The contentious nature of the National Awards

Posted on April 14, 2018


Read the full article on Film Companion, here:

Musings on the country’s most prestigious film awards – and this is not about whether X deserved to win over Y.

Another year. Another set of arguments over the National Awards. For instance: Did Sridevi deserve Best Actress? Indeed, under normal circumstances, would her performance in ‘Mom’ even have been considered over, say, Parvathy’s in ‘Take Off’? I don’t have an answer, for the definition of “performance” depends on the type of film, and for the type of film Mom is, here’s what I felt about Sridevi’s performance: “Her star quality is undeniable. One part of me protested that this was too much of a performance, while another part marvelled at her control, the way she lets just a cheek quiver in indignation or allows her entire body to convulse with grief. Whatever it is, it’s unquestionably effective.”

But the definition of “type” is one of the many areas where the National Awards become contentious. This question comes up with the Oscars too: What “type” of film are you recognising? The Independent Spirit Awards are very clear that they are honouring films produced outside the major studio system, and this year’s nominees for Best Picture included Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, The Florida Project, Lady Bird and The Rider. But the Oscar’s Best Picture list included some of these films, along with behemoths like The Post and Dunkirk. Should the National Awards emulate the Independent Spirit Awards or the Oscars? Should a film like Baahubali (an excellent entertainer) compete alongside Village Rockstars (an excellent drama, whose Best Feature Film award is much-deserved)?

One argument would be that cinema is cinema, big or small, and that the only criterion should be: Does the film accomplish what it sets out to do? But one could also argue that a lot of these smaller films gain visibility only through the National Awards (though Village Rockstars has done very well in the festival circuit), and maybe there should be two categories of awards. Then again, where would you place something like the marvellous Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, which has a big star (Fahadh Faasil), but is also a “small” film, even though it is certainly a mainstream film?

Continued at the link above.

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