Think film awards and you automatically assume glitz, glam, big stars, pretty gowns and rich sponsors. However, a small Facebook community of film buffs decided to change this by setting up an award that recognises true talent - minus the razzle-dazzle.
Cinema Paradiso is an online community of movie buffs who discuss, critique, analyse and dissect films from all over the world, all in Malayalam. Over the years, as the community grew and got more active, they decided to recognise exceptional talent in the Malayalam film industry by setting up an award to increase the conversation around cinema.
The community, which has been organising the awards for the past two years now, says that it is probably one of the very few awards that is entirely democratic in its selection process.
"Our group has been existing for a few years now and over time, we have been getting popular with more and more discussions on cinema and related topics happening in the forum. Last year, we came up with the idea of an award to recognise talent in the Malayalam film industry. And what's most exciting is that the choice is completely left to the people," said Abhay Darwin, an adminstrator of the Facebook group.
Explaining the democratic process of selection, Hiran said that the preliminary nominations were left to the public to decide, after which the final awardees were jointly selected by the public and members of a jury consisting of film industry persons.
"We've built a website where we have listed all the nominees. There are about 85 nominees from categories such as best actors and best films. These will be filtered by public polls and the jury panel and finally, the awardees' list will be announced. Anybody can sign up on the site and vote for their favourites and the most popular choices will win the award," said Hiran Venugopalan, a member of Cinema Paradiso Club.
On why they chose to go for a democratic selection process without relying on an expert panel, Arun Ashok, another administrator of the group, said, "What's great about this is that the list then becomes so varied. In fact, this time Fahadh Faasil was the first choice for best actor for the film Thondimudalum Driksaakshiyum. And close behind him was Suraj Venjaramoodu for the same film. And both these actors come very different schools. But of course, we do have a panel of renowned persons from the film industry who also contribute to the selection process."
Arun says that the members of the community are aware that cinema is inextricably linked to the politics of the industry and do not attempt to dodge the many controversies that have hit the film industry in the recent past.
"We are not apolitical in our conversations and this does reflect in the awards. However, we do not ban films that have created controversies. We believe it is a platform for everybody. In fact, this year, actor Parvathy, who was deep in controversy for calling out the sexism in superstar Mammootty's Kasaba, happens to be the winner in the best actress category. And she was selected by the public," he added.
The Awards ceremony will be held on Febraury 18, at IMA house in Cochin, Ernankulam.