Are Oscars fool-proof? Do they actually select the best movie and best actor?
Though we all tend to have a different opinion on who should be the ultimate winner of Academy Award, do we not generally agree on the nominations at least? Take ‘12 years a Slave’ for example. Most people on the planet would concede that it is indeed a well-made movie irrespective of cultural or ethnic background. The same goes for ‘Gravity’.
Well-made movies, irrespective of whether they win the Academy Award or not, tend to be recognized as ‘well-made movies’ irrespective of the audience’s cultural or ethnic background. If a villager in India is shown these movies with subtitles or translations he would concede they are ‘well-made movies’. Whether he would actually pay for it in a cinema theater to watch it is a different matter altogether! If paying for the movies is the only criterion - then we need to consider this fact – he would pay more to watch a pornographic movie if it were to be shown in his village.
According to me, Indians tend to love Indian movies for sheer nostalgia factor. It is like Kolkatans loving Kolkata just because it is their home city – in spite of its extremely bad roads, bad traffic, congested trains and buses. But no observer, however incompetent he is, would ever put Kolkata as top ten cities in the world. The minute we start putting objective parameters for measurement, and remove the subjectivity of ‘love for one’s home city’ from the list, Kolkata doesn’t stand a chance.
The same holds true for Indian movies. Except for the fact that we tend to love them because it perpetuates our love for them for sheer nostalgic reasons, no objective criteria can place them in the category of ‘well-made’ movies. Take the five nominated movies for the Best Film by Filmfare. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Chennai Express, Ram-Leela, Raanjhanaa, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I didn’t watch the first one, so I cannot comment. The other four movies do not qualify as ‘well-made’ movies by any standard of movie-making, and it doesn’t matter who the judge is – whether it is an American, Brazilian, Scandinavian, African, Vietnamese, or Indonesian. And if the Indian judge were to keep his ‘love for Indian movies’ aside, he would not qualify them as well-made.
Aren’t Oscars overrated? Why should Indians even bother?
Oscars may be overrated. But by calling it overrated what exactly are we doing? We are basking in the faint glow that comes from celebration of mediocrity in India Cinema while deluding ourselves that we are getting a suntan out of it. A society can never excel itself unless its people or its audience seek for better or improved things – whether it is governance, music, sports or cinema. The sports in any country improves when the spectators seek improvement, otherwise it will be a mockery event like it happens in India wherein some of the college sports are completely unwatchable.
The same malaise which allows us to tell ourselves, ‘this is the best we can do, so let’s rather not complain’ to our political leaders and bureaucrats, also allows us to go in throngs to see extremely mediocre patchwork of untalented artists looking cute, mumbling some words, to make what is called an Indian movie.
What kind of talent gets promoted in a movie industry is extremely important to any culture or society – because it is one institution where talent, originality, creativity score over everything else. Unlike education and employment which are considered access to basic opportunities to live a decent life, and therefore has to be guaranteed to everyone, whereby quotas, reservations, affirmative actions are legislated or imposed, the fields of arts, sports, cinema, on the other hand, are supposed to be highly democratized and open, whereby the talent is recognized, celebrated and rewarded.
Even during ancient times, while most opportunities were closed to the privileged classes, it was the field of arts, music, poetry, plays, which allowed people from underprivileged classes to shine forth. Even before the US administration and government treated blacks as equals through legislation, it was sports, cinema and arts that allowed the inclusion of blacks (of course with some prejudice still intact).
How did we end up taking an institution that is supposed to promote excellence, talent, creativity and originality to completely corrupt it whereby the mediocrity is not just tolerated, but celebrated and rewarded? Is it because it was imposed onto us, or is it because as people, as audience, reveled in this celebration and promoted it to incrementally degrade it and debase so much so that now it is nothing but a parade of unoriginality, mediocrity, plagiarism, untalented?
I have nothing against Deepika Padukone. Poor girl! She just cannot act. In any other country, Argentina or France or Iran or Korea, she would not have won any audition. But in India, that completely untalented cute girl is the paragon of Indian Arts. She won the Best Actress Award. And that is just sad. This corruption, degradation and debasement did not happen overnight. It happened over many years, where plagiarism was lapped up, then inability to act was lapped up, then extremely bad storylines were lapped up. And very soon, before we realized, those untalented people and those unoriginal works, those mediocre patch works started to get awards.
It is like PhD is in India. It is like technology creation in India. Mediocrity is not just promoted, but rewarded and celebrated. That’s because we allow it, we tolerate it, we legitimize it, and then we institutionalize it.