Tuesday June 18, 2019

How National Film Awards reflect India’s diversity in cinema

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By Shreya Upadhyaya

If there’s anything that has been constant for Hindi film actress Kangana Ranaut since 2013, apart from rumours, it is the appreciation for her performance in the critically acclaimed and commercially successful ‘Queen’. And this year’s National Film Award for the Best Actress was another feather to her hat. The Vikas Bahl-directed flick went on to win the Best Hindi Film as well.

Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Haider’, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, won the most awards – Best Music Direction, Best Dialogue, Best Male Playback Singer, Best Choreography and Best Costumes.

National Film Awards 2015 are a mix of popular cinema as well as films with a niche audience. Most of the narratives explore different genres and weave stories that reflect the changing Indian society.

Court’, a little known quadrilingual film, was adjudged the Best Feature Film. Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, the movie depicts the “mundaneness of judicial procedure” and the “heart-wrenching insensitivity of institutional structures.” It was released in Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati last year and narrates the story of the trial of an ageing folk singer charged with abetting the suicide of a sewage worker, through his music.

While ‘Naanu Avanalla Avalu’ (Kannada) is a film on transgenders, ‘Ain’ (Malyalam) is a story set in a Muslim household, how one of its members happens to witness a murder and his escape thereafter. Kannada actor Vijay won the Best Actor Award for “his subtle and non-stereotypical” portrayal of a woman trapped in a man’s body for ‘Nanu Avanalla Avalu’.

Thriller ‘Chotushkone’ (Bengali) directed by Srijit Mukherji is a film about four directors coming together for a film with four different stories, all thematically connected by a common thread — death.

‘Kuttram Kadithal’ (Tamil) revolves around how one unexpected incident influences people from diverse lifestyles.  Bengali filmmaker Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s debut ‘Asha Jaoar Majhe’ is a story that unfolds two lives suspended amid the threat of an escalating recession.

Animation film ‘Sound of Joy’ tells the story of today’s kids, struggling with their aspirations and expectations and how they get inspired by stories of Biley (childhood name of Swami Vivekananda).

Shot in Orissa’s Rayagada district, ‘I cannot give you my forest’ is a film that explores and tries to spread the importance of forest food in the tribal culture. Its focus on such an integral and crucial environment issue has made it bag several prestigious awards globally.

‘Nachom-ia Kumpasar’ (Konkani) is based on the lives of two musicians and is narrated through over 20 popular Konkani songs from the 1960s and 1970s that have been re-recorded for this film. ‘Killa’ (Marathi) portrays the life of a young boy who has a hard time settling in his new countryside home after his father’s death in their previous city home. Several other films were awarded in different categories.

With filmmakers across the country daring to unveil, explore and narrate untold stories, forgotten accounts and ignored events, the National Film Awards always come in as confirmation of what India takes pride in – Unity in Diversity.

  • More than diversity, I think the award shows an underlying discontent and urgent need for change in the society. All the movies in some way or the other portrayal of breaking free from the stifling society.

    Our decadent government touting development and progress like some door to door salesman of substandard products, needs to learn something from this.

  • That’s a relevant point and another interesting perspective through which these films can be seen.

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  • More than diversity, I think the award shows an underlying discontent and urgent need for change in the society. All the movies in some way or the other portrayal of breaking free from the stifling society.

    Our decadent government touting development and progress like some door to door salesman of substandard products, needs to learn something from this.

  • That’s a relevant point and another interesting perspective through which these films can be seen.

Next Story

English-speaking ISIS Supporters Exploit Messaging App

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up

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English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this illustration, April 13, 2018. VOA

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up on the terror group’s ability to remain a force in Syria and Iraq, according to a new study that examined their behavior on the Telegram instant messaging service.

The report, “Encrypted Extremism: Inside the English-Speaking Islamic State Ecosystem on Telegram,” released Thursday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, looked at 636 pro-Islamic State channels and groups in the 16 months from June 2017 through October 2018.

It found that even as the terror group was losing ground in Syria and Iraq to U.S.-backed forces, and even as IS leadership was encouraging followers to start looking to progress in IS provinces elsewhere, English-speaking supporters turned to Telegram to reinforce their faith in the caliphate.

“These are supporters that like to fight uphill battles,” report co-author Bennet Clifford told VOA. “What supporters are trying to do when they’re engaging with this conversation is attempt to shift the narrative away from loss and provide justifications for it.”

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – An Islamic State flag is seen in this photo illustration. VOA

At the same time, these English-speaking supporters sought to amplify their beliefs, supplementing official IS propaganda with user-generated content while also increasing the distribution of instructional material on how to carry out attacks.

“I think it’s part of an attempt in some cases to spin the narrative their way,” Clifford added.

Attraction of Telegram

IS supporters first started flocking to Telegram, an instant messaging service that promises speed and encryption for private communications, in 2015 as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook began a crackdown aimed at Islamic State’s often violent and gory propaganda.

Since then, IS has been hooked by Telegram’s promise that it will not disclose user data to government officials and by the service’s ability to let supporters organize and share large files, including video.

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“No other platforms appear to have developed the same balance of features, user-friendliness, and basic security that could warrant a new switch,” the report said.

That ease of use has long worried counterterrorism officials, who have watched as IS has used the online ecosystem to help plan and carry out the November 2015 attacks in Paris, attacks on a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016 and the attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul just weeks later.

English-speaking facilitators

In those cases, the attackers appear to have been given instructions from IS officials in Syria and Iraq. But Telegram has given rise to several key English-speaking facilitators who have been operating on the periphery.

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East, is surrounded by reporters after attending a hearing at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 3, 2017. VOA

One of them, according to Clifford and co-author Helen Powell, was 36-year-old Karen Aizha Hamidon, who helped mobilize sympathizers from the United States to Singapore to join the terror group or its affiliates.

Hamidon, who was arrested by Philippine authorities in October 2017, has also been linked to efforts to establish an IS province in India.

Another key player, 34-year-old Ashraf al-Safoo, took a different approach before being arrested last October by the FBI in Chicago.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, al-Safoo was a key member of the Khattab Media Foundation, which used hacked social media accounts on platforms like Twitter to disseminate IS propaganda.

Also Read- New Survey States the Urgent Need of Scaling up Digitalisation by the APAC Banks

“Much of the propaganda created and distributed by Khattab promotes violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’s media office,” the Justice Department said in a statement using a different acronym for the militant group.

While both Hamidon and al-Safoo are now in custody, showing the ability of law enforcement to penetrate their Telegram operations, others are likely to replace them because of the ongoing need of Islamic State’s English-speaking supporters to communicate and find larger audiences.

“While there are a number of disadvantages for Islamic State supporters in the use of Telegram from a security perspective they’ll continue to do it because their balance of outreach and operational security,” Clifford said. “There’s not another alternative at this point in time.” (VOA)