How Southern Films Dominated the 2020 National Film Awards

Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic, the Film Festivals Department has finally decided to reveal the winners of the 2020 National Film Awards. The most remarkable aspect of the 68thedition was the dominance of Southern films, which collectively won 20 awards. Tamil movie Soorarai Pottrureleased on Amazon Prime Video, was voted best film and became the most awarded film with four other awards: best actor (Suriya), best actress (Aparna Balamurali), best screenplay (Shalini Usha Nair) and best background music. (GV Prakash).

In the other categories too, it was the southern films that shone. At Madonna Ashwin’s mandela was the recipient of the award for best first film as well as best dialogue. The late Sachy won Best Director for gripping Malayalam drama Ayyappanum Koshiyum and one of its leading men, Biju Menon, won Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, the film also walked away with honors for Best Playback Singer (to tribal singer Nanchamma) and Best Stunt Choreography (to Rajasekhar, Mafia Sasi, and Supreme Sunder).

That’s not all. Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli was voted best supporting actress for her work in the Tamil anthology Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengalum. Thaman S Soundtrack For Telugu Blockbuster Starring Allu Arjun Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo was deemed the best. Sandhya Raju’s work in Natyam won him the award for best choreography; the film also won for her makeup. The Production Design and Editing Awards went to Anees Nadodi for Kapella and Sreekar Prasad for Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengalum. Even the two awards for audiography and best environmental film (Taledanda) came from the Malayalam and Kannada film industries.

Filmmaker and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah, who led the judging panel, however, does not want to see the awards as a “South Indian film industry compared to any other film industry”. “All were Indian films. We are all one industry,” he said. “Language shouldn’t make the industry different.”

So why did films from the South walk away with so many distinctions? Shah felt that “they tend to be more represented due to the large number of films they make” in four different languages. “The [box-office] business is very high compared to Marathi, Gujarati, Odiya or Bengali movies. As a result, technically, they (the Southern language films) are capable of making far superior films and winning numerous awards in technical categories. They are able to spend more money than even Hindi movies,” he said.

Yes, there was a tsunami in the South with three films that stood out… Soorarai Pottru, Ayyappanum Koshiyum and mandela. Shah pointed out that Hindi hit Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior won Best Popular Film for providing wholesome entertainment while Marathi Film funeral received the award for best film on social issues. “We must not forget that it was a Covid year and many good Hindi films did not come out in 2020,” Shah added. Apart from TanhajiManoj Muntashir was rewarded for his words in Saina.

Speaking of the multiple accolades for Soorarai Pottru, Shah said, “It’s a biopic that doesn’t follow the established path of the genre. The performances of all the characters were absolutely fantastic, including Paresh Rawal. We couldn’t consider it because his voice was dubbed; otherwise, he would have been a strong contender. The writing and imaginative direction made it a fantastic film. In so many sequences, the treatment was unusual.

The strong release of Southern films comes at a time when three films from the Southern film industry—Pushpa: the ascent, RRR and KGF: Chapter 2– topped the domestic box office with their Hindi dubbed versions which are doing extremely well. Shah says Hindi cinema has also had its share of success in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Kashmir records, even if their overall number pales in comparison to that of RRR and KGF. “If you look at the common thread running through most successful movies, they were all beautifully made commercial artists,” he says. “The problem with Hindi cinema is that we are hesitant to be commercial, and I’m sure lessons are learned. A well-made commercial artist will always be special to the masses; language is immaterial.

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