By Sharada Iyer
There is nothing more disheartening to an artiste than to have his/her work not appreciated at the right time…
Dadasaheb Phalke Award
Recently veteran writer-director-lyricist-poet Gulzar was bestowed with the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke award for his outstanding contribution to the world of Indian cinema. A truly deserving award for such a multi-talented genius the like of whom the industry may never produce again. But does he realize how lucky he is to have received the award when he is still active and is in full possession of his mental and physical faculties to enjoy the award?
Unlike the last year’s recipient of this same award –the late veteran actor Pran who was given the award too late in life. This gem of an actor hung his boots several years ago and though he had been in good health for a number of years after that, the Government chose to give him the award when he was literally dying. In fact, he was so seriously ill at the time of receiving the award that the then Information and Broadcasting minister for state, Manish Tewari, personally went to his home to give him the award. Pran, who had been in and out of hospitals a lot that year, was seated in a wheelchair and one wonders whether he was even in a position to comprehend the events taking place around him.
Take the case of our grand showman – Raj Kapoor, who came to New Delhi on May 1st, 1988 to receive his Dadasaheb Phalke award. He suffered an asthmatic attack during the function itself and was rushed in the President’s ambulance to the AIIMS, New Delhi, where he died a month later and sadly never lived to enjoy the award.
Padma Bhushan/Padma Shri
Rajesh Khanna, a superstar and a gem of an actor, was never considered for any of the awards by the Government but ironically the year he passed away, his name cropped up in the list of awardees for Padma Bhushan! He did get recognition, but alas! Posthumously! What stopped the Government from conferring this award at least a decade ago on him? Wouldn’t he have been thrilled with the prestigious acknowledgement when he was alive?
The biggest and most unpardonable omission from the awardee list has been none other than the genius Kishore Kumar, who spent 41 years in the film industry. He was not only an actor-singer par excellence, but also a producer-director-lyricist-music director-scriptwriter- all rolled into one. He died 27 years ago and still the government remains blind to his contribution towards the film industry and he is yet to have even a Padma Shri conferred on him posthumously.
Strangely, Aamir Khan received the prestigious Padma Bhushan award in 2010, a year before the veteran actress Waheeda Rehman, who got same the award in 2011. Has his contribution to cinema been really greater to override that of the veteran actress? Aamir released a truly disgusting, almost-nude poster of himself before the release of his film, PK, which received a lot of flak for vulgarity. He had even gone on to defend his action and stated that it was not a publicity stunt. Does he really think the public has moron level IQ to believe him? The film even ended up having a scene showing him urinating. Really! Is this the kind of cinema he hopes to champion?
Actors like Saif Ali Khan, Kajol, Akshay Kumar and even Tabu whose contribution for such a prestigious award remains debatable, have received this award at an early stage of their careers, much to their own surprise. In fact, owing to a few cases pending against Saif Khan, an RTI activist had written to the Ministry of Home Affairs asking them to have the award taken away from him.
On the other hand, Shammi Kapoor, who helped define an era in film history and create a unique niche for himself among the giants of the industry, was unlucky to have never been considered even for the Padma Shri.
National awards and Filmfare awards
Now let us consider the National awards and Filmfare awards both of which started in the same year 1953. One very significant point to be mentioned here is that by the time such awards were instituted, our industry had actually completed forty years and the artistes who had retired or passed away never had the opportunity to make it to the list of award winners. So boasting about the number of awards received by an actor/actress/singer/music director/director, etc., becomes a senseless exercise.
National awards, for some strange reason never gave much weightage to commercial Hindi cinema and were always inclined towards the so-called ‘realistic’ or ‘art’ films. Which explains why some brilliant performances like that of Balraj Sahni in Do Bigha Zameen, Rajesh Khanna in Anand, Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam or Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, etc., never won any awards. Even most of the lyricists and music directors of our Golden Era were also side-lined.
Since 1953, ‘Filmfare’ award was the only prestigious award associated with commercial Hindi cinema. In the beginning there were very few categories and winners were announced directly. In the very first year, Balraj Sahni’s outstanding performance in Do Bigha Zameen did not fetch him the Best Actor award. He lost to Dilip Kumar who won it for Daag . Among the heroines, both Nargis in Anhonee in a classic double role and Madhubala in Sangdil lost the award to Meena Kumari, Baiju Bawra.
