Predictability and surprise don’t go together, but it was true in this case; both these elements were felt in equal measure when the best actor awards for 2007 and 2008 were announced as Rajinikanth for Sivaji and Kamal Haasan for Dasavatharam respectively.The TN government film awards for 2007 and 2008 were announced recently. Amongst many winners, there were a couple of awards that surprised us because of their predictability.
Predictable because these two legends have been, without an iota of doubt, the greatest actors in Tamil cinema for over three decades and still continue to be so. Surprising, because one thought these legends had outgrown such recognitions of their genius. Ideally, an award should be a boost to the individual receiving it. A person getting an award should feel honored and further encouraged to continue his /her good work. That is the basic purpose of setting up awards, especially government recognitions. But, having gone on to greater things like the Padma honors, honorary doctorates and in the near future, roads that bear their names, one wonders whether the significance of the state award will remain the same. Of course, both Kamal and Rajinikanth would be extremely gracious and humble in receiving this honor as they have been all their lives. But, the fact is that both have reached such a stage in their careers where it is the award that is actually honored by being associated with their names rather than the other way round.
This 2007-2008 Rajini-Kamal double is also surprising because 2005-2006 too was identical; Rajini for Chandramukhi and Kamal for Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu respectively. The awards alternating between the two legends for the past four years is perhaps not the best thing to happen to Tamil cinema. No one who speaks or understands Tamil needs to be told about the genius of Kamal or the charisma of Rajini. Yet, the honors have been bestowed upon them alternatively for four consecutive years (like a game of passing the parcel). Everyone who has followed Tamil cinema will accept that their iconic status is unparalleled. Award or no award, their stature is not going to diminish even a wee bit. To put it very plainly, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan really don’t need Best Actor awards, nor do we need such certifications of their genius to enjoy their movies.
Yet, some might argue, what is the harm in giving them the awards. After all, they are the best and awards are meant to go to the best, aren’t they? Yes, no doubt, they have to go to the best. This might be a funny analogy; giving awards to Rajini and Kamal is a bit like trying to shine a spotlight on the sun. The sun is as bright as ever, it is the spotlight that goes wasted. When the sun is shining in full force, no one bothers with the spotlight. A more insignificant star could do a lot with the spotlight.
That is exactly what the TN state awards ought to be trying to do. Kamal and Rajini are the twin pillars of Tamil cinema. They have received almost every conceivable honor that an actor can receive in the country. Most importantly, they are eternally placed in the hearts and minds of all Tamil cinema lovers. The awards can be used better to honor and recognize the young talent that is making its way up through the ranks.
They need the recognition and encouragement much more than anyone else and it is in that direction that awards must go. Kamal himself has openly stated once that he would be much happier if awards were given to younger actors instead of repeatedly coming to him.
Finally, this is not meant to question the process that chose Kamal and Rajini for the honors. But, it also has to be remembered that the period for which the two icons have now been awarded has been a time of rich quality in Tamil cinema. We have had Periyaar, Pallikoodam, Paruthiveeran, Subramaniapuram, Poo, Kanjeevaram etc. By giving the best actor awards to Kamal and Rajinikanth, many young and enthusiastic film makers have missed one opportunity to get that coveted honor. The above mentioned films are ones that ought not to be missed in any roll of honor of the past two years.
There is little else to be said. Kamal and Rajinikanth have done enough and more to be guaranteed of two or three life time achievement awards, if that is permitted. They have been tireless performers for decades and really don’t need such awards to drive them ahead. Nor do we, their fans, need to be reminded of their genius through awards. They have transcended the realm and entered the sublime. Let awards and recognitions be the domain of the young and upcoming; that might be the right way ahead.