Keep the award, make a film instead

Dear award winners,

Cinema is undoubtedly a medium that wields power, so when filmmakers and writers give back their National Award, it is certainly bound to create news.

The great thing about a democracy is the fact that the right to freedom of expression and speech can be exercised. But it bothers me when this right is exercised for personal gains. Sure, everyone should stand for a cause, but a cause without action seems pointless. National Award winners returning their awards seems exactly that – perhaps well intentioned, but pointless nonetheless.

Intolerance of any kind is certainly unacceptable; neither a government nor an individual should stand for it. But to return a National Award is demeaning the essence of what the award symbolises and the reason it has been awarded to certain individuals – how is that not a sign of intolerance?

I ask a simple question to the individuals who returned their awards: what has their act resulted in; what does it even stand for? Have they bothered to return the money that was received with the award? Will they denounce the fact that they ever received such an award despite having returned it? Let’s not kid ourselves.

Today, I stand a proud recipient of the National Award for a film that I am most proud of, Dharm, backing a first-time filmmaker and writer, when I was myself a first-time producer. There is no taking that away. The film spoke of religious intolerance and I still remember the then President Pratibha Patil, along with LK Advani and Manmohan Singh, had praised the film for what it stood for. The film, like all the others, had been awarded for its message and calibre, not because of which political party carries what ideology.

Let’s not mix issues. Stand up for what you believe in, sure, but then put your money where your mouth is. If you want to stand up against intolerance, go make a film about it, wield the power you have with the medium. Don’t make a mockery of the cause itself by returning an award bestowed by the nation, especially for work done in a medium that is considered one of the strongest communication tools.

Yours Sincerely,
Sheetal Vinod Talwar
National Award recipient for Dharm (2007)

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