NFA finally announces 2006 winners

Awards held up by 'rigging' charges

NEW DELHI -- The Indian government's 54th annual National Film Awards were announced Tuesday for films released in 2006 after court cases involving censor certification and alleged rigging delayed the presentations.

The NFAs are supervised by the New Delhi-based Directorate of Film Festivals, which was affiliated with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This year's jury was headed by veteran filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta.

Malayalam-language film "Pulijanmam," directed by Priyanandanan, won $6,250 as best film.

Comedy hit "Lage Raho Munnabhai" (Keep Going Munnabhai) won four awards including $5,000 for most popular film.

Madhur Bhandarkar took the best director prize -- and $6,250 -- for "Traffic Signal," while another comedy hit, "Khosla Ka Ghosla" (Khosla's Abode), won for best Hindi film.

Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee won best actor for "Podokkhep" (Footsteps) while Tamil actress Priyamani won best actress for "Paruthiveeran."

A date for the awards ceremony, slated to take place in New Delhi, will be announced later.

The awards were first embroiled in controversy last year when Mumbai-based documentary filmmakers filed a petition demanding that their films be exempt from censor board certification, which was subsequently allowed by the Mumbai High Court. Another case was filed by jury member Shyamali Banerjee Deb in the Delhi High Court last year, alleging that the awards were "rigged" by government officials.

Among her grievances, Deb also challenged the selection of "Black," considered an adaptation of the 1962 Helen Keller biopic "The Miracle Worker," stating in her petition that "a film which is an adaptation of a foreign film should not be considered since the awards are only meant for original work."

But in a July 30 ruling, the Delhi High Court overruled Deb's petition, clearing the way for the awards to be announced in August 2007, which saw veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan winning best actor for "Black."