The controversy surrounding the 65th National Film Awards refuses to die down, with Malayalam director Jayaraj now stirring up another controversy by criticising the winners who stayed away from the ceremony and refusing to take the award from I&B Minister Smriti Irani.
After it was conveyed to them that President Ram Nath Kovind will only hand over awards to 11 recipients at the ceremony held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday, 55 award recipients from the Malayalam film had industry stayed away from the event.
Jayaraj, who was among the only three members from the Malayalam industry to have attended the ceremony, said that the winners who boycotted the event must return the cash award too. The cash award was deposited in their respective bank accounts on Thursday, a few hours after they wrote to the President and I&B Ministry to convey their disappointment over the change in tradition.
Jayaraj, singer Yesudas and Nikhil S Praveen, who won the award for the best cameraperson for Bhayanakam, received the award at the ceremony on Thursday.
Director Jayaraj, who won the award for the best director for his film Bhayanakam, told TNM, “I find nothing wrong in having said that. I do not want to comment further, let the others respond to what I have said, then I will comment more on this matter." On Thursday, he told reporters in Delhi that it was not right on the part of the recipients to have boycotted the ceremony.
Jayaraj is not the only one who has criticised the winners for refusing to accept the award from I&B Minister Smriti Irani. In a Facebook post, actor Joy Mathew asked why award recipients should bother about who was handing them the award.
"Award committee is formed by the ruling government and naturally, the government takes the important decisions. People who have objections to this had the option of not sending their entries. I don't know if a person who sends his entry has been assured that the President will hand over the award. Has the President given away the awards every year? Or just say, the President had health issues or issues that pertain to the country. What would you do then? I don't understand why these people are refusing to accept the award, despite knowing all this," Joy Mathew wrote.
He further asked why the winners, who readily takes awards from 'pickle manufacturers and owners of undergarment stores’ had a problem with accepting an award from a Union Minister.
Joy added, "If they had refused to take the award citing the Kathua incident or other issues in the country, then that would have reflected the fire of a strong stand. But this seems like children crying because they did not get a toy.”
Joy Mathew also later wrote that he hopes the winners who boycotted the ceremony would not hide their faces in a towel and take the award money.
However, recipients who skipped the event made in clear that they were not boycotting the award.
Reacting to Jayaraj's statement, Sandip Senan, producer of award-winning film Thondimuthalum Drikshakshiyum told TNM that he finds no need for returning the money.
"It is not about the money at all. Even if there was no cash award, the sanctity of the national award lies in the fact that it is the President's award. It is shameful that people are bringing in talks about money into this. This is a hard-earned award, a reward for all our hard work and we deserve it," Sandip said.
He added that their grievance was that age-old traditions were changed this time, leading to the "glory of the award being lost."
Responding to Joy Mathew's comment about receiving awards from business tycoons etc, Sandip said, "We have always been attending television channel awards and we know how they are conducted. I believe such awards enhance cinema. But National Awards had been conducted in a certain way till now and it was changed and informed to us at the eleventh hour, which is not fair."