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2 months after polls, National Film Awards still not on Modi govt to-do list, no date yet

The jury for 66th National Film Awards has still not decided on the final list of winners.

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New Delhi: Over two months after it was scheduled to be held, the 66th National Film Awards seems to have slipped down the priority list of the Modi government.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry planned to organise the awards ceremony soon after the Lok Sabha elections were completed on 19 May. However, top sources said the ministry is yet to decide on a date.

The ceremony may be held after the Parliament session, but no date has been fixed as of now, said a senior government official who didn’t wish to be named.

Since 2012, the National Film Awards has been held on 3 May every year to commemorate the release of the first Indian feature film, Raja Harishchandra.

However, in a first, the award ceremony was postponed this year by the I&B ministry until after the general elections to avoid controversies in view of several factors, including a politically-divided film industry, increase in political biopics and an uncertainty over President Ram Nath Kovind’s presence at the ceremony.

In 2014, the awards ceremony was held on 3 May though the general elections were approaching.

ThePrint reached the I&B ministry for a comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report. This report will be updated once the ministry responds.

Also read: I&B ministry internal note blames senior IIS official for 2018 national film awards mess

Final list not ready yet

A source in the 66th National Film Awards jury told ThePrint that the screening of films has been completed by the jury, but it is yet to decide on the final list of winners.

The jury members will have to meet a few times to deliberate and decide on the final list of winners. Even at the earliest, it is likely to take at least a month to prepare for the ceremony, said the source.

“Only after the jury comes out with the final list will the winners be announced in a press conference, post which the awards ceremony will be held,” said the source, adding that a decision could be arrived at next week.

Around 145 awards across various categories are given out at the National Film Awards, and the winners are usually announced by the end of April. The winners are honoured by the President. The ceremony is organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), a media unit under the I&B ministry.

Another issue to be resolved

In a departure from tradition, the I&B ministry was earlier toying with the idea of inviting Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu to give away all the awards at the ceremony this year.

A decision to this effect is also pending, said the ministry official quoted above.

The suggestion came up after President Ram Nath Kovind conveyed his inability to attend the full ceremony and present all the awards.

The awards ceremony got embroiled in a controversy last year after awardees came to know at the last moment that President Kovind would hand over the awards to only 11 recipients. Several awardees had boycotted the event in protest.

In 2012, then vice president Hamid Ansari had presented the awards to the winners, but they were informed about this in advance.

Government influence on awards

The National Film Awards is considered the most coveted for films in India, but is not exactly free of government influence.

For instance, the jury regulations for the awards state that the jury would make the recommendations for the awards, which would have to be then approved by the I&B ministry.

The “decision of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall be final and binding and no appeal or correspondence regarding their decision shall be entertained”, says the rule.

In the last couple of decades, Bengali and Malayalam films have dominated the awards, apart from Hindi ones. However, Hindi films have won the most number of awards in the best actor and actress categories. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, a lifetime achievement award given out as part of the annual ceremony, has also seen a Bollywood monopoly.

Also read: Why National Film Awards were delayed — spurt in politician biopics, divided industry


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