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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Indian movie awards spark row
Bollywood stars
Bollywood stars believe they have earned the recognition
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

A row has broken out over India's prestigious national cinema awards with some members of the jury quitting and alleging the ceremony was rigged.

I am cherishing every moment of this glory

Best Actress Raveena Tandon
Three jury members - out of a total of 16 - resigned and complained about bias in the selection process.

They said winners had been selected not because of their talent but because of their proximity to the ruling party, the BJP.

The national film awards are announced by the Indian Government's information and broadcasting ministry every year.

Bollywood wins

The award for best actor and actress this year have gone to popular stars from the Indian commercial film industry, Bollywood.

Anil Kapoor won the Best Actor award for the film Pukar, where he plays the role of a discredited army officer battling terrorists.

Indian moviegoers
"Commercial cinema entertains millions of Indians"
Raveena Tandon won Best Actress, for her portrayal of a sexually abused wife in Daman.

One of the jury members was a close relative of Raveena Tandon.

"I come from a film family and just because I am nominated for an award I cannot ask my relative to quit the jury, " Raveena Tandon told the BBC.

She however said her uncle abstained from voting in the Best Actress category.

But Tandon did not let the controversy ruin her mood.

This is perhaps the first time that mainstream Bollywood films and actors have been honoured

Filmmaker Tanuja Chandra
"It's a great honour to get the award and I am cherishing every moment of this glory," she said.

Anil Kapoor also dismissed the controversy saying he had worked hard for his success and had been around in the film industry for nearly two decades.

"How can anybody say the award given to me is ill-deserved?" he said.

Art-house pique

Many Bollywood film-makers feel the row is a result of the conflict between mainstream commercial cinema and art-house cinema.

Satyajit Ray
Until now the preserve of art-house directors such as Satyajit Ray
"Nobody would have raised an eyebrow if the award was given to an obscure film and an unknown actor in the name of developing realistic and meaningful cinema," filmmaker Tanuja Chandra said.

"But just because this is perhaps the first time that mainstream Bollywood films and actors have been honoured with the national awards a hue and cry is being raised," she argued.

"There are two India's within the jury. One which favours the elite taste and which looks down upon Bollywood cinema as low-brow and nonsensical," said Mahesh Bhatt, a former art-house director who has turned to commercial filmmaking.

"But then one cannot overlook the fact that this kind of cinema entertains millions of Indians every year and if this year the government has decided to recognise mainstream cinema so be it," he said.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bollywood star in dress row
09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bollywood 'underworld' film is sell-out
11 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Bollywood moves with the times
30 Jun 00 | South Asia
'Cool India' cinema in London
25 Jun 00 | South Asia
Honours at Bollywood awards
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