There seems to be no end to controversies surrounding awards in Mollywood. After the war of words over the State film awards that was declared recently, now it is the turn of the National Film Awards to spark a row. Like every year, the announcement of the awards has triggered some debate, some cynicism, after many of the State award winners were ignored at the national level and vice versa.
In an interview to Onmanorama, director Mohan, the State film awards jury chairman, speaks of the fresh bout of controversies:
What could be the reason for the big differences in the choices made by the two juries?
Charlie missed out on awards at the national level only because it was not submitted to the selection committee. I have learnt that both Mammootty and Jayasurya were in the race for the award for the best actor. It is not surprising that most of the nominees for this award have the potential to win it. It has always been a tough fight for that coveted prize. In fact, the vernacular media tend to use the term ‘very close fight’ in order to highlight the performance of the contestant from the home State. If Charlie was one of the entries from the State, we might have heard that Dulquer Salmaan competed with Amithab Bachchan in the final round. All the nine State jury members will vouch for it.
Through the character Charlie, Dulquer could bring a distinctive style of acting to the screen. He gave a subtle and restrained performance in that movie. It had shades of many characters played by legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor. Deservingly, Charlie swept the State awards by bagging honours for script, direction, art direction, cinematography and art direction. It could have won many awards at the national level as well. The movie and its theme was treated in such a realistic manner.
What is your opinion on the decision to pick Baahuhali for the best movie award?
If there was an award for the movie with best graphics, Baahubali deserved it. The decision to give the award for the best film to S S Rajamouli’s fiction drama reflected the quality of the jury. However, I do not believe there was any kind of political pressure on the jury to honour Baahubali and Bajirao Mastani. I had been a part of many selection committees in the past and I cannot recount a single instance of political interference in the selection process. And if there is something that differentiates the national award from the state award, it is the quality of selection committees. I am not sure whether national award jury chairman Ramesh Sippy knows anything about Malayalam films. Has he directed any good movie after Sholay?
Jayasurya has reacted emotionally after winning the national award. What is your take on that?
Both at the national and State awards he received a Special Jury Mention. But the recognition from his home State did not make him happy. After the declaration of the national award he rang me up and spoke disdainfully. In a sarcastic tone, he told me that he knew only acting and he was not an expert in paying bribes to get awards. He made some other scathing remarks hinting that not only money but some other things were also used to ‘tempt’ the jury members. Like winning awards, being a jury member is also a big recognition for an artiste. To indulge in malpractices, every member in a panel needs to be lured. I don’t think anybody will do something like that putting their honesty and integrity at stake. It is not a good habit to talk indiscreetly when you do not win awards.
Of course, the award was given to him in recognition of his performance. But he does not think that both state and national awards of equal value. The Kerala State award has a value of its own at the national level.
Why did the State jury ignore Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal?
Let me tell you one thing. My movie such as Theertham and Mangalam Nerunnu lost the award in the final round. But instead of cribbing about my loss, I chose to laud the winners. My films were overlooked due to certain criteria that were in place during that time. Malayalam awards do not follow any such guidelines. The same goes for the movie Amoeba. That movie which depicted the heart-wrenching story of endosulfan victims left me shattered. Only after watching it I realised the magnitude of the issue. But, unfortunately, that movie failed to bag any award.
On the other hand, Valiya Chirakulla Pakishakal cannot be considered as a feature film or documentary. I felt its structure was that of a news coverage. I think either the jury members did not have deep knowledge of the issue or they failed to relate to it. Also, a detailed discussion might not have taken place in the committee ahead of its selection.