The 65 National Awards honoured two actors posthumously this year — Sridevi was conferred the Best Actress Award for her last film Mom, and Indian cinema’s highest honour, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, was given to actor Vinod Khanna.
Mr. Khanna passed away in April 2017 after a prolonged illness and Ms. Sridevi died on February 24 this year in Dubai.
Jury Chairman Shekhar Kapur said that there were several rounds of voting to pick the Best Actress. “I promise you, it is not because of my relationship with her,” said Mr. Kapur, who had directed the actress in the 1987 hit Mr. India. “Every morning, I used to tell the jury to look at all the candidates again and again. I said, don’t give her the award just because she has passed away. But in each vote, it came back to Sridevi.”
The actress, whose work spanned 50 years, had roles in over 300 films in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. She was recognised for her role of an angry mother seeking justice for her daughter in the rape revenge drama Mom.
Cinema’s highest laurel
Mr. Khanna, one of the biggest stars of Hindi films in the 1970s and 1980s, became the 49 recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, and only the second actor to be named for the honour posthumously after Prithviraj Kapoor.
Mr. Khanna was also a Bharatiya Janata Party leader and MP from Gurudaspur, Punjab. “We discussed for more than two hours and debated on the names of 10-15 film personalities. But we decided finally on Vinod Khanna,” said Usha Kiran Khan, retired academician and Hindi-Maithili writer, who headed the jury for the Dada Saheb Phalke Award.
The Best Actor Award went to Riddhi Sen for his performance in Kaushik Ganguly’s Bengali film Nagar Kirtan, which also won the Best Costume, Make-Up and Special Jury awards.
Rima Das’ Assamese film Village Rockstars, on a village girl’s dream to be a musician, was named the Best Feature Film, besides receiving the awards for Best Location, Sound Recordist, Editing, and Best Child Artiste (Bhanita Das).
Two Malayalam films cornered five National Awards — Bhayanakam secured Best Direction and Best Screenplay (adapted) for Jayaraj and Best Cinematography for Nikhil S. Praveen.
Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum fetched Best Supporting Actor for Fahad Fazil and Best Screenplay (original) for Sanjeev Pazhoor.
Oscar-winning music composer A. R. Rahman swept the Music Direction category by winning the Best Songs award for the Tamil film Kaatru Veliyidaiand the Best Background Music for Mom.
Mainstream blockbuster Baahubali: The Conclusion won the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, besides being named for Special Effects and Action Direction. Ganesh Acharya won the Best Choreography Award for the Hindi film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
Best Hindi Film
Hindi film Newton, a dark comedy on Indian democracy, was named the Best Hindi Film, and a Special Mention went to its actor Pankaj Tripathi for his portrayal of a cynical Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer Atma Singh. Jury Chairman Mr. Kapur said Mr. Tripathi’s portrayal was one of the highlights of the film, directed by Amit V. Masurkar. The Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration went to the Marathi film Dhappa, while the Malayalam film Aalorukkam was recognised as the Best Film on Social Issues.
Divya Dutta was named the Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Hindi film Irada, which also bagged the award for the Best Film on Environmental Conservation. Mhorkya, a Marathi film, was judged the Best Children’s Film, while the Best Marathi Film award went to Kaccha Limbu.
Veteran singer K. J. Yesudas was recognised as the Best Male Singer for his song ‘Poy Maranja Kalam’ in the Malayalam film Viswasapoorva M Mansoor, while the award for Best Female Singer went to Shashaa Tirupati for the song ‘Vaan’ in Kaatru Veliyidai.