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Akshay has survived so long, it's good encouragement: Priyadarshan on National Awards' choices

The director justified Akshay Kumar's National Award win and the Dangal and Aligarh snub.

Shriram Iyengar

Akshay Kumar's National Film Awards win does not seem to have pleased too many people. As soon as the actor won the 2017 National Award for Best Actor for his performances in Rustom (2016) and Airlift (2016), complaints seemed to emerge about the unfairness. However, director Priyadarshan is in no doubt about the appropriateness of the awards. Speaking to PTI, the director said, "Akshay was given the best actor on the basis of his performance in two films - Airlift and Rustom. It was the jury's decision. One performance was dramatic and one was realistic." 

In a year that saw some splendid performances from actors in diverse roles including Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh (2016), Aamir Khan in Dangal (2016), and Shahid Kapoor in Udta Punjab (2016), the Khiladi Kumar's win has not gone down well. The director stated that the awards jury re-watched Dangal, but found it lacking. He said, "I recalled Dangal saw it again but it missed because the regional films were brilliant." 

Aamir Khan's incredible transformation to get into the character of Mahavir Singh Phogat has not impressed Priyadarshan either. The director added, "It's not just someone looks right for the character, we cannot call him Best Actor. Mohanlal and Akshay have survived for so long, we thought it's good encouragement." 

While the National awards this year saw a dominance of regional films like Kaasav (2016), Rajesh Mapuskar's Ventilator (2016), and Malayalam actress Surabhi CM winning awards, Hindi cinema had its share of representatives. The legal drama Pink (2016) won the National award for Best Film on Social Issues, while Nagesh Kukunoor's Dhanak won for Best Children's Film, and Sonam Kapoor starrer, Neerja won the National Award for Best Film. 

Priyadarshan, head of the National awards jury, said, "While watching films we realised that a lot of Bollywood movies were themed around homosexuality. The movies are not really highlighting social problems. Whereas regional cinema are themed around fantastic social issues. They try to tell different stories. Even 'Dangal' doesn't talk about social issues. It was a life story."

He went on to add, "Regional movies are not made with the aim to earn Rs 100 crore. They are made from the heart. We should promote films that reflect the Indian culture. Regional movies are doing a very good job of storytelling through social issues." 

The director had previously suggested that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's performance in Sarabjit (2016) was the only one in running for Best Actress alongside Surabhi CM's act in the Malayalam film, Minnaminingu. This, in a year that saw performances of Alia Bhatt (Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi), Radhika Apte, Tannishta Chatterjee (Parched), and Sonam Kapoor (Neerja), who did get a special mention.