This year’s Kerala State Film Awards were problematic from the beginning to the end, with controversies and questions plaguing the jury, their judgments and who the winners were in the end.
For example, National Best Award winner Suraj Venjaaramoodu’s name was included only towards the end, and still he was granted only the Best Comedian award. Jayaram’s acting in Swapaanam and Nadan were called ‘overly dramatic and old fashioned’ by one of the judges.
But the most important criticism levelled at the esteemed jury panel was that they hadn’t seen all the nominated films. The jury chairman and veteran director Bharathiraja, was accused of leaving the location of the screening halfway through and in essence not giving the nominees the attention they deserved.
This accusation, however, was laid to rest towards the end by some appearances by the director with the media and some reassurances that this was not the case.
Now there has been an expose of sorts in the matter. As per the Right to Information Act, documents from the Kerala Chalachithra Academy were examined including hotel bills, flight tickets etc. and it has been discovered (or confirmed) that Bharathiraja stayed at the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram for only 7 days or so to watch the films on the list, whereas according to the rules he should have stayed for 15 days.
After all, there were over 85 films to be seen in total, combining the nominees in all categories! Did the panel even see all the movies?
So this comes as a shock to all who trusted the system of these prestigious awards which are handed out by the Government itself. Were the movies rightly judged? Were deserving nominees fooled out of something rightfully theirs because the jury didn’t handle the whole thing well?
These are questions that strike the minds of Malayali audiences everywhere. While our Government is often blamed for incompetency in various things, it seems not even the arts and their recognition are safe from its faulty functioning.
More importantly however, the scarier question remains – has this happened before and we just didn’t know about it?