Lack of consensus among jury members has resulted in three nominations for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke award this year even as the I&B Ministry is yet to get the go-ahead from the Bombay High Court to announce the National Film Awards.
The shortlist for the Phalke honour includes veteran actors Suchitra Sen and Sulochana. There is no authorised confirmation of the third name though noted song writer and director Gulzar and Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee — on whom the BCC made a documentary titled Gaaj (tree) — were among those considered by the jury.
Jury chairman Mrinal Sen was reportedly indisposed and, therefore, couldn’t attend the meeting that finalised the nominees. But other members — including Yash Chopra, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Nageshwar Rao — ran the names through him before sending the shortlist to the ministry.
Controversy has dogged the award this year, beginning with Sen taking exception to I&B Minister P.R. Dasmunshi mooting Suchitra Sen’s name without keeping the jury in the loop. As for Sulochana, her nomination has the backing of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Sources told the Hindustan Times that the lack of unanimity in the jury would give the minister the right to choose from among the three finalists. Suchitra is understood to have got one first preference vote while Sulochana and the undisclosed nominee got two each. The jury that met on August 29 gave differing second preference votes to the contenders.
One factor that could have gone against Suchitra Sen with the jury members was her reported unwillingness to come to Delhi to receive the award. But this does not eliminate her chances completely as, in the past, the government has presented the award to stars like Devika Rani at their home.
“Once the jury submits the panel of names, the government can ask the nominee whether he or she wants to accept the award. Only those who are ready to accept the award are considered by the government,” a senior official remarked. He said that the ministry had not formally contacted Suchitra so far.
The winner is likely to be finalised by the end of next week. But the announcement of the National Film Awards may take longer as the matter is pending before the Bombay High Court, which has stayed the process on a petition by documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan and two others.