Dadasaheb Phalke must be watching in silent amusement. The Father of Indian Cinema, such as he is popularly known, is being associated with an “Excellence Awards” given by the little-known Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation of Mumbai that’s described as “the most coveted award of the country that honours artistes for their contribution to the entertainment industry”.
Nothing wrong in that. Only, these “Dadasaheb Excellence Awards” are being confused by Bollywood buffs with the real deal – the Dadasaheb Phalke Award that is India’s highest award in cinema and is presented annually at the National Film Awards by the I&B Ministry’s Directorate of Film Festivals. It’s the sort of masala and masti that Bollywood thrives on.
The confusion arose last week when the 65th National Film Awards were announced and it was declared that Bollywood superstar Vinod Khanna, who passed away on April 27 last year, was being posthumously honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Well deserved, no doubt. But hard on the heels of this announcement came one on the “Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards” that kind of took the breath away.
For, in this avatar, Dadasaheb Phalke was giving away awards left and right to newcomers for performances that, well, surprised the recipients themselves. Like, for instance, Tammannah Bhatia (for Baahubali), Kriti Sanon (Bareilly ki Barfi) and Aditi Rao Hydari (Bhoomi) along the likes of Ranveer Singh (Padmaavat), Anushka Sharma (as a producer), Rani Mukerji (Hichki), Rajkummar Rao (Newton), and Shahid Kapoor (brilliance in acting).
Where did these awards come from, cinema aficionados wanted to know.
The story goes back to 2016 when, shortly after Manoj Kumar was declared the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award that year, social media went crazy with news of Manoj Bajpayee getting the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his performance as Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras in Hansal Mehta’s recently released Aligarh. Bajpayee shared a news report and spoke about how honoured he felt to receive this award. Congratulations poured in from all quarters.
Even while Bajpayee was grinning from ear to ear, came the news that Dera Sacha Sauda head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ‘Insan’ of the MSG: The Messenger films fame, had also received a Dadasaheb Phalke Award for ‘Most Popular Actor, Director and Writer’. Nobody could figure out how the controversial guru, whose films were notoriously ripped by critics and ignored by audiences, had received this honour.
However, unlike the Dadasaheb Phalke Award that’s presented by the President of India at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi and is accompanied by a Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus) medallion, a shawl, and a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, this one was held in a ceremony at the abandoned Tulip Star Hotel in Mumbai that is now used for weddings and family functions. Moreover, social media followers found that the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Foundation had no website and its poorly maintained Facebook page presented a (dead) link to a website (presumably) showcasing its president Ashfaque Khopekar’s photography!
Among other recipients at this event, according to news reports from 2016, were Shah Rukh Khan (who received a dubious award called ‘’King Of Bollywood’), Madhur Bhandarkar (for ‘Contributions In The Field Of Women Centric Cinema In India’) and Aarya Babbar (who received ‘Best Debut Artist Of The Year’ for his portrayal of Raavan in the mythological TV show Sankat Mochan Mahabali Hanuman). Apparently, they all turned up to collect their trophies and expressed grateful thanks for the prestigious award.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards now appears to be in its fourth year with a section of the media calling them the Dadasaheb Phalke Awards to add to the confusion of cine-goers and celebrities getting their kicks by boasting about getting India’s highest cinema award. Veteran film journalist Bharti Dubey was quoted in the HuffPost India as saying, “The problem is that many actors are greedy for awards, whether it’s coming from people with credentials or not. The only authentic Dadasaheb Phalke Award is the one given by the government. The rest are rubbish. Those trophies aren’t worth anything.”
About the first Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards ceremony held in 2016, ScoopWhoop.com said, “The foundation award function merely bears the name of the legendary film thespian and has evidently no reason to be deemed a measure of anything. While it honours a powerhouse of talent like Manoj Bajpayee it also keeps ‘important people’ (politically important ones) like ‘The Messenger of God’ in its good books.”
Over to the Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Awards of 2018. Come in, Ranveer Singh!