The 64th National Film Awards, announced on Friday, once again illustrated the charisma of regional films, with Marathi films enjoying a special moment of glory. It was a particularly encouraging day for debutant filmmakers, whose maiden efforts won in several categories. The directorial debut of theatre personality Nipun Dharmadhikari, Dhappa, won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Film on National Integration. Amar Deokar’s directorial debut, Mhorkya, won two awards — Best Children’s Film as well a Special Jury Mention for actor Yasharaj Karhade. Actor Prasad Oak’s directorial debut Kachcha Limbu, produced by Mandarr Bhaskar Devasthali, won the Best Marathi Film award.
Dharmadhikari, the founder of Natak Company who was called a theatre revivalist by Forbes Magazine, said he was pleasantly surprised when he heard Dhappa’s name during the live announcements. This year also saw the release of Baapjanma, touted as Dharmadhikari’s first feature film, though he clarified that Dhappa was made before it. “Technically, it’s my first feature film… to be recognised for it, with a National Award, is thrilling. The fact that it has no stars and a cast of 19 debutant child actors makes it even more special. Dhappa is a story about children going beyond discrimination and coming together to make a difference. It tells the story of national integration from children’s perspective,” said Dharmadhikari.
With a National Award to boost its prospects, he is hopeful that his film will secure a good release during the Diwali holiday season. The other film to win big was Mhorkya, which had recently bagged the audience award at the Pune International Film Festival and has been nominated in several categories for the state film awards. Director Amar Deokar said the award validated the struggle that he went through while making the film. “I didn’t have much money while making the film and had to mortgage the family farm. Even though a producer came on board later, it wasn’t as if the money was flowing freely. Given the struggle we had to deal with in terms of locations, shooting and a limited budget within which we had to express our creativity, I think the National Award made it worth it all,” said the filmmaker who hails from Barshi, Solapur.
The third winner, Kachcha Limbu by Oak, an established Marathi actor, talks about a couple’s struggle to bring up a mentally challenged son who is trying to deal with his sexual desires. “It is a great honour and I am thrilled. It was my debut film as a director and there could be no greater recognition than this. Honestly, every filmmaker hopes during the film-making process that they will win this award. For me, it’s a dream come true,” he said.
Seasoned filmmakers were also recognised, with director Nagraj Manjule winning his fourth National Award for the Best Non-Feature Film Director for his short film, Paavsacha Nibandh. “I wrote the story in 2012 but couldn’t make it then, as we didn’t have the budget for it. Later, I got busy with feature films, and the project was delayed. Since it had to be shot during the rainy season, we had a limited window. I attribute this win to my team,” he said. One of his team members, Avinash Sonawane, won the award for the Best Audiographer for the short film.