The almost-complete exclusion of Bollywood from the list of National Awards and the selection of Dabangg as "wholesome entertainer" has left many Bollywood denizens gasping for breath. One eminent filmmaker whose films used to sweep all the popular awards until recently opined, "Agreed a lot of really good films are being made in the regional languages. But I think the attempt to please every state makes the National Awards look like toffees in a kindergarten class."
Jury head J.P. Dutta is unfazed by the criticism. "Why are we looking at Indian cinema as Bollywood and regional cinema? There's just one cinema in the country, Indian cinema. It's a shame that a lot of filmmakers in Mumbai equate Bollywood with Indian cinema. They need to open their eyes and look around."
J.P. is enthralled by the films submitted this year. "I was amazed at how much quality-conscious cinema I got to see this year for the National Awards. The films that have won awards are truly outstanding. Some of them were so moving, they made me cry." J.P. is unhappy with the way the National Awards have been shown on the electronic medium. "The television channels were only harping on the Hindi films. What about the winners in other languages? They don't matter because they aren't in Hindi? I don't think the spoken language should be given so much importance in our films."
Eyebrows have been specially raised about the selection of Dabangg for wholesome entertainment. J.P Dutta rises to the film's defense. "I think Dabangg is the perfect wholesome entertainer. It propagates family values. It shows the alcoholic father sacrificing his life when he feels he's coming in the way of his daughter's life. And it shows step-brothers uniting as one force to protect the family."
J.P. has also been criticized for fumbling with the titles while announcing the National Award winners. He defends himself, "Yes, some titles were tongue-twisters. I am not denying that. I wasn't familiar with the pronunciation of some of the languages. I was chosen to chair the jury not for my linguistic versatility but knowledge of cinema."
J.P. lashes out at films and filmmakers who seem to miss the point of the "real" India. "I think it's time to stop looking down on films that are set in the so-called cow-belt. It's a healthy sign that films like Dabangg are taking our cinema back to the Indian heartland. I've always shot my films in the most beautiful places in India, whether it is Rajasthan or Ladakh or Leh. It's time for our cinema to stop its obsession with the West."
Interestingly, the exiled movie moghul J. P. Dutta who chaired the National Award jury this year is all set to bounce back this month with another war movie. Says J.P., "It was a pleasure to see cinema from all over the country making such an impact. It's about time we stopped looking at Bollywood as the fulcrum of Indian cinema. There's so much quality work happening all over the country. This year's National awards are proof of it."
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