Naming controversy: Will the real Dadasaheb Phalke Award winners please stand up?
On April 30, India celebrated the birth anniversary of Dadasaheb Phalke, known as ‘the father of Indian cinema’. The annual National Film Award given in his name carries immense prestige. But other awards are also using the name, causing confusion.
Had he been alive now, the ‘father of Indian cinema’, Dadasaheb Phalke, would be 148 years old — his birth anniversary was on April 30 — and he might have been nonplussed by the way his name is causing confusion in the film industry.
Presented annually as part of the National Film Awards, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award carries immense prestige, and is given for making an outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema. Since its inception in 1969, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award has been given to actors Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Dilip Kumar, and Dev Anand, and singer Lata Mangeshkar, among other veterans. This year, the prestigious award was conferred on the late actor Vinod Khanna.
However, what’s confusing everyone is the announcement of other awards with the name ‘Dadasaheb Phalke’. While one is called Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards, another is called Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation Awards — these are in no way connected to the one awarded by the Directorate of Film Festivals, an organisation set up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the organiser of the National Film Awards.
Stars such as Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, Manisha Koirala, Aditi Rao Hydari have won these other awards this year.
Commenting on the flood of awards given in the name of Dadasaheb Phalke, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) member Vani Tripathi Tikoo tweeted a few days ago: “There is only one ‘Dada Saheb Phalke’ Award constituted by @MIB_India anyone else using the name is a gross violation of this prestigious award and its name (sic).”
Talking to us, Tikoo says, “This is a complete disregard of one of the highest, coveted and acclaimed awards by the Government of India and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. I think, several times these people (organisers of awards using the same name) have been told, if I’m not wrong, by the ministry also. The film industry is equally appalled. This tamasha happens every year, and shows their lack of respect and intention to even have any regard towards the Bharat Ratna of cinema.”
Referring to the organisers of these other awards, Tikoo says, “I don’t know who they are, and I don’t even want to know. What if tomorrow, there is, say a Padma award or a Bharat Ratna, and somebody says this is also another Bharat Ratna being given!”
We got in touch with Ashfaque Khopekar, chairman of the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation Awards. He says, “Dadasaheb Phalke film jagat ki hasti hain (Dadasaheb Phalke is a renowned personality in the film world). Agar koi unke naam se kuchh khaata hai, toh hume koi problem nahi hai (If someone does something in his name, we have no problem). Our award is supported by Bollywood’s own Federation of Western India Cine Employees. This is a [union] of 22 associations. This is an organisation that awards the technicians also, [with] a cheque for Rs 11,000, and works for their benefit. We’re not earning anything from this. But many people now just make small organisations, and do it for money by using Dadasaheb’s name, as he is a legend. Artists get misguided by the name of Dadasaheb Phalke, and then realise this later.”
Interestingly, the poster for the Film Foundation’s awards mentions the name of trade expert Atul Mohan as one of the jury members. Upon being contacted, Mohan tells us, “I know the committee, but they never contacted me (to come aboard) as a jury member. I don’t even know! They didn’t even invite me to the main event (on April 29)!”
To get the I&B ministry’s point of view, we spoke to Ashok Kumar Parmar, joint secretary (films). Asked if the ministry has issued any notices to such organisations or taken any action, Parmar says, “What can the ministry do? And under what rule can we take action? You can’t stop them, since they’re not exactly copying the name. They twist and use the name and organise a function. It’s up to the invitees whether they want to attend such functions or not.”
Acclaimed director Shyam Benegal, who was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award by the government in 2005, also dislikes the confusion arising from these different awards. He says, “It generally confuses people. This award was instituted by the Indian state many years ago for lifetime achievement in Indian cinema. This was the highest award you could get as far as cinema was concerned. Now you have a number of awards; the whole thing has become silly, actually. Somebody might put Dadasaheb Phalke award winner after his name, and you might think he got this for lifetime achievement! If my view has any kind of merit, the government should act on it and say please don’t name all awards after Dadasaheb; let there be only one.”
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