Burglars return National Film Awards stolen from ‘Kaaka Muttai’ film director’s house in Madurai

In an astonishing twist to a theft case that would typically end in loss, the film director M. Manikandan experienced a rare act of contrition from the thieves who had burglarized his home. On the night of February 12, 2024, in a somewhat cinematic turn of events, two National Film Awards pilfered from the director’s residence in Usilampatti were mysteriously returned.

The unidentified culprits, who had originally made away with the prestigious awards, left them outside the gate of Manikandan’s house. The trophies were discovered inside a plastic bag, but this time accompanied by a note that showcased the thief’s remorse. Scribbled in Tamil, the message simply stated, “Your toil is for you,” conveying a sense of respect for the filmmaker’s hard-earned accolades.

Manikandan, who has garnered critical acclaim for his work in Tamil cinema, directed the 2021 film ‘Kadaisi Vivasayi’, which was bestowed the honor of Best Feature Film-Tamil at the 69th National Film Awards in 2023. His journey with the National Film Awards dates back to his directorial debut with ‘Kaaka Muttai’, which claimed the title of Best Children’s Film in the 62nd edition of the awards. Moreover, the lead child actors from this beloved film, Ramesh and Vignesh, were also recognized with awards for their compelling performances.

Despite the retrieval of the symbolic awards, the monetary and material losses incurred during the theft are still significant. The burglars had also snatched ₹1 lakh in cash and five sovereigns of gold. The Usilampatti Town police remain vigilant in their search for the burglars, hoping to bring them to justice for both the sentimental and substantial theft they committed.

The unusual gesture has caught the attention of the local Madurai community, Tamil Nadu, and beyond, sparking conversations around the value we ascribe to achievements and the moral complexities within every individual. The incident has become a focal point for discussions on Tamil cinema, theft, and burglary, facilitated by a wave of public interest in the convoluted story.

In a realm where such acts of theft often end with victims bereft of their valuables with little hope of restitution, this episode is particularly striking because of the thieves’ apparent change of heart. The sentimental value of awards like the National Film Awards often surpasses any monetary worth, representing the pinnacle of recognition for filmmakers. For Manikandan, the return of these awards may not compensate for the other losses, but it likely brings a sense of closure and a bizarre, heartening endnote to an otherwise distressing ordeal.

The assurance that these awards have found their way home again is a testament to the profound respect and admiration that artistic achievements garner, even among those who operate outside the law. Amidst a world ridden with cynical views of humanity, this single, reflective act poses a glaring exception.

The community and indeed the broader public await updates as the police continue their investigation into the unfathomed motives behind the original crime and the subsequent penitent return of the stolen items. One can only speculate on the thoughts running through the minds of the thieves as they decided to return the awards to their rightful owner—a filmmaker whose storytelling has touched hearts, including, it seems, those of the very people who once sought to rob him of his accolades.

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