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|April 4, 2001||
'I don't want a consolation award!'
Rifat Jawaid in Calcutta
Eminent Bengali film actor Soumitra Chatterjee lashed out at the National Film Awards jurors for what he felt was choosing 'unworthy' actors for the prestigious awards.
The thespian of Tollywood addressed a crowded news conference along with noted film director Gautam Ghose at Calcutta Press Club Tuesday evening.
Chatterjee said that he felt “extremely insulted” over being awarded the Special Jury Award for his role of a blind poet in Ghose’s film Dekha.
“The awards have lost credibility over the years. They had conferred the same award for my performance in Wheel Chair some years ago. I had refused to accept it on the same grounds.
“It is humiliating to receive a consolation recognition when I have been acting in Bengali films for the last 42 years. They never noticed my work in all those Satyajit Ray films, for example, which were highly acclaimed by critics.
“Some like Ekti Jeebon are of great significance to me even today. But look at what they did. They chose to appease me by giving a consolation award yet again!” a visibly enraged Chatterjee remarked.
He emphasised the need to revamp the existing system of the National Film Festivals which, according to him, is in complete disarray thanks to some “corrupt elements and vested interests.”
Coming down heavily on the Bombay Film industry’s clout in the selection process during the National Film Festivals, Chatterjee said that cinema would lose its glory if the corrupt practices didn't stop immediately.
As to whether this year’s awards had the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS link, Chatterjee was cautious to reply. He, however, quickly added, “Going by the many yes men in the jury, I suspect that the Central Government must have influenced the entire process.
“I fail to understand why four of the jury members had no cinema background. This would naturally give rise to suspicion.”
Chatterjee made it clear that he would not hesitate to turn down offers to head film juries in future, if “the system continues to be plagued by nepotism and lobbying.”
He confirmed that many actors and filmmakers in Kerala had extended their support to both him and Ghose.
Ghose, on his part, claimed that he was ready to despatch a letter to President K R Narayanan, justifying why he rejected the National Award. He stated unequivocally that he would not recommend his films for National Film Festivals in future.
“If the same trend prevails, I am afraid I will ask my producers not to recommend my films for the National Film Festivals,” Ghose announced.
Ghose lamented that there was no unison in the film industry which, according to him, was grappling with “severe infighting.”
He also said that the people in Indian film industry needed to lodge token protests against the fraudulent corrupt practices in conferring the National Awards.
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