MUMBAI: On the occasion of presenting the 54th National Film Awards, the president of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil urged Indian filmmakers to promote social responsibility, civic sense and healthy habits via cinema.
“Our society faces many social challenges, some due to age old prejudices and others on account of adjusting to rapid changes taking place in the world. While our economic progress is impressive, we must also take care that social challenges faced by us are not ignored. Social malpractices cause agony in families, disruption in society and result in squandering of economic resources. Whether it is dowry, discrimination against the girl child, female feoticide, domestic violence and addiction to tobacco, drugs and alcohol – all of them must be eradicated from our society. Films can highlight the negative impact of these issues, so that the viewer is forced to think and reflect,” Patil said.
She also said that today the biggest challenge for filmmakers was to maintain a balance between entertainment and social relevance.
“While on the one hand a message without entertainment will not capture the attention of the audience and on the other hand, mere entertainment without a message would be like an oyster without a pearl. There is no simple formula for maintaining this balance, but this is your challenge,” she said.
Patil also said that filmmakers had a huge responsibility on their shoulders as films are a powerful way of conveying a message and have the ability of influencing masses. “This medium of entertainment wields a sense of intimacy and familiarity and therefore, what it portrays has a reaction within society. This imposes a great responsibility on everyone associated with the film industry to look at how to use the power of cinema to do good for society through the portrayal of attitudes that help in building tolerant and harmonious societies,” she added.
She also mentioned that films, being an important part of the lives of our people, should not only be a source of popular entertainment for families and individuals, but also a medium of education and a vehicle for social change, as they have a tremendous psychological impact. “I especially feel there are two other aspects which films can fulfil in a developing society – making individuals compassionate and acting as emotional integrators. I am sure that the film fraternity will continue to understand this responsibility in its fullest sense,” Patil said.
She also urged filmmakers to take upon themselves the task of being catalytic agents to help in the process of the integration of the hearts and minds of the people. “Differences of opinion exist in every society and it is natural that they will be expressed, particularly in a democratic structure. However, never can violence be promoted or tolerated. The role that the film industry plays in the endeavour to promote peace and reject terrorism, is the question that you must all address,” Patil said.
“At a time when every sector of our economy is being influenced and in most cases taking the benefits of the currents of globalisation; our film industry can utilise this opportunity too. As interest in India and its culture increases across the globe, the film industry can take advantage of its already large presence and play the role of a cultural ambassador, by showcasing incredible India and its values of humanism, tolerance and harmony,” Patil added.
She also congratulated filmmaker Tapan Sinha, who was given this year’s Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Additionally, Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar and Saroja Devi were given the Lifetime Achievement Awards as recognition of their contribution to Indian cinema in commemoration of the 60th Year of our Independence.
“I would be amiss, if I do not mention young Divya Chahadkar, for the captivating performance in the Konkani film Antarnad,” Patil said.
Information and Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said, “The National Film Awards have not only brought many a talent to the fore but have also helped in encouraging films from various regional cinemas that may perhaps not have come into national recognition. A record number of entries by the first time film makers both in the feature film and non-feature film section reflects a very healthy trends. While films do a great service to our people, they have social responsibility to ensure that religious and cultural distortion and misunderstandings do not reflect in their films. Films must be able to inspire and awake this sense of common unity, within the film lovers of the country. We need more talented writers, critics and film appreciators who will mirror, dissect and analyse the films produced. This strengthens the roots of our secularism and democracy.”