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69th National Film Awards 2021: Jacob Varghese’s documentary Ayushman wins Best Exploration/Adventure Film

The 40-minute tale of two young HIV-afflicted boys pursuing marathon running as a sport is Jacob’s second win in the category and third overall, having won a national award for a short film earlier

69th National Film Awards 2021: Jacob Varghese’s documentary Ayushman wins Best Exploration/Adventure Film
Ayushman is a 40-minute documentary in Kannada and English
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 03.11 PM, Aug 24, 2023


Kannada audiences know Jacob Varghese as the man behind films like (late) Puneeth Rajkumar’s Prithvi, Savaari 2 and Chambal. What is not widely known is that Jacob is now a three-time National Award-winning filmmaker in the non-feature category. Today, at the 69th National Film Awards 2021, Jacob’s documentary Ayushman, which is in Kannada and English, was adjudged the Best Exploration/Adventure Film in the non-feature segment. He has earlier won in the same category for the documentary Dribbling with their future at the 63rd National Film Awards and for the short film Andhiyum in 2006.

When OTTplay called Jacob today, he was not aware of the official announcement, so we had the pleasure of breaking the good news to him. “I’ve not got official confirmation yet and got the sweet news from you,” says Jacob, as he proceeds to tell us about Ayushman, the award-winning documentary. “Ayushman is a tale of underprivileged children overcoming all odds through sports. Over 7 years, I followed two boys in their journey of being marathon runners, which took them to several countries. What is remarkable about them is that both belonged to the same orphanage and were born HIV+ve. When I met them for the first time, they were all of 12 years old and back then, HIV was still a big taboo, and you were not sure of the life expectancy, among others,” he adds.

Ayushman is Jacob's third national award-winning project
Ayushman is Jacob's third national award-winning project

The boys, Babu and Manik, are now in the early 20s and have been using running as a means to build stamina and overcome the social stigma attached to having the disease since a very young age. “It’s a beautiful film. When I met these kids at the orphanage, I found their story very intriguing and by making this film, I got to see their lives, the challenges they faced, etc. I saw the power of sports and how it can transform lives. I’ve literally seen them grow up,” Jacob explains.

Ayushman was a part of the Indian Panorama at IFFI recently, and now, following the National Award recognition, Jacob is hopeful that he will be able to bring it to an OTT platform and show the film to a larger audience. “Every time I stray away from films, or even lose interest in the process, a recognition like this comes along and tells me that movie-making is what I am meant to do. Of course, it feels nice because it’s recognition for your work,” he signs off.