The National Award

I was at the Chennai house of a Tamil veteran actor who had extensively worked in both TV and cinema. I was there to interview him for a book I am working on. While talking to him, he said he heard my name somewhere. I was shocked – I couldn’t fathom how a senior Tamil actor could have come across my name. It was then he revealed that he happened to be on the jury of 66th National Film Awards. I had sent my book for consideration and had – for the sake of my sanity – assumed that the book and the forms had been lost in transit. But this gentleman assured me that my boom had been accepted for nomination. He was tight-lipped about the rest as he wasn’t supposed to talk about the awards. While coming back from his house to my Airbnb, I called my mother. I was welling up as I told her how happy I was that the jury members had laid their eyes on my book. An award had always been out of question, but wasn’t this recognition enough?

Around a month later, the afternoon of August 9th, 2019, I got a WhatsApp message from this actor again: “I suggest you watch the Press Conference today at 3 pm where they announce the National Film Awards”. I asked him whether they’d announce the nominations as well. His reply was – and I quote – “Just watch my friend…just watch.”. I dug out the live stream from I&B Ministry and started watching. Best Book on Cinema was the first category to be announced. Mouna Prathanapole, a book on Malayali auteur G. Aravindan by S. Jayachandran Nair had won the award. Yep. That’s the kind of books that should win awards. My book was about Bollywood fluff like Gunda and Clerk…I chuckled, and was about to switch off, when I heard the lines…”There is a Special Mention in this category…”

The rest played out like a movie. In four months, I was on a flight to Delhi to receive the award from the Vice President of India. The very sound of it is silly. At school we used to memorise the names of National Awardees by rote, to participate in the school quiz. The next three days were like walking through one of those rotoscope animation movies. Have you seen “A Scanner Darkly”?