63rd National Film Awards: How mainstream Bollywood undeservedly overshadowed regional cinema

63rd National Film Awards, Winners, Amitabh Bachchan for Piku, Kangana Ranaut for Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Baahubali
Image Courtesy: The Indian Express
The 63rd National Film Awards, conducted by Directorate of Film Festivals, have come as a rude shock for many. The domination of mainstream Bollywood, riding high on commercial escapism, over regional films is alarming and has once again raised  serious questions regarding the credibility of these awards. Take, for example, Kangana Ranaut's National Award win for Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Her role of a Haryanavi athlete has comic undertones and has little relevance to life and Indian society at large. If anything, it ends up ridiculing the people of a particular state. Also, in terms of acting, it is a touch above average. The eminent jury presiding over the National Awards is expected to take different aspects of a performance into consideration while reaching their final verdict. Acting is just one of the many parameters. If acting alone had been the judging parameter then Amjad Khan and Ashutosh Rana would have won National Awards for Sholay and Sangharsh, respectively. As a matter of fact, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Kangana's Haryanavi character are culprits of ridiculing not only the people of a state in particular but also femininity in its essence. The movie and the role ultimately end up advocating the outright rejection of a girl athlete simply based on her physical appearance. The movie tries to make us laugh through ridicule and cheap gimmicks. While we may overlook it in the name of escapism, as a work of cinematic art, its treatment of women is quite disappointing.     
Also, in the view of this critic, Amitabh Bachchan's performance in Shamitabh was far superior in comparison to Piku. Not to mention so many worthy performances in regional and indie films. But, unfortunately, the jury seems to have given more weightage to performances based on their commercial success rather than cinematic brilliance. However, it doesn't get any worse than Baahubali winning the National Award for the Best film or Sanjay Leela Bhansali winning it for the Best Director (for Bajirao Mastani). And we thought the Oscars were full of howlers! It is interesting to note the National Award for Best popular film went to Bajrangi Bhaijaan while the National Award for Best film went to Baahubali. Now, it is difficult to understand how Bajrangi Bhaijaan can qualify as a popular film but not Baahubali? Clearly both the films are out and out commercial. But, Bajrangi Bhaijaan undoubtedly has greater socio-cultural and political relevance. Baahubali, on the other hand, has greater cinematic relevance as far as the technical aspects of filmmaking are concerned. But is Baahubali a better film than Sankhachil or Cinemawallah?

National Awards need to differentiate themselves from Filmfare and other popular awards. They need to have a more balanced criteria. What good is a film if it has little socio-cultural and cinematic relevance? The same is true for an acting performance. Kangana's performance doesn't end up elevating the people of Haryana. Does it? It is little more than tongue-in-cheek entertainment. This year we had so many brilliant regional movies (and performances) that certainly deserved to get more recognition at the national level. Also, Bollywood's new age cinema too offered so many promising films. But, it is a great pity that the jury headed by Ramesh Sippy chose to shower all its praise on mainstream Bollywood.

This critic's biggest concern is that if critically acclaimed, regionally made arthouse films fail to get the due recognition even at the National Awards then how will the regional Indian cinema thrive?

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your insightful comments are highly appreciated!

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  1. Amitabh has been my favorite actor since I was a kid but Piku was certainly not a National Award performance!
    And Bahubali - the best film, are you serious???

  2. I am equally disappointed, I must say!

  3. I just saw the movie yesterday. How can a super hero movie be so bad ?What a letdown!

  4. A thouht provoking post.Let's hope this trend is not repeated in the years to come...

  5. Glad you liked it... I too hope it doesn't!


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