Then again, it was only fifteen years after its inception did Filmfare awards start giving separate awards to ‘Best Male’ and ‘Best Female’ playback singers. With the result, many from the songs and singers of that period lost their chance of winning. For instance Lataji’s ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya …’ from Mughal-e-Azam lost out to Mohd Rafi’s ‘Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho…’ Both of them were magnificent numbers. Likewise, in 1964, Rafi’s ‘Mere Mehboob…’ from Mere Mehboob and Lata’s ‘Jo Waada Kiya…’ from Taj Mahal lost to Mahendra Kapoor’s ‘Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se…’from Gumraah. In 1966, Lata won the award for ‘Tumhi Meri Mandir...’ over Rafi’s ‘ Choo Lene Do Naazuk Hoton Ko…’.
Take the example of veteran actor Ashok Kumar, possibly one of the finest and most natural actors the country has seen. He made his debut in 1935 but got his first Filmfare award only in 1963. Kishore Kumar had to wait for twenty years to get his first Filmfare trophy (best male playback) for Aaradhna in 1969 and another six years for his second trophy for Don!
Rajesh Khanna was nominated for both Amar Prem and Dushman and Sanjeev Kumar for Koshish, but it was Manoj Kumar who won the best actor award that year for Beimaan.! The fact that Khanna was not even nominated for Bawarchi the same year remains a mystery. Again he lost out for his brilliant portrayal of the old man in Avatar and Naseeruddin Shah walked away with the award for Masoom.
Imagine Amitabh Bachchan never won the best actor award for Deewar! Madhubala’s immortal portrayal of Anarkali in Mughal-e-Azam did not fetch her the best actress award that year. Instead it was Bina Rai who won the award that year and that too for a very ordinary performance in Ghunghat!
Mughal-e-Azam’s story goes even deeper. It is considered by many to be the best film ever made in our 100-year industry and yet neither the maker of this epic –K Asif win the best director award, nor did Naushad win the best music director award. Instead, Bimal Roy for Parakh and Shankar-Jaikishen for Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi were declared the winners. Both Prithviraj Kapoor and Durga Khote also did not figure in the supporting actor awards.
Kishore Kumar never got award for his songs of Amar Prem because that year Mukesh won for his very ordinary song, ‘Jai Bolo Beimaan Ki…’. R D Burman won his first Filmfare trophy after 15 years of hard work for his ordinary compositions in Sanam Teri Kasam. No awards came his way for gems like Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Teesri Manzil, Amar Prem, Caravan, Yaadon Ki Baraat, etc. Though he never won a National award for music, both Lata and Asha have got awards for singing his compositions. The rare war film Haqeeqat, was not even nominated in the story and music category and lost out to Waqt in the best film and best director category.
Similar is the story of Pakeezah. Neither the director Kamal Amrohi nor the actress Meena Kumari nor the music director Ghulam Mohammad’s sterling and haunting compositions that remain evergreen even today, win any award. In fact the film took such a long time that the music director died two years before the film released and Meena Kumari passed away right after the release. A special award, albeit posthumous, for both would have been a great tribute to their genius. Instead all awards went to the very ordinary film Beimaan. R D Burman was not even nominated for Amar Prem. Composer Madan Mohan never won a Filmfare award and O P Nayyar never got any National award!
Sholay, considered as an all-time classic, won only in 1 out of 9 categories and lost out to Deewar in the best film category. Amjad Khan, who is credited with playing the most iconic villain-Gabbar- in the history of our films, lost the award for best supporting actor to Shashi Kapoor, Deewar.
More recently, in 2011, Ajay Devgn gave a brilliant performance in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai and Salman was excellent in Dabangg. Yet it was Shah Rukh Khan who got the award for a very average performance in My Name is Khan. The very next year Ajay Devgn came up with yet another sterling performance in Singham but lost out to Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar. Both Vidya Balan in Kahaani and Sridevi in English Vinglish came up with brilliant performances , it was Vidya Balan who walked away with most of the top Best Actress awards that year including Filmfare, Screen, IIFA, Zee Cine award, Star Guild awards, etc.
Our hearts bleed when we think of what or how the people associated with many classics must have felt for not having been acknowledged for their talent and effort…