At the venue of the National Film Awards ceremony at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, several chairs meant for the award winners lay empty on Thursday evening. The majority of the award winners from the Malayalam film industry stayed away from the event, after they were told that unlike earlier years, President Ram Nath Kovind will not present all the awards.
The National Film Awards were given away at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, but contrary to the traditions, the President distributed only 11 of the awards, while the rest of the awards were presented to the winners by I&B Minister Smriti Irani.
Upset with this decision, nearly 68 people skipped the award distribution ceremony. While Fahadh Faasil, who won the award for the Best Supporting Actor, left for Bengaluru even before the ceremony began, the others stayed back at the hotel and spoke to the media.
Saying that they were upset about the President not handing over the award to all the winners, they said that they were informed about this only on Wednesday.
Speaking to the media, Sandeep Senan, producer of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum said:
"We haven't boycotted the event or refused to receive the award. In the letter we received, we were told that the President will give us the award. But yesterday, we came to know that the President will give awards to only 11 people and that all of us will get a chance to take a group photo with him. We have not attended the ceremony, because we feel the sanctity of the award has been lost. The sanctity is in getting it from the President of India, for our hard work. For that 1 minute of the President handing over the award to us, we have all come here with our friends and family. We are really sad at how things have turned out to be."
Sandeep reiterated that the film fraternity was not boycotting the event, but only conveying their grief over not getting the chance to receive the award from the President.
"We are not pointing fingers at anyone, but why this discrimination? Why is it that only 11 people will get it from the President? This is our sacrifice, that we have decided to stay away from the event. This is not ego, not to hurt anyone's ego, but this shouldn't happen again. We are doing this for cinema," Sandeep asserted.
Asked whether the artists will accept the award if it was sent to them, they said they would, adding that they respect the National Award.
Actor Parvathy, who received the jury's Special Mention for her performance in Take Off said that she was indeed upset at not being able to receive the award from the President.
"Our families have come here to see us get the award. We are only raising a reasonable grievance here. No agitation, no violence. Yet, we did not get a reply for our letter at all, we have waited for 24 hours now. Our absence at the ceremony is what we want to show. We are upholding the National Awards, no doubt," Parvathy said.
Meanwhile, singer KJ Yesudas and director Jayaraj attended the awards. Their names are reportedly part of the list of winners who will receive the award from the President.