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.