I would like to convey my heartiest congratulations to Amitabh Bachchan, the doyen of the Indian film industry, for being awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. I am sorry he could not be physically present with us for this ceremony because of indisposition. I hope he would bounce back to good health soon. It would be no exaggeration to say that Bachchan is an institution by himself. For more than five decades, he has been enthralling the masses in India and abroad by essaying different roles from an angry young man to an ageing parent. He continues to be a perennial source of inspiration to the entire Indian film industry.
I must thank our esteemed jury for having collectively decided on the list of distinguished awardees. It must have been quite an intensive, immersive experience to watch more than 400 entries in the feature film category and 255 entries in the non-feature categories and select the most socially relevant and aesthetically deserving films.
I notice that the non-feature films deal with a wide range of subjects from female infanticide to the challenges faced by weavers. They tell stories of brave human trafficking survivors, about the ethics of adoption, films mapping the journey of fictional characters to real life heroes like G D Naidu.
The feature films this year are as much about emotions as they are about intelligence. We have gifted child artistes among us who have shown us infinite range of emotions. In the bouquet of films, we have films that break stereotypes and attack superstitions sensitively.
It also gives me great pleasure to know that the award for best feature film goes to a film on women’s struggle. There is a vast range of films in these awards. We have awards that bring to us the best of sound and the best of silence. Sounds that take us back to small Indian villages, towns and cities. Awards in various Indian languages that capture our culture, awards which raise our awareness about environment, awards that raise questions and others that offer solutions.
I feel that there are huge opportunities for greater co-operation between the film fraternity and the government to devise ways to utilise the scenic endowments of India.
I am glad to know that State of Uttarakhand has won the award for being the most film friendly state. I must congratulate the government in facilitating the ease of film making in the state. While collectively striving for sustainable development, we can promote the tourism sector and showcase India’s cultural diversity to the world.
As you all are aware, cinema is not only the most popular medium of entertainment but also the most impactful. Right from ‘Raja Harischandra’, the first movie made in India in 1913, films have caught the popular imagination and earned a special place in the hearts of people.
inema has no geographical or religious boundaries because it speaks a universal language and touches the raw emotions. Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awara Hoon’ continues to be popular in Russia even today. Over the years, Indian movies from Bollywood and other languages have earned global popularity. During my visits abroad, I was pleasantly surprised to find about the popularity of Indian films. In fact, one of the top dignitaries of a Baltic country told me how they enjoyed watching Bollywood movies. And in the recent times, films like ‘Bahubali’ have proved that India’s film industry is capable of making technically superior movies.
Over the years, cinema has become an integral part of our cultural consciousness. The staggering number of films made in different languages in our country every year is a testimony not only to the popularity of films, but also to the fact that the film industry provides livelihood to thousands of families across the country. Since films can make profound impact on the society, I feel that cinema should act as an instrument of social change.
Art speaks a universal language. This language reaches the hearts and minds of people very easily. It communicates emotions, transmits values and helps shape social norms. It influences behaviour and can alter perceptions. It can incite people and excite passions or calm ruffled nerves and provide solace to troubled minds. It can make us laugh whole heartedly and shed tears copiously.
Art doesn’t merely copy what happens within society but also imagines the future and indirectly shapes a society.
In a way, it not only provides wholesome entertainment but also performs an educative function. In my view, the film makers should also be conscious of the impact this powerful medium has on the people. The effort should be to educate people and promote social harmony. The focus should be on creating an artistic rendition of challenges and social ills and resolve the conflicts in a way that reinforces social cohesion and ethical principles. The film medium should strive to bring about an attitudinal change in the society as has been done in quite few films on many contemporary issues like sanitation, gender parity and caste discrimination.
I was extremely disturbed, like every right- minded citizen of the country, by the incidents of rape and violence against women in some parts of the country. No civilized society can accept such despicable acts against women.
The nation must rise in one voice to not only to condemn such atrocities but also to act with determination to prevent them. The mindset has to change. Parents have a huge role to play in inculcating the right values and attitude among children. So have the media.
As a matter of fact, cinema industry should not do anything that weakens the culture, traditions, values and ethos of Indian civilization. Indian films carry an important message to audiences across the world. They convey an important glimpse of ‘Indianness’ or ‘Bharatheeyatha’ to the outside world. We need to be effective ambassadors in the world of cultural diplomacy.
Edited excerpts from an address by M Venkaiah Naidu, vice president after presenting the National Film Awards in New Delhi on December 23