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Padma Awards: Crowning the Unsung Heroes of Art


All of us (don’t) remember the names and dates we crammed for our general knowledge exams, making up official sounding surnames and hoping against all odds that our guesses might just be correct. And as much as it hurts to admit, they weren’t correct.

We scanned the paper looking for certain questions which were predictable, the ones all of us could answer and didn’t even have to mug up. The ones relating to movies, actors/actresses or recent award shows. We OWNED those few marks. And felt really happy about it. And of course, the relationship with the other questions ended as soon as the bell rang and we shuffled out.

However, not one of us questioned ourselves.
What about the names we didn’t know, to begin with?

We don’t even end up giving a thought to those names, those people because they don’t show up on social media, or don’t frequent the entertainment section in the newspapers.

However, these lesser known names boast of some of the most extraordinary contributions in their respective fields.
This year 8 eminent personalities were conferred the Padma awards for their noteworthy contribution to cinema or film.
The Padma awards, announced on the Republic every year seek to recognize work of notable distinction, and excellence in any field/discipline.

Out of these 8 awardees, only 3 are widely known. Those being: Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Dilip Kumar (born Muhammad Yusuf Khan)
It’s time to change things now. Read on for those names and why you should know about them:

1. Jahnu Barua – Awarded the Padma Bhushan

“The first film my parents saw was the film I made.” – Jahnu Barua
This man has TEN National Film Awards to his name.Earning awards at national and international levels, he’s considered as one of the pioneers of Assamese Art Cinema.Diverse and with strong themes, his work has not been restricted to Assamese Cinema. Barua’s best known Hindi film is ‘Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Mara’ a critically acclaimed film, for which Anupam Kher received a Special Jury award at the National Film Awards.

1 (2)In 2012, Barua was conferred the Bhupen Hazrika National award, and has been a recipient of the Getz World Peace Prize, Kodak Vision among many more prestigious awards.

2His work centers on themes relevant to the society, around those which have a profound meaning to people, of events which created impact. His film Baandhon highlights the emotional trauma of two grandparents who lost their grandson in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. “As a filmmaker, I feel I have a social responsibility and keep getting provoked by themes which are socio-political in nature,” he says.


2. Naresh Bedi – Awarded the Padma Shri

Naresh Bedi,a renowned wildlife photographer and filmmaker, is best known for his work in Mira Nair-directed Monsoon Wedding (2001), Earth Story (1998) and Kumbha Mela(2001)

3He’s the first Asian to have won the ‘Panda’ or the Green Oscar, as Best Wildlife Cameraman at the Wildlife and Television Festival, Wildscreen 1984.Today, Naresh Bedi alongside his brother Rajesh Bedi work for their banner, producing a variety of feature films and documentaries on environment, social issues, religion and culture.

They have produced several programs for Discovery, BBC, National Geographic and the like, receiving nominations for the British Academy awards as well.

Despite international recognition and their exciting work, only two films have been able to reach the Indian audience yet. Hopefully, with greater awareness and shift in traditional paradigms, their work will translate well to all audiences. The aim is not to simply entertain, but to excite and make aware.

“If someone has money on mind, then I would rather suggest not taking up this profession.”

4 (2)A still from a film made to create awareness about Red Panda conservation.


3. Tarak Mehta – Awarded the Padma Shri

n53464293563_1596149_9075While his claim to fame is definitely not the popular show, but as it turns out, the show is based on his column.

Tarak Mehta is an Indian columnist, writer and playwright is best known for the column Duniya Na Undha Chasma in the Gujarati language.

5 (2)Tarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashma, the show based on his column became the flagship show of SAB TV in 2008, ranking in the top 10 list of fiction shows in 2014.


4. Kota Srinivasa Rao – Awarded the Padma Shri

Known primarily for his works in Telegu cnema and theatre, he has starred in Six hundred and fifty feature films, won six nandi awards (Awards of the highest order for excellence in Telegu Cinema, theater, television and life time achievements) in a career that spanned three and a half decades. Astounding figures, indeed.

This man, who won accolades for best character or villain, actually debuted as a comedian in 1978.

7In 2012, he garnered the South Indian International Movie Award (honoring the cinematic achievements of the South Indian film industry), for his work in Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum

If I look back, I really wonder how all these years have passed by,” The Times of India quoted Kota Srinivasa Rao as saying.


5. Shekhar Sen – Awarded the Padma Shri

With the objective of becoming a music composer, Shekhar Sen started his career in Mumbai in 1979.
A playwright, singer, director and actor, Sen has created one-man musical plays and has performed over 800 exuberant shows. As a musician, he has performed more than 1200 m-concerts all over the world.
Unique, distinctive and widely appreciated his mono-act plays boast of packed venues, with people even lining up at the stairs as well.

Also appointed as the chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Academy in 2015 by the Indian Government, Sen believes that art does not come by “reading books. It is inborn and cultivated”.

8Shekhar Sen in a still from one of his monoacts, “Kabeer”
(Source :
Sen’s YouTube channel :

With a humongous number of awards and achievements between them, the contributions that these men have made to the arts leave a lasting and influential impact on society.

These artists have devoted the better part of their lives to express, create, learn and teach. To them, it’s not about fame or monetary benefit, it’s their art that sustains them and their art that speaks for them.These names do not need spotlights or headlines, they’re content with simply having contributed to the undulating works of art that make up our culture.

Even though their work finds little to no mention in mainstream media, its acclaim and recognition are proof of their talent and excellence.



By Manvika Athwani


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