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The Lost Glory of Padma Awards- Underrepresentation of South Indian Artists

Where words fail, photos speak. Films and Arts have become an inseparable facet of our lives. They do not have a language barrier. A good art form is appreciated across the globe. Arts have the power to transform and help us to look at life from a different angle.  It’s a way of life

As a film enthusiast, I was stunned when the Indian government announced Padma Shri award to Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor. I am not here to criticize the government's decision nor to mock these two film personalities. If the primary motive behind the award is to recognize distinguished service in Arts and cinema, I leave the judgment to the reader for conferring this prestigious award to Mr. Karan Johar and Miss. Ekta Kapoor. However, as a film lover, I feel this was a total prejudice shown towards many legendary artists, stalwarts who have been vastly neglected over the years. What message is the awards committee passing to the younger generations? What respect and gratitude the government is showing towards veteran accomplished artists in their respective fields? This incident proves to be a grave misrepresentation of other film industries and the Indian Film industry is not Bollywood alone.

The Padma Shri awards were started way back in 1954. Since its inception, a total of 1,070 Padma awards were conferred across the country in the field of Arts. Out of these awardees the magnum opus Tollywood, Kollywood, Sandalwood, and Mollywood were largely discriminated against over the years.

The golden Telugu Film Industry has its roots going back to the early 1900s. From the first silent pictures in 1912 to the birth of talkies in 1931 Telegu cinema has witnessed many milestones. Telugu Film Industry represents not Bahubali alone. It is a glorious history of nearly a century-long celebration in 24 crafts. It has witnessed some outstanding technicians, musicians, lyricists, actors, directors, composers, theatre artists, dancers, art directors, sound engineers, etc. Similarly, Kollywood or Tamil cinema has its fair share in the Crown Jewel of Indian Cinema. It is widely decorated for its prose and poetry. From its first silent picture in 1918 to its first taking motion picture in 1931, Tamil cinema has lured the audience to theatres through its uncompromising perfection in 24 crafts. It is important to remember Mollywood or Malayalam Film Industry, where the maximum recipients of National awards for Best director, actor, actress, and other technicians hail from. It is worthy to mention Sandalwood or Kannada Film industry. Not many people know that the blockbuster KGF belongs to Sandalwood and its rich history and contribution to Indian cinema are beyond this film.

There is a long list of neglected artists who are worthy of this recognition. Some of the predominant personalities include Shri. S.V Ranga Rao. This legendary actor is known for his charisma, personality, diction, dialogue delivery, and portrayal of varied character roles, He acted in more than 250 films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi Films. He was the recipient of the Rasthrapathi Award for Best acting more than 5 times. He was the first actor from the South Indian Film fraternity to receive recognition at the third Afro Asia Film festival. It’s a grave misfortune for not recognizing him. It’s an honour to remember legendary actress Shri Savitri. An epitome of grace, beauty, and talent. She is known for the portrayal of Nava Rasas and not to forget her philanthropic work. It is a sheer disgrace not only for South Indian Film Industry but for Indian cinema at large for not recognizing the service she rendered. Unfortunately, this rare shining pole star passed away in 1981. Ironically the actress who played the biography of Shri Savitri won National Award but not the legendary actress herself. What a shame. 

The long list includes Shri Anjali Devi, one of the first heroines of the South Indian film Industry, actress Shri Jamuna, character artist Shri Kaikala Satyanarayana, director Shri Aadurthi Subbaro , Abhinayanetri Shri Vanishree, Urvashi Shri Sarada, music director Shri S.P Kodandapani, R. Balasaraswathi Devi first female playback singer of Telugu film industry, Shri C. Pulliah, father of Telugu theatre movement, Charlie Chaplin of Indian cinema Shri Nagesh, legendary director Shri L.V Prasad, Shri H.M Reddy, India’s first multilingual film director and many more. 

Right from the inception of Surabhi Nataka Rangam company, to silent pictures, to talkies, to Steadicams to the latest VFX technology and breakthrough in sound recording, picture screening the South Indian film industry has been through many glorious phases. The many struggles these artists faced to make us laugh, cry, dance, and inspire remains stories untold. When a legendary artist is awarded, it is a celebration for the entire state, nation, and Indian cinema at large. Then why this discrimination?

Every artist who puts makeup on his face and lights up the stage, film screen is not motivated by money alone. Deep down in every artist, there is a thirst to inspire and transpose the audience to the story they narrate. Films are not just romantic songs, magnificent settings, Hollywood export VFX nor crores of budgets. A good film, actor, for that matter any art moves the audience, it not only takes them to dreamlands, but it’s also a driving force that awakens them to see life from a different perspective, to be inspired, and to never give up on life.

The Padma awards committee should redesign the guidelines, criteria for nominations, and selection procedure. The current guidelines available do not serve the purpose of recognizing real talent. The recent recipients are live case studies on how the Padma awards committeeshould rework its selection criteria. The Padma awards selection criteria clearly mention's lifetime achievement of an Individual in the field of Arts. As per this criteria, what lifetime achievement did Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor merited? 

The State governments, Film chambers, and associations should do their best to represent the unrecognized gems and should appeal to the central government. Lastly, every responsible citizen should respond to unfair prejudice shown towards a particular region/industry or art form. If the audience can decide the Friday box office collections and the fate of the movie, why cannot their vote and voice be validated? The awards committee might not recognize the above-mentioned personalities yet, but their cinematic expression has touched millions and they secured a sacred position in the hearts of every common man. Padma Awards committee should strictly reconsider and analyse the service contributed to the art form and then confer the award. Let’s not forget, these awards do not decide the fate of the art nor the spirit of an artist to perform. There is no end for any art and artist. If this negligence continues, Padma awards would remain as an absolute Joke. 


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Tags: Indian Cinema Arts and Entertainment Films Padma Awards South Indian Film Industry


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