The National Film Awards were presented on yesterday amidst protests over the President handing over the honour to only a select set of winners of 11, shadowed by anger among scores of winners about not receiving the honour from the President.

Nearly 50 winners skipped the ceremony after learning on Wednesday on the rehearsal a day before the event, that only 11 awards will be presented by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting Minister and her junior minister Rajyavardhan Rathore presented most of the awards.

In an open letter earlier in the day, marked to the Office of the President and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,  over 70 artistes said they were skipping the ceremony as they “felt dejected rather than honoured” on being informed at the last minute that the President would give away only 11 awards.“It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy,” read the letter, signed by prominent names such as director Kaushik Ganguly, best-supporting actor award winner Fahadh Faasil and singer K J Yesudas.

The president’s office expressed “surprise” at the “11th-hour questions”, Rashtrapati Bhavan today said in a statement that the President attends all award functions for a maximum of one hour. Praveen Morchhale, a filmmaker who did not accept the award, told reporters: “We have been discriminated against. They have divided us into classes.”

Some like Singer Yesudas had attended the event despite signing the letter, He reportedly said “I don’t want to comment on this. The President invited me so I’m here.”