The 65th National Film Awards was surrounded with controversies as over 60 awardees had skipped the event. The furore erupted when it was revealed that President Ram Nath Kovind will be present for only one hour instead of two, and present a total of 11 awards only. Other awardees would be presented by Smriti Irani, the minister of information and broadcasting. With awardees being absent from the event, the organisers devised a plan so there’d be no empty seats in the front rows.
#PresidentKovind presents 65th National Film Awards at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi; says Indian film industry is an expression of Indian soft power and has a transcontinental footprint pic.twitter.com/N17vmHKnDd— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) May 3, 2018
As many awardees missed out on the event, two rows of seats were left empty and had to be filled out with dummies. The organisers were forced to remove the nameplates of the awardees and people sitting at the back were asked to shift to the front rows. Many awardees announced, in an open letter, that they’d skip the event and this included singer KJ Yesudas, filmmaker Nagraj Manjule, and filmmaker Prasad Oak.
Such a proud & heartwarming moment for all of us to watch these beautiful people accept an honor for the most incredible person there ever was! #Sridevi #NationalFilmAwards @BoneyKapoor #JhanviKapoor #KhushiKapoor pic.twitter.com/AoLeLisdde— Anil Kapoor (@AnilKapoor) May 3, 2018
From honouring Late Vinod Khanna ji & Sridevi ji to recognising stalwarts and brilliance of regional cinema, #NationalFilmAwards 2018 narrate a tale of how Indian Cinema is evolving and breaking barriers.— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) May 3, 2018
Kovind’s secretariat clarified that the information and broadcasting ministry was notified several weeks ago that the president would be available for the show only for an hour."The President attends all award functions and convocations for a maximum of one hour. This has been the protocol since he took office. It was conveyed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised by the 11th-hour questions that have been raised," the president's secretariat said.
While some awardees were unhappy, Boney Kapoor brushed the issues aside to focus on the function itself. "I would have been equally happy if the Minister (I&B) had given me the award. It is ultimately the recognition of your work. I don't understand what the fuss is about," said Boney Kapoor to ANI. Kapoor attended the event with his daughters Janhvi and Khushi to accept the Best Actress award on behalf of his late wife Sridevi.
68 seats empty with their name plates down. Probably the most powerful image from #NationalFilmAwards. These are the 68 artists who stood up for their self respect, by refusing to receive the award from I&B minister Smriti Irani. pic.twitter.com/HS21DonQyt— Bobins Abraham (@BobinsAbraham) May 3, 2018