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Borrowed Feathers

Friday, February 13, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

While the finest cinema in the world lined up for the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards and are now gearing up for the greatest show on earth—the Oscar ceremony, the shabbiness of our film awards shows and the sheer mediocrity of a large number of Bollywood films stands out.

Every year, we send an entry for the Oscars and are beaten by films so superior that it’s a wonder we don’t refrain from sending films unless they stand a chance. It was amusing to read media reports say that Polish film Ida defeat India’s The Lunchbox—as if these were the only two films competing with each other. Bollywood may like to believe so, but it really isn’t the centre of the universe.

As for our awards—industry people have started saying it, and even people with no connection with Bollywood comment, that film awards are just entertainment shows meant to mop up money from telecasts. The general opinion is that those who turn up to perform at these shows get awards, which is not entirely true, but it goes to show that Bollywood film awards have lost their credibility. They haven’t been about excellence in a long time, but about popularity, or there would be no need to segregate critics’ awards.

The Oscars don’t have this extra category, every film from the smallest indie venture to mega budget studio projects compete at the same level, and mostly, the better film wins. When they line up the five best, it is tough to select just one film or performance, so finely matched are they. This year Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood are the two favourites, and it would break any selector’s heart to pick one; the others are of comparative brilliance. The performances, even by popular stars are outstanding – they forget about their stardom when they act in good cinema, they become the characters they play. But when the envelope is opened, and the award is announced, it is not the most powerful star, but the best actor who wins. There is often a debate about which film or which actor deserved it more, and whether extraneous factors were involved in the selection, but nobody can say the winner didn’t deserve to be in the list at all.

The Hindi film industry does not like to be called Bollywood, but everything they do is inspired by Hollywood—never mind ideas and scenes in films, even the format of the awards show is inspired by them. Our stars wear designer tuxedos and gowns and twirl on the red carpet, but even that is borrowed.

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