'The National Award is our nation's highest recognition, being recognised at the President's hand is our privilege, our honour and our dream.'
'The nation's sentiment got left out in the choices that were made yesterday...'
A day after the fiasco at the National Film Awards ceremony at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, Bengali Director Kaushik Ganguly is still smarting.
Ganguly, whose film Nagarkirtan won the Best Actor Award for Riddhi Sen, Best Costume Award for Gobindo Mondol, Best Makeup Artist Award for Ram Rajak and the Special Jury Award, feels let down on behalf of his team.
"We were waiting in the lobby, all dressed up and excited about our film being honoured. Why weren't we informed about the President's inability to personally give away the awards to all of us?" he asks Subhash K Jha.
"You can't invite us for the President's awards and then inform us that the President is not able to give them away," Ganguly says.
"Winning the National Award is a great achievement, and to receive it from the hands of the President of India is the other part of the happiness the winners experience. We were robbed of that happiness," he adds.
Ganguly feels the National Awards were politicised when they were given away by Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani.
"If not the President, the awards should have been given by the vice-president," Ganguly says.
"These positions are beyond politics. But the moment you bring the minister of information and broadcasting into the picture, you are politicising the National Film Awards. And that is a very disturbing thing to do," he says.
The discrimination was worse.
"To say the President would be available to give away a handful of the awards and not the rest is just not done. I'd have been less unhappy if Smriti Irani was asked to give away all the awards," says Ganguly.
"But to have the President's consent to give away some of the awards personally and not the rest is not acceptable on any level," he says.
"The President has been an integral part of the National Awards functions," the director points out. "Every President has stood there for three hours, personally giving the award to every winner."
"Look at the last President, Pranab Mukherjee. He would get tired standing, his feet and hands would hurt. He would take a break and continue giving out the awards to the recipients right to the end. That is what I've witnessed at all the National Awards I've attended. That is the protocol."
Would he boycott the National Awards from now on?
"Certainly not," he replies. "I have nothing against the National Awards just because of this one incident. But the next time, I'd like to be told beforehand whom to expect the award from."
Many recipients of the prestigious awards, who had earlier decided to boycott the function, finally did attend.
"Pankaj Tripathiji and Newton Director Amit Masurkar attended and happily took their award from Smriti Irani," says a winner. "But about 65 winners stayed away."
Among those who stayed away was actress Parvathy T K who won a Special Jury Award for the Malayalam film, Take Of..
Oscar-winning Sound Designer Resul Pookutty expressed the outrage of the technical community in Indian cinema.
"The President mentioned in his speech at the National Awards ceremony that 'it is indeed a special moment for each of the 125 Award winners.' I do not know if it was special for all of them, but I am sure it was special for some," says Pookutty.
"The President also mentioned that there are 200,000 people directly and many more indirectly working in the film industry. Yes, that is true. Most of the people, who abstained from the ceremony, consists of the majority of that 200,000," adds Pookutty.
"They are the work force. They work behind the camera, carry heavy lights, heavy equipment, swing booms, push trolleys... they work more than 18 hours a day!"
"It is their sweat that earns every state government its entertainment tax. UP charges the highest -- 60 percent, in addition to GST of 18 percent -- though we are strictly not a service industry. So in effect, we are the highest taxed industry," explains the Oscar winner.
"When the President's office gave time to hand over the awards to only 11 members out of 125, those smallest people in the whole spectrum got sidelined. Their aspirations and ambition got crushed."
"The President mentioned in the speech that India-based films been successful, and that's why foreign studios are coming in. We must encourage every opportunity to celebrate our values, but the real people, who put India on the international map of world cinema, is this technical force," says Pookutty.
"Starting with V Shantaram, who got recognised for Best Sound at Cannes in the early 1950s or Bhanu Athaiya who brought the first competitive Oscar to India or Santosh Sivan, who got recognised by the American Society Of Cinematographers or yours truly who got Asia's first technical Oscar for Sound," says Pookutty, "many more such exemplary examples exist in our filmi conscience."
"When your good office chose the last 11 from the list of 125, it is these extraordinary small people who got left out in their national recognition."
"We learned from the news that the President was too busy and could not have allowed more than one hour. We could have been called back on another day. We would have come back on our own expenditure, in trains or buses, stayed in the cheapest lodges..." says Pookutty.
"We felt bad because when your good office chose from the bottom of the list, the stars and star elements got picked up! Those 11 people could have been the young and first-time awardees. We would have clapped in joy at your choice..."
"We felt bad because the people who got left out were those raw people, the technicians, who are always called first in every award ceremony and edited out in every TV show."
"Stars don't care for us, business doesn't care for us. We thought our nation would care for us. The National Award is our nation's highest recognition, being recognised at the President's hand is our privilege, our honour and our dream," says Pookutty.
"But I felt the nation's sentiment got left out in the choices that were made yesterday, for its the technicians who always get the raw deal."