The 65th National Film Awards that was held on Thursday in New Delhi saw something unprecedented. Around 65 award winners abstained from the ceremony. Their grouse? President Ram Nath Kovind just giving away 11 awards, while Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani taking care of the rest. This is a departure from a tradition followed for the past 64 years, where the President gave away all the awards.

Resul Pookutty, an Oscar and a National Award winner, took to social media recently to express his disappointment over National Film Awards row. Surprisingly, the agitation got very little support from mainstream artistes.

“When your good office had given time to hand over the National Award to only 11 members out of the 125, it is those smallest people in the whole spectrum got sidelined! Their aspirations and ambition got crushed!” he wrote on Facebook. He also tweeted:

In an exclusive chat with Silverscreen, Resul Pookutty expressed his disappointment over the National Awards fracas and said though one cannot question the President of India, who is the constitutional authority of the country, this is the first time in the history of National Film Awards that the Rashtrapati Bhavan refused to give time.

“If the President didn’t have time on that particular day, they could have postponed the event. Or could have asked the Vice-President to do the needful. Even the Information and Broadcasting Ministry were informed days beforehand but they didn’t care,” he said.

What pricked him the most was the way only 11 awardees were selected for the President’s honour.  “It was very selectively done. Even though AR Rahman was in the technical category, he was picked. Are the rest lesser than those who have been selected? When you sit inside Vigyan Bhavan, everybody is equal. That’s what was discriminated this time. The people who got left out were the marginal workforce,” said the award-winning sound engineer.

Pookutty said that it’s always the film’s technicians, the unsung heroes, who get sidelined. He explains that in the older times, an application for a telephone or a home load would become possible with an honour from the Government of India. Even though these schemes don’t exist now, with that honour one could build one’s life, he said.

“We are the first ones to be called for any award ceremony and get edited out when it gets aired on TV. We don’t expect anything from the popular awards, our only hold is the State gesture. For the technical crew, to get the National Award from the President of India is a dream come true. They probably would have built their lives with that honour and moment,” said Pookutty.

He lamented that though the film industry pays the highest entertainment tax, all they get from the government is one film festival and an awards ceremony where the current dispensation can’t even dedicate three hours to the talents.

“I was really looking forward to the tenure of President Ram Nath Kovind. Our only hope was the President’s gesture and it was disheartening to see that being denied. It’s the dreams and hopes of the common folks that were crushed yesterday. The awardees who abstained from the ceremony were the true winners,” he said.