2023 National Film Awards: Rocketry wins Best Picture. Dadasaheb Phalke Award recipient Waheeda Rehman also presented RRR, Sardar Udham, and other notable awardees.

Among the major winners of the National Award 2023 are Sardar Udham, RRR, Alia Bhatt for Gangubai Kathiawadi, and R Madhavan’s Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.

A few weeks following the historic Moon landing of Chandrayaan-3, Indian cinema celebrated a contentious phase of the nation’s space accomplishments by presenting Rocketry: The Nambi Effect with the Swarna Kamal for Best Picture at yesterday night’s 69th National Film Awards.

President Droupadi Murmu presented the award to Tamil actor R Madhavan, who made his directorial debut with Rocketry, during a lavish ceremony held at the Vigyan Bhavan. Rocketry was the second Tamil film to win the National Award for Best Picture. It narrates the narrative of scientist Nambi Narayan of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) being arrested and then cleared of espionage charges. Sudha Kongara’s Soorarai Pottru took up the prize the previous year.

The film features Madhavan as ISRO scientist Narayan, and he wrote, directed, and co-produced it. Madhavan was named president of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, last month. Prior to its global theatrical distribution, Rocketry was screened for business at the Cannes Film Festival the previous year.

Actress Waheeda Rehman, who gained fame from roles in films like Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), was presented by President Murmu with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for her exceptional contribution to Indian cinema. The greatest award in Indian cinema was given to Asha Parekh last year.

“I was lucky to work with the top directors, producers, filmmakers, technicians, dialogue writers, music directors and singers. I want to share this award with all the departments of the film industry. One person can’t make a complete film, all of us have to work together,” Rehman said in her acceptance speech.

Based on the true story of Gangubai Harjeevandas, a sex worker in Mumbai’s Kamathipura who became an advocate for sex workers’ rights in the 1960s, Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Hindi film Gangubai Kathiawadi won five awards, including Best Actress for Alia Bhatt, who shared the prize with Kriti Sanon for her performance as a surrogate mother in Laxman Utekar’s Hindi film Mimi. For Bhansali and Utkarshini Vashishtha, Best Dialogue Writer for Vashishtha and Prakash Kapadia, Best Editing for Bhansali, and Best Make-up for Preetisheel Singh, Gangubhai took home the awards.

Six National Awards were given out to the Telugu blockbuster RRR, which took home the Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, Best Music Direction (Background Music) for MM Keeravaani, Best Male Playback Singer for Kaala Bhairava, Best Choreography for Prem Rakshith, Best Special Effects for Srinivas Mohan, and Best Stunt Choreography for King Soloman. The film also won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song for Naatu Naatu earlier this year.

Nikhil Mahajan won the Best Director prize for his work on the Marathi movie Godavari. Pallavi Joshi received Best Supporting Actress for The Kashmir Files, while Telugu actor Allu Arjun won Best Actor for Pushpa: The Rise, where he played real-life sandalwood smuggler Pushpa Raj. Pankaj Tripathi, who received a Special Mention for the Hindi film Newton at the 65th National Film Awards, took home the Best Supporting Actor trophy for Mimi.

This year’s National Film Awards saw The Kashmir Files, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, take home the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. Sardar Udham, the Best Hindi Film winner, was one among the notable victors. Sardar Udham is Shoojit Sircar’s biography of the rebel Udham Singh. Sardar Udham won five honours in all, including Best Production Design for Dmitrii Malich and Mansi Dhruv Mehta, Best Costume Designer for Veera Kapur Ee, and Best Cinematography for Avik Mukhopadhayay. Additionally, Sinoy Joseph’s film won Best Audiography (Re-recordist of the final mixed track).

India’s entry for the International Feature Film Oscar this year, the Gujarati film Chhello Show (The Last Film Show) by Pan Nalin, took home two prizes: Best Gujarati Film and Best Child Artist for actor Bhavin Rabari, who plays a nine-year-old boy in a Saurashtra village who dreams of becoming a filmmaker after discovering celluloid reels in the projection room of his village cinema.

Gandhi and Co., directed by Manish Saini in Gujarat, took home the Best Children’s Film award. The Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director went to Vishnu Mohan’s Malayalam film Meppadiyan, while the Best Film on Social Issues went to Reema Borah’s Assamese film Anunaad: The Resonance, which was about girls being trafficked as brides from Assam’s tea estates to Haryana. The Malayalam film Aavasavyuham: The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt by Krishand, which examines humans’ problematic relationship with environment, earned the Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation award.

For her performance in the Tamil film Iravin Nizhal by R Parthiban’s composition Maayava Thooyava, written by AR Rahman, Shreya Ghoshal won the Best Female Playback Singer award, and Chandrabose was given the Best Lyrics trophy for her work on the Telugu film Konda Polam’s Dham Dham Dham. 777 Charlie was the language category winner for Best Kannada Film. The other winners were: Boomba Ride (Mishing), Ekda Kaay Zala (Marathi), Home (Malayalam), Kadaisi Vivasayi (Tamil), Uppena (Telugu), Samanantar (Maithili), Anur (Assamese), Eikhoigi Yum (Meiteilon), and Pratikshya (Odiya).

Srishti Lakhera’s stirring tale of ghost villages in Uttarakhand, Ek Tha Gaon (Once Upon a Village), took home the Best Non-Feature Film prize. Bakul Matiyani’s Hindi short film Smile Please won the Best Direction prize in the non-feature film category. Ankit Kothari’s Gujarati short film Paanchika (Five Pebbles) took home the Best Non-Feature Film Debut of a Director honour. The Malayalam short film Kandittundu, directed by Aditi Krishnadas, won the Best Animation Film award.

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