The Chairperson of the National Awards Jury, filmmaker Priyadarshan tells us why Akshay Kumar was chosen as Best Actor and why Aamir Khan was not even considered for the national honour.
Q. A lot of people are wondering why Akshay Kumar in Rustom and not Aamir Khan in Dangal for the Best Actor?
Priyadarshan, National Award Jury Chairman Why should we have given the Best Actor award to Aamir Khan when he has made it very clear that he doesn’t attend awards functions? If he doesn’t want to accept the honour, what is the point in honouring him? Nowadays we have seen people returning their awards. We didn’t want to take that risk.
Q. But he may feel differently about popular awards and not the National award?
He was given the National award for Taare Zameen Par. But he didn’t attend. It would be insulting to the government and to the National awards if we honour an actor who doesn’t wish to turn up to receive the honour. And we are honouring an actor who is every bit as meritorious.
Q. But Akshay was far superior in Airlift as compared to Rustom?
Priyadarshan, National Award Jury Chairman The award is for both Airlift and Rustom. The National awards jury felt Akshay was equally outstanding in the two contrasting roles. For technical reasons we could only mention one film in the winners’ list.
Q. Eyebrows are bound to be raised since Akshay Kumar and you have collaborated over many movies in the past?
Should we not have honoured Akshay because we’ve worked together? If he’s good he’s good , no matter who honours him. For that matter another dear friend of mine Mohanlal has won the Special Jury Award for three films Pulimurugan, JanathaGarage and Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol. He is the only actor apart from Prakash Raj to have won a National award for his performances in films of two different languages.
Incidentally we did not include the fourth outstanding performance by Mohanlal in Oppam because I directed Oppam.
Q. What was your criteria for honouring actors?
That the actors should not be honored for playing tailor-made roles.
An actor from Haryana playing a Haryanvi or an action hero doing exceptional stunts…these were not what we were looking for. We were looking at actors who stretched themselves beyond their comfort zone, like Akshay Kumar in Airlift and Rustom.
Q. What about the Best Actress award award? Why not Sonam Kapoor in Neerja?
There too the jury selected Surabhi Lakshmi in in the Malayalam film Minnaminungu unanimously.
Q. Was this an attempt to balance out the awards since a North Indian actor won the Best Actor award?
Not at all. Have you seen Minnaminungu? Surabhi plays a widow bringing up a child on her own. Her performance has immense social resonance. It’s a class act.
Q. What was the one thing that you noticed among the film this year?
Two things. One, Indian cinema is really growing. We had a jury comprising members from Manipur to Kerala. We looked at some really outstanding films in Marathi, Bengali, Malayalam and even Manipuri.
The other thing that we noticed is that the child actors this year were better than the adult actors! There were so many outstanding performances by child actors we couldn’t select one.
We had to honour three child actors. Even the Best Supporting actress has gone to a child actor, Zaira Wasim in Dangal.
Q. You couldn’t avoid Dangal, could you?
Priyadarshan: We weren’t trying to.
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