I quit making Hindi films after Bandit Queen because the quality of films made here was very bad. But the last 10 days of watching Indian cinema, specially the regional films, has stunned me. Movies made in Assam are going to the Cannes Film Festival,” said filmmaker Shekhar Kapur in his opening address at a press meet to announce the winners of the 65th National Film Awards in Delhi. The remarks by Kapur, who headed the jury for the prestigious awards, was a sign of things to come. Over the next one hour, regional films and filmmakers registered their presence in a big way among the winners in 33 categories in the Feature Film section.
It was also an emotional day for Bollywood, as late actor Sridevi bagged the Best Actress award for the revenge drama Mom, while actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna — who passed away last year — was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Hindi cinema. Kapur told the media he wished he had worked with Khanna at least once.
In perhaps a breakthrough moment for Assamese cinema, Rima Das’ directorial venture, Village Rockstars, was named the Best Feature Film. Set in her own village, Chhaygaon, near Guwahati, Village Rockstars is the story of “poor but amazing children” who live a fun-filled life. Das also won the Best Editing award for the film, which bagged Bhanita Das the Best Child Artist honour. The film also won the Best Location Sound Recordist award. It is after 29 years that an Assamese film has won the Best Feature film award; Jahnu Barua’s Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai won the award in 1987.
Another big winner of the day was 19-year-old Riddhi Sen, who bagged the Best Actor award for the Bengali film Nagarkirtan. The film also won the Best Make-up award and a Special Jury award. Sen also featured in the 2016 Oscar-nominated film Lion, besides doing small roles in Kahaani and Parched.
Amit Masurkar’s Newton won the Best Hindi Film honour, while actor Pankaj Tripathi won a Special Mention for his performance in the film, which revolves around a young government clerk who is sent for election duty to a Maoist-controlled region. Responding to the news, Tripathi, who played a cynical CRPF officer, Aatma Singh, in Newton, said, “I am absolutely delighted. I had no idea I was even in the running… My director and co-actors made it so easy for me to act in this film.” The film was sent as India’s official entry for the Oscars but did not make it to the shortlist.
Meanwhile, Sridevi’s family also released a statement hours after the announcement. “We are overjoyed to know that the jury has conferred the Best Actor award to Sridevi for her performance in Mom. It’s a very special moment for all of us. She was always a perfectionist and it showed in all the 300 plus films she did.”
Baahubali: The Conclusion bagged several awards, including Best Action Direction, Best Special Effects and Best Popular Film. Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum won the Best Malayalam Film Award, and also the award for Best Screenplay. Actor Fahadh Faasil won the Best Supporting Actor award for the same film. Malayalam cinema witnessed another win with Bhayanakam, which bagged Best Direction and Best Adaptive Screenplay.
The award for Best Supporting Actress was won by Divya Dutta for her role in the Hindi film Irada, while Toilet: Ek Prem Katha bagged an accolade for choreographer Ganesh Acharya, for the song Gori tu latth maar. AR Rahman won the award for Best Music Direction for Kaatru Veliyidai and background score for Mom.
The 10-member panel comprised screenwriter Imtiaz Hussain, lyricist Mehboob, actress Gautami Tadimalla, director P Sheshadri, director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, filmmaker Ranjit Das, filmmaker Rajesh Mapuskar, screenwriter Tripurari Sharma and writer-actor Rumi Jaffrey. The award ceremony will be held in Delhi on May 3.