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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

That elusive Oscar

Since last Friday, Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai has started a new series called "Pure Cinema". With this, they intend to bring the best of world cinema to Chennai. The first in this series, for which there is one show during each weekday and two during the weekend, is Terry George's Hotel Rwanda.

The movie is a modern classic, and tells the story of Paul, a hotel manager in Kigali during the bitter and bloody conflict in Rwanda. Don Cheadle gives a compelling performance as the man who has to balance pressures on all fronts, as he strives to protect his family and hundreds of refugees who have thronged into his hotel. Reminiscent of, and in the same class as Roman Polanski's The Pianist, this film provides a fitting start to this new series.

After being mesmerised by Hotel Rwanda, I'm led to think of a related story. Earlier this week, Paheli, India's representation at the Oscars failed to win a nomination. As usual, our media has made so much noise about it. I wonder why.

Firstly, all this talk about Indian movies winning Oscars is plain nonsense. It is a very critic-ish thing to expect each movie to be Oscar material. Even before some actor or director starts doing the groundwork for a movie, the media is abuzz with speculation. The media puts on this faked obsession with Academy awards immediately. You know it is faked because none of the Oscar-nominated films are released in India before they are nominated. Also, there is this growing criticism of the Oscars in the West. Frankly, after Titanic and The Return of the King (the concluding part of the Rings trilogy) were showered with 11 awards each, one should have realised the phony nature of the awards.

Even then, it is not wrong to set such lofty benchmarks but those are not the reasons that drive Indian mainstream cinema. (Of course, they are an excellent, more peaceful way to spend D-company's money.) Indian moviemakers aim to cater to an Indian audience. We folks are so used to seeing our favourite heroes jumping across mountains, driving trucks on 2 wheels, and board time machines in order to dance with their ladylove in Switzerland one moment, and in New Zealand the next. I don't want to sound elitist, but our movies are hardly realistic. And to expect a world jury to reward us for such expensive khichdi is madness.

Aseem Chhabria writes in Rediff that a member of the Academy told him about Devdas, "The girls were pretty, but the movie was... " I remember there was a huge uproar from the South that year, that Devdas was not India's best movie. Mani Ratnam's Kannathil Muthamittal was far better, more realistic and much in tune with the issues of the day. Yet, we decided to stick on to a two-bit nightmare.

We must acknowledge that our movies just won't make the cut. Of the hundreds of movies churned out the factories of Bollywood, Kollywood and other woods, hardly a few would pass mention as being really good. It is ok with us. We don't need to ape the West. Our cinema is our cinema. Impure as it may be, it is what we accustomed to. Let it be. But let us try to be a bit more practical, and not run after Oscars. Page 3 media, this one's for you!


Blogger Vinayak said...

Hmmm...I beleive what you have to say about the Oscars...Though I enjoy watching the show, and also make it a point to to watch some winners (though there are some, which I just fail to undertand as to why they won), I beleive that winning an Oscar depends on what kind of a lobby the movie has to promote it's cause.

2/05/2006 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Karthik said...

Oscars seem to be a big farce themselves. I don't think Indian cinema shouldn't look up to the Oscars. But playing within our limits, we should try to build a good alternative cinema base. For this, the current generation should be willing pay from their pockets instead of pirated CDs.

2/06/2006 05:13:00 AM  
Blogger J.R. Woodward said...

I'm sorry that Paheli didn't make it. Living in Hollywood I can tell you that there is a lot of politics to the oscars as you probably already know. Some years they pick great films, other years we all wonder, what are they thinking?


JR Woodward

2/07/2006 12:17:00 AM  

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