Lend me a silicon mask, please!

When Mammootty and Kamal Hassan, two actors from the South have got 3 national awards each, how could Hindi cinema, the so-called Bollywood, afford not to be on par with them? Especially when they are marketing themselves as Indian cinema? (I mentioned the “southern” factor specifically because the media always highlights it to distinguish them from the rest of India, like this IBNLive article says “southern music mastero Ilaiyaraja“. A R Rahman is lucky to have been adopted by Bollywood, so he doesn’t have to bear that “Southern” label when he is mentioned in the reports).

So this time when the National Film Awards were announced, we learned that the Best Actor award went to Amitabh Bachan for “Paa” and the close competitor for the title was Mammootty for his performances in Kutty Srank, Palerimanikyam and Pazhassi Raja. And many people believe that this time, again, the award jury made an unjust decision. They say that the award should have gone to Mammootty and not to Amitabh Bachan.

If I was in the jury, I would rule out Mammootty’s role in Pazhassi Raja, because the actor did not have much to do in that film as an actor. It was the film as a whole that stole the show entirely. The film was a blend of so many amazing talents on many fronts and Mammootty was just one of them. I believe he did not have much to do in that film as an actor. I haven’t seen Kutty Sraank, so I would not comment on that. But various reviews have praised Mammootty’s acting in that film to the core. I have seen Paleri Manikyam and the way Mammootty mastered the role of Kunjahammed Haji was just amazing.

I have seen Paa too. Comparing to himself, Amitabh Bachan was awesome. Auro was perhaps the best character he has ever got in his acting career. So I would rate him coming to a close second in the competition but not above Mammootty’s Haji in the race for the best actor.

For one thing, like most of the sentimental, teary-eyed Indian movies, Paa lacked the cinematic maturity of treating a subject like this. It purely banked upon the melodramatic overtones and it’s father-son “star” cast. Bachan’s make-up did not even let you see his face, leave alone the facial expression. Many people argue that his body language was perfect for the character, and I would agree with that, but the body mannerisms alone should not have brought him that award. Mammooty had different mannerisms in Paleri Manikyam too. He had to put on different facial expressions, body mannerisms and even different dialects to work with in that film and he had succeeded in all that. I hear that in Kutty Sraank also he had the same or bigger challenges.

This is not the first time that the national award jury snubbed the Malayali actors for Amitabh Bachan. When Bachan got an award for playing typical Bachan in Agneepath, the person who left out was one of the best actors ever happened to Malayalam cinema – Thilakan – for an unforgettable role he portrayed in the script of MT – Perumthachan. And now, Mammootty.

I don’t understand the criteria put forward by the jury. Is this a sign that such award juries have not come of age? If an actor does a sympathetic character with lots of scope for raining tear drops and an imported make-up man, would that be enough to actually get him an award?