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National Film Awards: Winners From South Indian Film Industries React

Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu Felicitates Keerthy Suresh & Mahanati Team

The four South Indian film industries bagged a substantial number of awards at the 66th National Film Awards. The best cinematographer award was posthumously bestowed on cinematographer MJ Radhakrishnan, for his work in Malayalam film Olu directed by Shaji N Karun. The veteran cinematographer who died on July 16, was a winner of seven Kerala State Film Awards, and six international awards.


Keerthi Suresh, 26, won the award for best actress for the bilingual Mahanati, a biopic of yesteryear actress-filmmaker Savitri. The film, which released in May 2018, became the highest-grossing South Indian film that starred a woman as its primary character. Talking to, Keerthi said, “I’m feeling incredible right now. I am in Thiruvananthapuram with my family, and was watching the press conference when I got to know I’d won the award. Yes, a lot of people did tell me after the film released that this was an award-winning performance, but this is such a surprise. What gladdens me more is that everyone who calls tells me that I truly deserve it. I’m happy they feel that way. (sic)”

Kannada film Nathicharami, directed by Mansore and written by Sandhya Rani, won five awards, becoming the film to win the most number of awards. Actress Sruthi Hariharan won a Special Jury Mention, Bindu Malini was named the best female playback singer, Nagendra K Ujjani won the award for best editing and Manjutha for best lyricist. The film was also named the Best Kannada film of 2018.

When news of the award came in, Sruthi was relaxing with her fortnight-old daughter. “Working on the film was an intense experience, and this is the biggest recognition one can hope for. Our director Mansore had already won a National Award, and we applied for this film too, and hoped it would get noticed. Heart of hearts, the team hoped it would be lovely to get at least one award in some category. We lucked out with five. What is most gratifying is that Kannada has bagged 10 awards at the national level.” 

Mansore said that the team hoped to get at least one award either for best singer/composer or actress. “Five awards is an unexpected windfall. I knew there was competition in Kannada, and did not expect the best film. What is most gratifying is that these awards will again help throw the spotlight on such an ignored aspect of so many people’s lives. I worked with self-imposed restrictions — I did not want to make this in the so-called parallel style. And so, we had music, emotions…. Also, I was particular about never stepping into the vulgar zone, though the film is about desire.”

Kannada film Sarkari. Hi. Pra. Shaale Kasaragodu, about the struggle to keep alive a Kannada-medium school in the border town of Kasargode, won the award for Best Children’s Film, and actor-director Rahul Ravindran won the award for best original screenplay for his Telugu film, Chi La Sow. The film was a deeply sensitive take about the budding relationship between a carefree man and a deeply responsible woman, who has to care for her mother, who has bipolar disorder. Filmmaker Ratheesh Ambat’s Malayalam drama Kammara Sambhavam won the award for Production Design, while make-up artiste Ranjith won the award for his work in Telugu film, Awe.

Rahul Ravindran, who started his career as an actor, told that the national award is a ‘wonderful validation’. “We made a small film and sent it to the awards without any expectation. I would have been delighted if any one in our team had won it; for, this is a film made with heart. A lot of work went into the writing, and so, it’s a big win for a small film. The film pushed a lot of envelopes, and fluidly shifted from drama and romance to comedy and even elements of thrill… I am happy it came through seamlessly, and the jury recognised it. I’m happy the film was backed by all who were eventually involved in it. It’s been a great year for Telugu cinema. Personally, for me, having moved fields to get into cinema, this is a wonderful validation,” he said.


Director Priya Krishnaswamy’s Baaram, which won the Best Tamil Film award, speaks about the practice of senicide in Tamil Nadu. A haunting film, it marries feature and documentary filmmaking techniques to great effect. Priya was teaching a class at Xavier’s Institute of Communications when she got news of the award. “It’s a great honour that Baaram has received this award. I’m deeply grateful to my investors, to the entire team, to my co-producer Ardra Swaroop, and the fabulous actors who invested their time, and to the jury. A National Award focusses attention on the film and creates an interest in the audience, and that will, hopefully, help us release the film in theatres. This is especially true since Baaram is the only Tamil film to have won a National Award this year.”

Doctor Bijukumar Damodaran, whose Trees Under The Sun was the last film MJ Radhakrishnan worked in, paid a moving tribute to the cinematographer on Facebook. “National award for dear MJ, don’t know whether to feel happy or sad..
But definitely feeling proud for him….For the last 30 years at least 6 times this award skipped from him at the last minute..But at last this award reached to you..Really we missed you MJ chetta…Misses you in every day and every moment of life….. Congratulations…We waited for this award for a long time.. (sic),” he wrote. Trees Under The Sun had won the ‘Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award’ at Shanghai International Film Festival which concluded on June 23. The 6th International Visual Image Art Film Festival, China posthumously honoured Rajakrishnan with a Life Long Achievement Award a few days after his demise.

Gujarati film, Hellora, which handles the subject of women’s right self-expression in a remote desert village, won the award for the best feature film. Bollywood actor Vicky Kaushal won the award for best actor for Uri: The Surgical Strike, and the film’s director Aditya Dhar won the award for direction. Kaushal shared his award with Ayushmann Khuranna who won the award for his performance in Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun.