When Bollywood celebs courted controversies over government honours
Taking cue from Big B's statement that he doesn't deserve Bharat Ratna as suggested by Mamata Banerjee, we recall some controversies over government honours bestowed on celebs
To say that awards and controversies go hand-in-hand would be stating the obvious. And this Republic Day, when the Padma awards — the country's top civilian honours after Bharat Ratna — were announced, it was but expected that emotions would run high and storms created in teacups.
Amitabh Bachchan and Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
While writer Salim Khan refused to accept the Padma Shri saying it was too little, too late, an intense debate has been raging over those who were acknowledged and those overlooked. Taking the discussion a notch further was West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has rarely shied away from heaping praises on Kolkata's jamai babu, Amitabh Bachchan. After Big B received the Padma Bhushan this year, Didi took to social media to declare that he deserved the Bharat Ratna. To this, Sr Bachchan replied: "@MamataOfficial Mamata di... I am not deserving of such recognition... Most humbled and honoured by what the Nation has given me..!!"
Against this backdrop, hitlist takes a look at some other film celebs who became a talking point after they were conferred government awards in the recent as well as distant past…
One of Amitabh Bachchan's finest roles was arguably in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Black' (2005), which won three National Awards. However, jury member Shyamali Deb Banerjee challenged the decision in court. In her petition, she mentioned that the awards were rigged and 'Black' did not qualify for the Best Film category as it was an adaptation of the 1962 English feature film, 'The Miracle Worker'. As a result, the awards were put on hold by the Delhi High Court and were next announced only in 2007.
Rekha won the National Award for her portrayal of a courtesan in 'Umrao Jaan' (1981) and found herself at the receiving end of criticism as she pipped Jennifer Kendal, the leading lady of Arpana Sen's '36 Chowringhee Lane'. Some of their contemporaries argued that Jennifer deserved the award more than Rekha—one of them was Jennifer's husband, actor Shashi Kapoor.
Fight for honour
Saif Ali Khan was conferred the Padma Shri in 2010, but there was strong buzz that the government would withdraw the honour after an RTI activist filed a petition against it last year. The activist alleged that it was a mockery of the award as the actor was involved in a brawl at a city five-star and briefly arrested for the same. However, the actor did not have to part with the Padma award. Saif had courted another controversy a few years ago when he won the National Award in 2005 for 'Hum Tum' despite doing a run-of-the-mill role. His detractors pointed out that his award had a lot to do with the fact that his mother and veteran actress Sharmila Tagore was the censor board chairperson then.
My actor's the best
When Ajay Devgn won the National Award for 'Gangaajal' (2003), filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan raised objections. He stated that the film's director Prakash Jha was heading the jury that selected the actor for the award. Gopalakrishnan labelled it as a "biased" decision.
Saif Ali Khan
It's all relative
Anil Kapoor and Raveena Tandon won the National Award for 'Pukar' (2000) and 'Daman' (2001), respectively, triggering a fiery debate over the selection criteria. It was said that a few political leaders were involved in the decision. Moreover, Raveena's uncle and actor Mac Mohan being part of the selection committee also raised eyebrows.
That sounds like...
Bollywood actress Kirron Kher won the National Award for a Bengali movie titled 'Bariwali' (2000), but many pointed out that she didn't deserve the honour as her dialogues had been dubbed. But her actor-husband Anupam Kher, who produced the film, claimed it was indeed Kirron's voice in the film. The actress, too, defended herself saying that she was the voice behind her character and had put in a lot of effort to rehearse the dialogues.
Note of dissent
Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar found herself in the midst of a controversy when she recommended her sister Usha Mangeshkar's name for Padma Shri. This was revealed in 2013 when an RTI application was made public. She, however, clarified her stand saying that she had been recommending names for Padma awards every year on government request. She also commented that there was no harm in suggesting her sister's name who had contributed to the industry for more than five decades with songs in various languages as part of her repertoire. But Usha was not conferred the honour. That very year, politician Janardhan Chandurkar requested the government to take back Lata's awards as she had allegedly voiced support for Narendra Modi, whom he dubbed an "anti-secular" leader.
>> Two years ago, south singer S.Janaki did not accept Padma award as she felt that it came her way quite late in her 55-year long career.
She also expressed that recognition and love from the audience were more valuable, while clarifying that she did not have an axe to grind against the government.
>> Telugu actors Mohan Babu and Brahmanandam were asked to return their Padma Shri for failing to comply with the rules of the civilian honour. The actors had reportedly mentioned their names prefixed with a Padma Shri in their movie credits. Both actors surrendered their awards.
Mohan Babu (left) and Brahmanandam