National awards row: I&B ministry was informed weeks ago, says Rashtrapati Bhavan

Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind

After the President's exit, most of the awards are handed over by the I&B Minister Smriti Irani, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Narendra Kumar Sinha. Therefore, he shares the distress of the National Film Award winners who boycotted the function due to the limited presence of President Ram Nath Kovind.

In an open letter earlier in the day, marked to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, over 70 artistes said they had chose to give the ceremony a miss as they "felt dejected rather than honoured" on being informed at the last minute that the president would give away only 11 awards. Other award winners were honoured by Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting minister.

The name plates of the absentee winners were placed facing down at the Vigyan Bhawan, where several others from across the length and breadth of the country congregated to celebrate the diversity of India and Indian cinema. Apart from Pankaj Tripathi, music maestro AR Rahman won two awards and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion won three awards.

While the attendees were informed of the change in the ceremony only the day before, Ashok Malik, press secretary to the president, said the ministry was informed of the president's new protocol in advance.

It is hard to say who is to blame more, the President's office or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that organised the awards function, but there is no doubt that amends need to be made.

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National Film Award presented by the union government is the highest award that honours excellence in the field of filmmaking. While it is understandable that the award recipients were disappointed at not being felicitated by the President himself, boycotting the ceremony was unwarranted. Boney Kapoor, Sridevi's husband, and Kavita Khanna and Akshaye Khanna, wife and son of Vinod Khanna, received the awards.

There is doubtlessly a certain halo attached to receiving an award from the President which is undeniable.

"But to have the President's consent to give away some awards personally and not the rest is just not acceptable". Discrimination is very humiliating. "It's like artistes have been categorized into A and B", said the director. Taking to Facebook, he asked why should someone who makes films for awards refuse to receive it if it's not being handed over by any particular person. The Hon. President also mentioned that there are two lakh people directly and many more indirectly working in the film industry.

However Riddhi is quick to point out that being selected for a National award is an honour in itself.

Censor board chief Prasoon Joshi felt the boycott by artistes was not in the right spirit. Or just say, the President had health issues or issues that pertain to the country. "This does not mean that we are rejecting the awards".

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