South cinema rules with Soorarai Pottru bagging 5; Suriya.


The 68th National Awards for films submitted in 2020, saw a huge haul for cinema from South India, which secured 20 of the 29 awarded feature film categories.

While Soorarai Pottru (Tamil) was the big winner, taking home five awards, Vasanth S Sai’s Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum won three, and Madonne Ashwin’s Mandela (Tamil) picked two. Barring Vasanth and editor Sreekar Prasad, who won the National Award for Best Feature (Tamil) and Best Editing, respectively, for Sivaranjiniyum… every other awardee in Tamil cinema was a first-time winner.

Soorarai Pottru was always a favourite with fans on social media placing their bets on Suriya and the film to win the top awards. All the predictions came true as it won the Best Film, and Suriya bagged the Best Actor award for his compelling portrayal of a determined dreamer, Nedumaaran Rajangam a character based on the life of Captain Gopinath, who owned the first low-cost airline in the country.

It is interesting that Suriya shares the honours with Ajay Devgn, who won his third National Award for his titular role in Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior that saw him exude the right mix of patriotism and rebellion in another inspiring saga. The South domination continued in the acting categories, with actor Aparna Balamurali, who played the enterprising and feisty Bommi in Soorarai Pottru, declared the Best Actress.

Adding to the mix are also two of the finest performances of 2020 Lakshmipriyaa Chandramouli and Biju Menon which won the Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards for Sivaranjiniyum… and Ayyappanum Koshiyum, respectively. In what was a sentimental moment, director Sachy, who passed away in 2021, won the Best Director award for his work in Ayyappanum, which bagged one more award for Nanjiyamma in the Best Female Playback singer category.

In a decent haul for Malayalam cinema, the inventive action sequences in Ayyappanum, won its stunt choreographers Rajasekhar, Mafia Sasi and Supreme Sundar the National Award. The lived-in locales and the contrasting lushness and aridness in Kappela’s landscape won Anees Nadodi the National Award for Best Production Design.

It was also a good year for Marathi films. S Thaman, another first-timer, bagged the award for Best Music (Songs) for the foot-tapping soundtrack from Ala Vaikunthapurramulo. Another Telugu film to be awarded richly was the dance film, Natyam, which won the Best Choreographer (Sandhya Raju) and Best Make-Up Artist (TV Rambabu) awards. 

B’wood gets a handful of awards, first-timers shine

In another sentimental moment, the late Sanchari Vijaystarrer Taledanda, which showed a person with mental health issues fighting to save his forest, won the Best Film on Environment. Another Kannada film to be bestowed with a top honour was Dollu, which won Jobin Jayan a National award for Best Audiography (Location Sound Recordist- Sync Sound). In the final award of the Sound category, Vishnu Govind and Sree Sankar won the Best recordist of final mixed track for Malik.

The 68th National Film Awards proved to be a rather subdued year for Bollywood as only Tanhaji, Saina and Toolsidas Junior made the cut. Apart from Ajay Devgn, Tanhaji won the Best Costume (Nachiket Barve and Mahesh Sharle) award, and Parineeti Choprafronted sports drama Saina won the Best lyricist award for Manoj Mutashir. It was a good haul by the lesser-known Toolsidas Junior, a heartwarming tale of a young billiards player played by Varun Buddhadev, who won a Special Jury Award.

The sports drama also won the Best Hindi film nod. The sole win from Bengali cinema was in the Best Cinematography category, which saw Supratim Bhol bag the award for his stellar work in Avijatrik. This year saw the final list coinciding with popular choices. Most of the winners were firsttimers, and were films that skipped the theatrical route to become OTT releases.

Year 2020 was an experimental on many fronts, and by the time we reached 2021, many cinema industries figured how to coexist with the pandemic. We have seen where films have gone; it will be intriguing to see where the National Awards go from here.

Big winners

Best Actor: Suriya (Soorarai Pottru) and Ajay Devgn (Tanhaji)
Best Direction: KR Sachidanandan (Ayyappanum Koshiyum)
Best Screenplay (Original): Shalini Usha Nair, Sudha Kongara (Soorarai Pottru)
Best Debut Film of a Director: Madonne Ashwin (Mandela)
Best Actress: Aparna Balamurali (Soorarai Pottru)
Best Music Direction (Songs): Thaman S (Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo)
Best Supporting Actor: Biju Menon (Ayyappanum Koshiyum)
Best Supporting Actress: Lakshmipriya Chandramouli (Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum)
Best Background Score: GV Prakash (Soorarai Pottru)
Best Production Design: Anees Nadodi (Kappela)
Best Editing: Sreekar Prasad (Sivaranjiniyum Sila Innum Pengalum)
Best Screenplay (Dialogues): Madonne Ashwin (Mandela)
Best Cinematography: Avijatrik (The Wanderlust of Apu, Bengali)

Best Film: Soorarai Pottru


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