On what was a proud day for Marathi cinema, three of its films bagged prestigious honours at the 59th National Awards announced on Wednesday. The films ‘Deool', ‘Balgandharva' and ‘Shala' took to the national stage in what is being seen as a surge of much awaited recognition for films from Maharashtra.

While Umesh Kulkarni's ‘Deool' shared the award for the Best Feature Film with ‘Byari', the lead actor of the film Girish Kulkarni bagged the award for the Best Actor along with the one for Best Dialogues for ‘Deool'.

Speaking to The Hindu, director of the film Mr. Umesh Kulkarni said, “The award came as a pleasant shock for us. It is a sense of satisfaction that the message we were trying to spread and the story we are telling is reaching out to everyone in the country, and not just to Marathi audience.”

Deool is only the third Marathi film in the history of the National Awards to have won the recognition as Best Feature Film. Earlier, ‘Shyamchi Aai' and ‘Shwaas' had won the honour in 1954 and 2004 respectively.

Talking about the film that is set in rural Maharashtra and talks about the dilemma of a village looking for an identity, he said, “We made the film because we wanted to search ourselves, and we wanted to share it with the people. Language, we have discovered, has no barriers.”

Mr. Girish Kulkarni, who plays the lead character of Kesha in the film said, “More than the individual award, the Best Film award is more important. It is an honour and a shared success. Everyone in the film has put in more than 100 percent and has really pushed themselves.” Mr. Kulkarni is the second Marathi actor after Upendra Limaye (for Jogwa in 2009) to have won the award.

‘Absolutely special'

Both of them agreed that though the film has received various honours abroad, getting the recognition from the Indian government is “absolutely special.” “This means more than even getting an Oscar,” Mr. Umesh Kulkarni said. The film also stars noted actors Nana Patekar, Mohan Aghshe, Dilip Prabhawalkar, Sonali Kulkarni and Jyoti Subhash.

‘Shala', besides winning the Best Marathi language film, bagged the award for Best Screenplay (adapted) by Avinash Deshpande. Neeta Lulla was named as Best Costume Designer, while Vikram Gayakwad won Best Artist Make up and Anand Bhate won Best Male Playback Singer for the period film ‘Balgandharva', produced and directed by Nitin Desai.