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National Film Awards: When Manoj Kumar Felt Slighted

Bollywood camp seems to be divided over some of the winners of the 67th National Film Awards for 2019. Kangana Ranaut, who bagged the National Award for Best Actor for Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, and Panga, is being compared to Priyanka Chopra’s performance in The Sky Is Pink. Similarly, some veteran critics are comparing Sushant Singh Rajput starrer Chhichhore that won the coveted award with their own choices: Section 375, Art 15, Batla House and Uri: The Surgical Strike. The Jury could have selected from one of these four films, the seasoned critics hold, suspecting that the awards are being given to score political brownie points. All awards, be it national or independent ones, attract such endless criticism. This brings to mind the story told to the undersigned by the Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner Manoj Kumar aka Mr Bharat. His movie Upkar (1967) was a runaway hit. Mr Bharat got a call from a babu in New Delhi to attend the National Films Awards function at Vigyan Bhavan as his film Upkar was the winner. When the announcement was made, he found much to his dismay that a south Indian film had bagged the award and his film got the Award for the Second-Best Feature Film. Seeing a visibly irritated Manoj Kumar, the babu, in question, quickly whispered into his ears: “Sir, please understand the politics of balancing!” After reluctantly collecting the medal, Manoj Kumar quietly walked out, went to the refugee camp in Delhi where he had grown up (after Partition 1947), and threw the medal into a nullah.