Utpal Borpujari

May 18, 2010

Regional juries set to make a come back in National Film Awards

By Utpal Borpujari

A practice abandoned in the mid-1970s is all set to be revived as an expert panel tasked to suggest revamp of the National Film Awards has suggested that the judging process should be first at a zonal level and then at the national level.

The expert committee, chaired by noted filmmaker Shyam Bengal, has recommended that there should be a two tier viewing of films to facilitate the selection process of the National Film Awards. 

According to its suggestions, a central jury will choose films for various award categories from a short list chosen by five regional juries which will look at films made in various languages in those regions. 

The committee has also outlined guidelines for the regional jury composition. Incidentally, almost a similar jury system was in vogue decades ago, which was later scrapped apparently to overcome alleged intra-regional biases.

The committee, formed at the behest of Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni to make the National Film Awards more contemporary, has also suggested constitution of new awards in audiography, music, best screenplay and dialogue.

It has suggested that the award for best art direction be called Best Production Design Award to reflect contemporary technology. Also, it has said that the number of awards in the feature film category be raised from 31 to 34 and the cash prize for special jury award in feature films be raised from Rs 1,25,000 to Rs two lakh.

For the non-feature film category too, the committee has made some key recommendations, including splitting of the award for the Best Film on Environment, Agriculture and Education into Best Educational Film and Best Film on Environment awards. 

It has also said that the cash component of awards for best non-feature film and best direction be enhanced from Rs one lakh to Rs two lakh so that they are brought at par with feature films. 

The report of the committee, comprising Benegal, Sai Paranjpye, Ashok Vishwanathan, Rajiv Mehrotra, Sharmila Tagore, Vishal Bhardwaj, Nagesh Kukunoor, Mohan Agashe, Waheeda Rehman, Jahnu Barua and Shaji Karun, was presented by Benegal a few days ago to Soni, who promised immediate processing of the recommendations.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 17-05-2010)


March 21, 2010

Mumbai slum boy’s Oscar dreams

By Utpal Borpujari

Sagar Akash Salunke has one wish – to present the Oscar that he “will” bring home to India to President Pratibha Patil.

Come March 7, and the 16-year-old’s wish could very well come true, for this ninth standard student from a Mumbai slum is starring as the protagonist in Kavi, an internationally much-feted 19-minute short Hindi film by American director Gregg Helvey on bonded labour that has got nominated for the Oscars in the Best Short Film (Live Action) category.

Sagar is already gearing up for the biggest evening in the film world, planning to do his shopping for the event in Los Angeles itself.

Till a few days ago he did not even have a passport, but now he has one, thanks to the Central government that fast-tracked his application following requests from the film’s producers Harish Amin and Guneet Monga.

Sagar had earlier done another film called Bits and Pieces, which is not yet released, but this clearly is his biggest moment of glory, with the film, made by Helvey as part of his diploma project in University of Southern California.

“I will go to the Oscars and bring home the trophy, and take to Rashtrapati Bhawan to show it to Pratibhaitai Patil,” says the Maharashtrian, a resident of a slum in Borivali’s Gorai 2 locality whose parents earn less than Rs 10,000 a month to run a family of five that includes Sagar’s two elder brothers. His elder sister is already married.

Sagar also has many dreams in his eyes – all related to the film world. For one, he wants to be a full-time actor when he grows up. “Actor hi banna hai (I want to be an actor only),” Sagar told Deccan Herald after a special screening of the film here.

He seems to be already on that path, with acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap likely to cast him in one of his upcoming films.

He also dreams to be an actor who will be a combination of Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. “Like Aamir Khan, I will do only one film a year and bring home the Oscar for that, like Hrithik I want to have the best body, like Akshay Kumar I want to do the best stunts and like Bachchan I want to be the best actor,” says the kid whose favourite films are “Sholay”, “Khiladi”, “3 Idiots” and “Krish”.

Amin and Monga, who spent three years to get the film made, are quite naturally on cloud nine. They virtually had no funds to make the film, which explains the long period it took to get completed, but ever since the Oscar nomination came, everybody has become interested in it.

They have met ministers and senior officials in Labour, Women & Child Development, Information & Broadcasting and Science & Technology ministries, and all are coming forward to help, says Monga.

The film is a straightforward but evocative narrative about how a child, whose parents are bonded labourers at a brick kiln in Maharashtra, escape from the sordid surroundings with the help of two NGO activists, and going by its theme, it won’t be a surprise if like Slumdog Millionaire and Smily Pinky, it also ends up winning the coveted statuette for its focus on the underbelly of India. 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 01-03-2010)



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