Actor-filmmaker Satish Kaushik, who headed the jury for the 63rd National Awards, says this was one of the best years in the life of Indian cinema so far.
"There were so many outstanding films from all across the country in different languages. In Marathi, for example, we had a tough time choosing the best film. We finally chose Makarand Mane’s Ringan," he says.
But it was Bollywood that dominated this year’s National awards.
"Why not?" he asks. "The jury is being questioned for giving so much prominence to Hindi cinema this time but the National awards are supposed to honour excellence, not regionalism. We felt Hindi films were truly at the peak of creativity. This has been one of the best years for Hindi cinema."
Satish admits it was tough deciding the Best Director between Sanjay Leela Bhansali and SS Rajamouli.
"It was a tough call. Baahubali and Bajirao Mastani were neck-to-neck but Bhansali had an edge. His end-product was superior to Rajamouli’s film. Baahubali is no doubt an epic achievement, and it is the first Indian film to put our cinema at par with Hollywood. But we felt in terms of detailing, drawing out etched performances from each actor and the sheer breadth of the images and emotions, Bajirao Mastani had an edge.”
Apparently, there were rumblings of discontent about honouring Amitabh Bachchan yet again with the National award for Best Actor.
But Satish Kaushik and the majority of jury held their ground. "Just because he has received awards for 40 years, there is no reason to honour him? One can’t put a full stop on excellence. The National award jury felt that Mr Bachchan’s portrayal in Piku -- of the irritable Bengali gentleman -- was unique and exceptional. We had to honour him."
As for Kangana Ranaut’s National award for Best Actress, Satish says, "Her portrayal of the Haryanvi hockey player Datto in Tanu Weds Manu Returns has become an inspiration for thousands of Indian girls from small towns who are not sophisticated and savvy but have a dream. Her performance epitomizes that dream."
"We have honoured Kalki (Koechlin) in Margarita, With A Straw for the same reason. Her performance is inspiring. As for those who are saying that Ramesh Sippy and I have favoured Bollywood, I have only one thing to say: We have favoured excellence, not geography."