NEW DELHI: The 65th National Film Awards presentation ceremony, to take place Thursday, ran into controversy on Wednesday with many threatening a boycott after being told they would have to accept the awards from Information & Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani instead of President Ram Nath Kovind.
Only a group of 11 award winners, among them the late Vinod Khanna and Sridevi, music composer A R Rahman and actor Riddhi Sen, will be presented their awards by Kovind in what was described as a “changed format” from this year.
Until now, it has always been the President who has given away the awards. In fact, this time, too, the letters and invitation cards state that “Ram Nath Kovind, honourable President, will present the awards.” But in an unprecedented decision, an official of the Directorate of Film Festival, during a rehearsal for Thursday, announced to the awardees that 107 winners would receive their awards from Irani, an awardee who took part in the rehearsal told TNIE.
After the rehearsal many awardees began protesting against the “betrayal.” They pointed out to the officials that the awards have always been given by the President. Many threatened to boycott the ceremony saying they would not receive their award from Irani. As things heated up, Irani was called to the rehearsal venue, where she was gheraoed by the angry award winners. High drama continued for almost 30 minutes. The minister claimed the format was changed at the behest of the President’s office, one of the awardees said. She tried to assure the protesting winners she would “convey their sentiments to the President”.
But her assurance has not fully satisfied the winners, who have decided to meet at 9am Thursday to decide if they should boycott.