National Film Awards 2018: Ram Nath Kovind to present only 11 honours; awardees may boycott ceremony

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Controversy erupted over the 65th National Film Awards just a day before the ceremony after the awardees were told that not all of them would be receiving the awards by President Ram Nath Kovind. This led to calls of boycott by some of the awardees and has put Thursday’s ceremony under a shadow.

Mumbai Mirror reports that the awardees were informed of this development on Wednesday at the dress rehearsal for the ceremony. They were told that only 11 awards would be presented by Kovind while the rest would be handed over by Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Smriti Irani, Minister of State, I&B Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and the I&B ministry’s secretary Narendra Kumar Sinha. The President will arrive after most of the awards have been handed out, will present 11 awards, and then will have a photo-op with the winners in groups of 45.

This news agitated some of awardees which resulted in Irani rushing to the rehearsal venue and trying to placate the awardees, reported The Asian Age. “She told us she had offered to cut down on her speech so all could be awarded by the President within the time he had given for the function,” the awardees said to The Asian Age. The awardees insisted that they were not belittling the ministers but were unhappy about the division in ceremonies. They felt that either all awards should be handed out by the President or none at all.

Traditionally, all the National Film Awards are given out by the President. This tradition was followed in 2017 as well with then-president Pranab Mukherjee giving out all the awards personally. However, Kovind in his presidency, has followed the rule of not allotting more than one hour for any award ceremony. This was reiterated by his press secretary Ashok Malik who told The Print that, “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.”

Some of the agitators told The Print that they are considering skipping the ceremony. However, they clarified that this does not mean that they are refusing the award.

 The winners of the 65th National Film Awards were declared on 13 April by the jury headed by director Shekhar Kapur and a panel comprising screenwriter Imtiaz Hussain, lyricist Mehboob, South Indian actress Gautami Tadimalla, Kannada director P Sheshadri, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Ranjit Das, Rajesh Mapuskar, Tripurari Sharma and Rumi Jaffrey. The full list of winners includes Vinod Khanna, Sridevi, AR Rahman and Riddhi Sen among others.