning for Rustom has done more than anything else is to diffuse the happiness of him winning a National Award for the first time. Not taking away the credit of the terrific performer that he is, but this time, Indian cinema definitely offered some good performances which, of course, even by the level of frame-to-frame comparison, were far better than Akshay’s in any of his three films — Airlift, Rustom and Housefull 3.
A National Award signifies the value and the honour government has decided to give to the film industry. Any award, for that matter, helps trigger immense motivation and also help artistes to perform better than they have been so far. Dangal was being made for an year. Aamir Khan had to put his health to a great risk to transform his body to play the character of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat on screen. Shahid Kapoor played the role of a drug-addict pop star Tommy Singh in Udta Punjab. Needless to mention the character took a great toll on him emotionally considering he had never been under the influence of any substance. Mr. Bachchan, who played a lawyer in Pink, took the film to new heights with his strong performance. And there can’t be any reason to justify why Manoj Bajpayee couldn’t even get a nomination for probably the best performance of his career in Aligarh.
This may or may not be because of political affiliations and politically vested interests, but what suffers the most is the art of cinema and creativity. Otherwise there could be no possible reasons to justify why a film that talks of drug menace in an Indian state or deals with the concept of homosexuality unlike any other Hindi film ever has, gets no recognition at any level by our National Award jury.
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