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National Award winning films waiting to get their dues

Winning a National Award may bring a film some well-deserved fame, but it needn’t translate into a theatrical release...

If the fate of some films is any indication, winning a National Award is not enough for the movie to get a theatrical release. Three films — 'The Coffin Maker', 'Liar’s Dice', 'Astu and Kaphal' — that won National Awards this year are yet to get a proper Friday release. Saeed Mirza, who heads the jury for National Awards, concedes that this is a reality. “It is true that many award-winning films have not released yet. It could be lack of marketing and distribution; it could be a certain socio-political and economic situation, but that’s no reason to deny their validity. It doesn’t deter us from judging these films for the National Awards.” 


Geetanjali Thapa may have won a National Award this year in the Best Actress category for her work in Liar’s Dice, but the film is yet to release in cinema halls

In such a scenario, should the government make it mandatory for National Award-winning films to get at least a one-week release in cinema halls? Mirza replies with a matter-of-fact question: “Who does one put pressure on in order to get these film screened in cinema halls?”


Naseerudin Shah and Ratna Pathak-Shah in The Coffin Maker, which won this year’s National Award for the Best Feature Film in English. It awaits a commercial release

Actor Adil Husain, who is best known for his role in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish (2012), stars in the National Award-winning film, Lessons in Forgetting. He wants the government to formulate a policy where feted movies get a theatrical release. He says, “My film got a limited release through PVR Director’s Rare, but they don’t really have enough money to market the film and reach out to a wider audience. I think there is a need to make it mandatory for cinema halls to screen such films for at least a week.”


Filmistaan bagged the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2012, but it is releasing only in June this year 

Veena Bakshi, who directed the Naseeruddin Shah-starrer, The Coffin Maker — it won this year’s National Award for the Best Feature Film in English and is yet to release in cinemas — says, “We have been in talks with a corporate house even before the film bagged a National Award and now we are hoping that winning this honour will help the film get some distributors. But yes, I feel that the loss of traditional distributorship is affecting the sale of films like these.”


The Usha Jadhav-starrer, Dhag, won three National Awards in 2012; it released in theatres only last month 

The success of films like Ship of Theseus and The Lunch Box has definitely added to filmmakers’ confidence. Veena adds, “The success of Ship of Theseus lies in the fact that it opened in five theatres and its audience grew due to word of mouth. These films will not set the cash register ringing within a weekend. But it will bring in audiences over time.”


Randeep Hooda and Naseeruddin Shah in The Coffin Maker, which is yet to get a theatrical release 

In the earlier days, films, once completed, would be screened for distributors, who’d then go with their gut feeling. Trade analyst Taran Adarsh says, “Back then, films were sold territory-wise. Also, winning a National Award is often construed as a sign of the film being more art-house and thus offering less commercial viability. This attitude has not really changed. Unlike in the West, where, if a film is nominated for the Oscars, it immediately gets screened in cinema halls.”

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Liar’s Dice, that was completed more than a year ago. It still doesn’t have a release date

Similarly, Geetanjali Thapa may have won the Best Actress award for her work in Liar’s Dice. But the film, that was completed more than a year ago, hasn’t got a theatrical release. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays a lead role in the film, says, “The film has been doing the rounds of the festival circuit for some time now. Thanks to the National Award, the film should now get a better release. The film’s producers are planning to release it soon.” He also feels that often films are victims of ‘bad luck’. “Even a beautiful film like Aankhon Dekhi barely got noticed due to the lack of marketing,” he says.

It may be pointed out here that Nitin Kakkar’s film, Filmistaan, bagged the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2012. But the film is releasing in June this year — thanks to UTV and Shringar Films — after a gap of two years.

Shyam Shroff from Shringar films adds, “When we came on board as its distributors, Filmistaan was already ready and it had received its certification. It was a mutual decision to edit the film further and give it a major marketing fillip. We even recorded an additional audio track and then UTV came on board.

Of course, all this happened over time.”
Bikas Mishra, the editor of the website Dear Cinema, points out that a new wave of cinema has now hit Bollywood. “These are films that have been reaching out to audiences both in terms of storytelling and distribution. Ship of Theseus found a supporter in Kiran Rao and UTV; the documentary Gulabi Gang has now won the award for the Best Film on Social Issues. These are exciting times for independent filmmakers as the channels of release have certainly expanded. Then again, releasing such a film continues to be challenging because you still need a star-presenter or a mainstream studio to back your indie production.”

Other instances include the Usha Jadhav-starrer Dhag (2012), which won three National Awards in 2012; the film released in theatres only last month. Marathi films such as Shala, Anumati, and Samhita too released more than a year after winning top honours. Another example is Priyadarshan’s bilingual film, Kanchivaram, that also released a year after it bagged won two National Awards.

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