A file image of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind | Facebook
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Awardees were informed one day before the ceremony that President Kovind can only attend for an hour, and will not present all the awards personally.

New Delhi: Many of the 140 National Film Award winners are contemplating skipping the prestigious ceremony scheduled for Thursday evening, as President Ram Nath Kovind has conveyed that he will attend the ceremony for just an hour.

Given the paucity of time, he will not be able to personally hand over more than 11 awards. This has not gone down well with the awardees, whose protests are causing some embarrassment to the government.

The winners were informed about the President’s decision Wednesday evening, during the final rehearsals at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

Ashok Malik, press secretary to the President, said since Kovind assumed office in July 2017, all award ceremonies he had attended had lasted an hour or less. “In all the award ceremonies he has attended, he gives away major awards, and takes photographs with all awardees. That has been the standard practice, which has been conveyed to the organisers well in advance,” he told ThePrint.

Malik added that in certain award ceremonies, there are hundreds of winners, and it is not possible to individually hand over awards to all of them. However, at last year’s ceremony, President Pranab Mukherjee had personally handed over all the National Film Awards.

‘Disrespectful organisers’

One of the awardees, a filmmaker, told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that all the awardees had unanimously protested against the decision Wednesday evening, after which information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani had to apparently personally try and pacify them.

“It was extremely disrespectful on the part of the organisers to treat the awardees this way. We were informed that we would receive the awards from the President himself, and we have brought our family members with us for the ceremony. But it was only this evening that we were told that only 11 awardees will receive them directly from the President,” the filmmaker said, adding that either all the winners should get their awards directly from the President, or none of them.

Another filmmaker said: “We have been told that our grievances will be conveyed to the office of the President. We don’t know what to expect. We can take a final call on what has to be done only Thursday morning, based on what we are told by the administration.”

The filmmakers, however, clarified that skipping the award ceremony wouldn’t mean refusing the award.

“We are disheartened about the kind of disrespect being shown to us. But contemplating skipping the ceremony does not mean refusing the award in any way,” one of the filmmakers quoted above said.

The National Film Awards, started in 1954, are India’s most prestigious. Awards are given away in several film categories such as best feature film (fiction and non-fiction), direction, acting, cinematography, screenplay, among others.

This is the 65th edition of the awards. The jury was headed by director Shekhar Kapur, and included leading lights of cinema like screenwriter Imtiaz Hussain, lyricist Mehboob, actor Gautami Tadimalla, director P. Sheshadri, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Ranjit Das, Rajesh Mapuskar, Tripurari Sharma, and Rumi Jaffrey.

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