There is one thing Mammootty tells constantly any year he gets on stage to receive best actor at ‘FilmFare Awards South’ .That Filmfare should stop having separate award functions – one for Bollywood and one for South- and rather treat the artists across the nation as one. Mammooty is 63 years old and does pretty average movies often. But he does also churn out gems of performances almost every other year too.
You could see the confidence in his words that he can give the younger Bollywood heroes a run for their money if he is pitted equally against them.You could also sense the actor’s frustration and disappointment in often been discriminated and been taken away several chances of similar awards only because he belonged to an industry that does not speak a language which is popular across the country.
Indian government has four civilian awards in place to recognize distinguished and exceptional achievements in fields such as Art, Literature and Education, Sports, Medicine, Social Work, Science and Engineering etc. They rank in following order- Bharat Ratna ( First and highest) , Padma Vibhushan(Second), Padma Bhushan (Third) and Padma Shri (Fourth). Coming back to Cinema, this Jan 26th on the republic day, Amitabh Bachchan was honoured with Padma Vibhushan.
Amitabh Bachchan is a phenomenal actor , a huge brand by himself and one of the biggest icons country has ever seen. He might be completely deserving of the award. But in comparison does his counterparts in Malayalam -Mammootty and Mohanlal deserve to only stay two levels down at Padma Shri ?- which they were awarded long back in 1998 and 2001 respectively. Many other prominent Indian actors like Rajni Kanth, Naseerudheen Shah, Chiranjeevi, Aamir Khan, Rajesh Khanna , Kamal Haasan are all at at least Padma Bhushan that its baffling that Mammootty and Mohanlal still stays at only Padma Shri.
It is not that Padma Shri is any mean achievement. But considering that now there are so many other younger and smaller actors , actresses and technicians in the field of Cinema sharing this same honour as theirs , there is no doubt that the two giant pillars of Malayalam Cinema deserve to have their statures upscaled. Is the reason they are denied of the same constantly because the movies they do recently are not of high quality?
But then the fact that Dilip Kumar who last acted in 1998 was also bestowed with Padma Vibhushan along with Amitabh shows that overall contributions are taken into account and not current form. Amitabh Bachchan has three best actor National awards in his kitty and so has Mammootty without much controversies or noise surrounding them. Amitabh Bachchan does not really produce big money grossers in Bollywood as a solo hero anymore nor does he exactly act regularly in movies that consistently receive critical acclaim.
On the other side only recently was Mohanlal part of a movie that broke all existing box-office records in Malayalam and that too by a long distance. Once again it also provided an opportunity for makers and actors in other languages to remake another Mohanlal movie and rake in big money though it’s another story that none of these actors had ever been able to match upto the Malayalam superstar’s performances ( Would Kamal Haasan be the first exception?- We would know only in coming months). So many of us believed that there was a good chance when Mohanlal’s name was in the Padma Bhushan hopefuls’ list forwarded by Kerala state government this year.
Last year Kamal Haasan who won Padma Bhushan proved that you cannot keep such huge and serious talents away from the deserved honours for long time. So we Malayalam cinegoers could pin hopes in that both Mammootty and Mohanlal would reach there perhaps in next 2-3 years. Only that if India’s highest civilian awards were given purely on the basis of merit without political influences or the bias towards a movie industry in one language than others, they would have gone up the ladder long time back.