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Waheeda Rehman, Alia Bhatt, Allu Arjun and other winners honoured at 69th National Film Awards

By: Mohnish Singh

Indian President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday presented screen icon Waheeda Rehman with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award and honoured other winners of the 69th National Film Awards, including popular stars Allu Arjun, Alia Bhatt and Kriti Sanon.

The National Film Awards were announced in August honouring the best in cinema for the year 2021.

At the ceremony held at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, Murmu said cinema is not just an industry limited to business and entertainment.

“Films are the most effective medium to spread awareness and sensitivity. Meaningful films depict the achievements as well as the problems of the society and the country,” the president said in her speech. “The film fraternity gives us a vivid introduction to the diverse reality of Indian society through their films. Cinema is both a document of our society and a medium to improve it. Cinema artists are agents of change. They provide information about the country and connect citizens,” she added.

The president congratulated Rehman for receiving the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, adding the actor had reached the pinnacle of the film industry with her talent and personality.

“She has lived her personal life also with dignity, self-confidence and originality. She chose many such films in which her role broke the barriers associated with women. She has set an example that women themselves should take initiative for women empowerment,” Murmu said.

Rehman, 85, dedicated the award to her “dear film industry” and its various departments. “I feel very honoured and humbled… But whatever I have achieved today, it is because of my dear film industry. Luckily, I got to work with top directors, producers, filmmakers, technicians, writers, dialogue writers, music directors and musicians,” Rehman said in her acceptance speech. “I got a lot of support, respect and love from them,” she said, also crediting the make-up artists, hair and costume designers. “…Which is why I am sharing this award with all the departments of the film industry… A film is not made by just one person, we need each other,” the actor, who received a standing ovation, further said.

Veteran actor Waheeda Rehman (Image source: Instagram)

While Arjun won the Best Actor award for the Telugu film Pushpa: The Rise, the Best Actress honour was shared by Alia and Kriti for Hindi films Gangubai Kathiawadi and Mimi, respectively.

This is the first National Award for all three actors.

The auditorium erupted with cheers as a clip of Pushpa: The Rise played when Allu Arjun walked up to the stage. But the loudest cheers were reserved for the winners of RRR and Pushpa: The Rise in different categories.

Allu Arjun was spotted clicking pictures of other awardees from the Telugu industry.

“Honoured to receive the National Award. I want to thank the jury, the ministry, and the Government of India, for this recognition. This award is not only a personal milestone but belongs to all people who have supported and cherished our cinema. Thank you, (director) Sukumar Garu. You are the reason behind my achievement,” the movie star posted on X.

President Droupadi Murmu, Actor Allu Arjun (Instagram)

Alia, who was dressed in her ivory wedding saree as she attended the ceremony with actor-husband Ranbir Kapoor, also expressed gratitude.

Alia Bhatt

Ranbir was seen capturing his wife’s moment of glory from the audience seat.  “(I feel) thrilled, grateful and honoured,” Alia told PTI.

“I am feeling very blessed and overwhelmed. This was a special moment as it was for Mimi and also because my parents were here watching me,” Kriti said.

Her parents, Geeta and Rahul Sanon, were over the moon. “From a little girl to here, she’s come a long way. This is just the beginning. Hope she wins many more such awards,” Geeta Sanon told PTI.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur, President Murmu, Kriti Sanon (ANI Photo)

Actor-filmmaker R Madhavan received the National Award for Best Feature Film for his directorial debut Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, based on the life of Nambi Narayanan, a former aerospace engineer of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“I feel happy and gratified. We were able to make a change in Mr Nambi Narayanan’s life,” Madhavan told PTI.

Actor R Madhavan (Image source: I&B Ministry)

Actor Pankaj Tripathi, who won the best supporting actor for Mimi, said this win is “special” because it’s an honour from the country.

“It was a beautiful role. This award belongs to my director Laxman Utekar, producer Dinesh Vijan and Rohan Shankar. Kriti has also got an award,” Tripathi told reporters.

Shershaah director Vishnu Vardhan won the special jury award for the biopic on Kargil war hero Vikram Batra. Also present was the film’s producer Karan Johar. “We received the award for our film Shershaah. Vishnuvardhan, the filmmaker, the entire team of Shershaah, Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani, everybody, we are very humbled and very honoured,” Karan said post the ceremony.

Shreya Ghoshal won the best female playback award for her song “Mayava Chaayavaa” for the film Iravin Ninzhal.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur, President Murmu, Shreya Ghoshal (Image source: I and B Ministry))

RRR won five awards, including best male playback singer for Kalabhairava for the song “Komuram Bheemudo”.

RRR music director MM Keeravaani shared the best music direction award with Pushpa: The Rise Part music composer Devi Sri Prasad.

The SS Rajamouli-directed film also bagged awards for best popular film providing wholesome entertainment, best special effects, best action director and best choreography.

Prasad said receiving this award is the “dream of every technician”. “I feel great. It’s a huge honour. Getting an award for a film whose songs everyone knows, that’s the biggest thrill,” the music composer told PTI.

He also gave an update on the sequel Pushpa: The Rule. “Work is going on great. Suman sir, our director, has written a terrific script. My brother, my friend Allu Arjun is working hard,” he added.

Gujarati film Gandhi & Co was named the Best Children Film. Bhavin Rabari won the Best Child Actor award for Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show, which also won the Best Gujarati Film award.

Going forward, Rabari said he wants to work with “big actors like Allu Arjun and Alia Bhatt”. “Bahu saras (‘I feel very good’ in Gujarati). I want to work with big actors… like Allu Arjun and Alia Bhatt,” Rabari told PTI.

Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar Udham, fronted by Vicky Kaushal, won five awards in Best Feature Film in Hindi, cinematography, Best Audiography, Production Design, and Costume Design.

Sircar, who is shooting for his next movie in New York, gave the ceremony a miss. The event was attended by producer Sheel Kumar (Kino Works), along with sound designer Sinoy Joseph, production designer Mansi Dhruv Mehta, and costume designer Veera Kapur Ee.

The Kashmir Files, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, won the Nargis Dutt Award for best film on national integration. Its actor Pallavi Joshi won her second National Film Award in the Best Supporting Actor category. “I am so glad that I won it for The Kashmir Files because this film carries such a strong message and meant so much. I dedicate this to all the victims of the Kashmiri Pandit genocide,” Joshi told PTI.

Agnihotri dedicated the award to “all the victims of terrorism”.

“This film is going to spread the message of humanity,” he told PTI.

The National Film Award for best director went to Nikhil Mahajan for the Marathi film Godavari.

The National Awards for 2021 were announced by filmmaker Ketan Mehta who headed the 11-member jury.

The original screenplay honour went to the Malayalam film Nayattu and its writer Shahi Kabir.

The Indira Gandhi Award for best debut film of a director went to the Malayalam film Meppadiyan, whereas the prize for best film on social issues was given to the Assamese film “Anunaad-the Resonance”.

The jury received 280 feature films in 28 languages as entries.

The National Film Awards also announced winners for 24 non-feature film categories with the top prize going to producer-director Shrishti Lkhera for Ek Tha Gaon.

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