It was an honor to receive the Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus) Award for the Best Children’s Film from the President of India at the 57th National Film Awards Ceremony that was recently held in New Delhi. On the previous day, guided by the irresistible and energetic Director of National Film Awards, Shri Bhupendra Kainthola, we had a rehearsal were we were told not to give any petition to the President, not to shake the President’s hands and to look into the cameras as we received the award. Well, I forgot to look into the camera at the right moment. The President wisely reminded me to do so as she handed me the medal. I obliged and grinned before scuttling away from the stage.
Incidentally, the award almost did not happen. Two days before the ceremony my cameraman called me up to inform me about a stay order on the award issued by the Kerala High Court through an interim judgment. My film Putaani Party had been jointly declared the winner of the award with a Malayalam language film called Keshu. The politics of the Kerala Film world ensured that someone had filed a case against the granting of the award to Keshu. I called up Bhupendraji’s office, “Should I come tomorrow?” They said “We have no information”. Later on in the day, I got an e-mail – “Your award is on, the stay is only for Keshu.” I felt honored by the interim judgment awarded by the Kerala High Court Judge.
A few years back, I made a film called Suddha. It was shot on standard definition digital video. I did not mind the glitches that a digital projection system for such a film would throw up and I was sure that my audience too would not mind it if I explained to them the context well enough. But I was deprived of the digital projection technology by a reputed company that provides such services. The Censor Certificate for the film screamed that it was a Feature Film. I could not send it to the National Film Awards for it was not a film shot on celluloid. Before going to the award function I carefully studied the rules & regulations of the present National Film Awards and pleasantly found that digital films are also now allowed to compete in the feature film category. I felt vindicated and of course, honored by the committee that recommended such a change.
Immediately after the awards, a preview of Putaani Party was held in a Tiptur, a small town in Central Karnataka. This was the first time that a preview was being held for the Kannada language speaking children of Karnataka. The show was arranged in a conference hall, the images beamed on a make shift white cloth. There is some sort of GR (Government Rule) at CFSI that all films that it produces should be shown to the children free of charge or for a minimal amount of five rupees – or something to this effect. So, it is quite obvious that no private film distributor would touch these films. The grouse is that these films don’t do well. But at the preview screening at Tiptur, judging by the comments that the kids made in an interaction after the film and by the number of autographs that I had signed on their note books and text books, I am confident that my film has a fan following. I am humbled and needless to say, honored by the way the kids took to the film.
Three days later, there was another preview of the film in Udupi, my home town; in the premises of the Kannarpady temple. In the home town felicitation function, before the show, there were ferocious speakers who unmindful of the frequent power cuts and the context of the function, spoke in length about the niceties of the upcoming Deepavali festival and about a massive event that would happen the next month; the guest list of which included among others Shree Lal Kirshna Advani and Smt. Sushma Swaraj. The local politician who used to pluck flowers from our compound more than twenty years back for the pooja at his house, was powerful enough to call up the Electricity Department and order them not to switch off the Kannarpady line. So, while the entire town was in dark, the preview show went on; images beamed on a wall of the temple stage. There were around fifteen dedicated people watching the film; the rest of the chairs were empty. Taking advantage of the empowered power situation the organizers took an instant decision to serve the promised food simultaneously with the screening. Before I took my train to Vasai Road, I shook hands with the president of the organistion and thanked him for the honor that his organization had bestowed upon me.
Oh, I almost forgot. An event the day before the Kannarpady temple screening ensured that I was the 1501st name on the guest list. The Udupi Shri Krishna Temple had decided to donate pants and shirts pieces to 1500 needy school children that day, thanks to an pious donor industrialist from Mumbai. There wasn’t a better day to felicitate the national award winner for the best children’s film. I wished that they had a preview screening of the film for these kids. But I felt blessed and honored when I was bestowed the title called ‘Srikrishna Anugraha’ (Blessed By Lord Krishna). “Now that you have this title, you will defiantly win the Oscars”, whispered a volunteer.
I am back in Mumbai and I would really be honored if I get back into film making now, for amidst the business of being honored I had almost but forgotten about it.