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'Shantham' brings kudos to Malayalam cinema

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 27. Malayalam cinema walked away with a few top honours when the 48th National Film Awards were announced in New Delhi this evening.

Some of the names that were pushed to fame by the 2000 State Film Awards had to make do with minor national prizes. And some that did not win the attention of the regional jury went on to claim national eminence.

One such was Jayaraj's `Shantham'. It failed to win the regional committee's favour, but got the National Award for the Best Feature Film. Starring soccer hero I. M. Vijayan, Seema Biswas of `Bandit Queen' fame, Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Gopi and writer Madambu Kunjukuttan, the film depicts the morbid passions in the killing fields of North Kerala, the frustrations and regrets of the youth caught in a tantalising political game.

Jayaraj dedicated the award to "all those women who have lost their sons in the killing fields". Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Kottakkal, he hoped that the award would be an incentive for the people to watch the film, which dealt with "a burning issue of our times". "I am very sad that the film did not receive the public reception that it was expected to. The saddest fact is that Kannur was where it was watched the least. The reasons are elusive."

Jayaraj refused to comment on his film not having won the favour of the regional jury. "I'd rather not question the jury decision. Even when the awards were announced, I had kept mum."

This is Jayaraj's third national award. In 1996, his film, `Desadanam', won the award for the Best Malayalam Film. The next year, he was named the Best Director.

KPAC Lalitha, who played the mother of a youth killed by his friend-turned-political rival in `Shantham', won the National Award for the Best Supporting Actress. "I am happy," she said, speaking over phone from the sets of a TV serial in Kochi.

This is the second national award that has come her way. She had won it earlier for her performance in `Amaram'.

Director M. P. Sukumaran Nair was another achiever. His film, `Shayanam', shared the National Award for the Best Malayalam Film with Satyan Anthicaud's `Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal'. At the regional level, Nair's work had to rest content with a prize for the best screenplay. The jury chairman, Mr. Saeed Mirza, had psed the film and was apologetic about not having conferred on it any major prize.

"Is it going for the national awards?" he had asked then, with a mischievous glint in his eye.

"The national prize is very comforting," Nair says. "Till now, everything looked upside down."

`Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal' also won the best choreography award for G. Kala.

`Sayahnam', which won seven State awards, got only one at the national level - that for the Best Debut Director. "I have no complaints," said R. Sharath, its director. "I am happy. As my film conveys an anti-nuke message, I didn't expect any award from the panel constituted by the BJP Government, which has made its nuclear ambitions clear through Pokhran."

Mr. M. T. Vasudevan Nair's `Oru Cheru Punchiri' won the prize for the Best Film on Environment.

The winners in the other categories included Yusufali Kecheri (Best Lyricist) and `Kharaksharangal' (Best Children's Film).

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