Cinematographer-turned-director C Prem Kumar has won the 22nd Gollapudi Srinivas National Award for his movie 96. The award is presented to a debut filmmaker every year in memory of Gollapudi Srinivas, who passed away in an accident while making his first movie.
Though Prem Kumar knew how difficult it was to be considered for the award and what a privilege it was to be named for it, he admits he was not fully aware of the emotion behind it. “People who called me up after hearing the announcement explained the history of the award, and were particular I knew about it before receiving it,” the director told Silverscreen.
96 has been winning accolades since its release, and even won at the Norway Tamil Film Festival Awards. Asked what made the Gollapudi Srinivas Award special, the director said: “The sentiment attached to it is more than enough to make it special. The reason behind the award and the way the recipient is treated makes it very different,” says Prem Kumar, adding: “They treat the award winner as their son,” he says.
The way the news was broken to him also made him feel very special. “Subba Rao called and told me that I have been chosen for the award. He followed it up with the words ‘Would you like to receive this award?'” Prem Kumar doubts if the receiving the award on stage would come close to this moment. “I don’t think anything can beat this!”
96, featuring Trisha and Vijay Sethupati in the lead, released in October last year. The movie, about the reunion of high school sweethearts, went on to become a critical and commercial success; the music by Govind Vasantha became a huge hit too. The movie is currently being remade in Kannada and Telugu.
Prem Kumar is helming the Telugu version, starring Samantha Akkineni and Sharwanand. Asked if the award brought with it any kind of pressure, considering he’s working on the remake, Prem says: “As I tell my crew, I am not remaking 96. I am merely reliving the experience. You can never be under pressure when you are enjoying something.”