Every year when the Oscars come around—and they do after the local naach gaana shows—it is enough to make one feel sorry for Bollywood; no matter how hard they try, they are still light years behind Hollywood.
The films that compete for the trophy are of such staggering variety and impeccable quality, the actors and technicians so accomplished, that our best efforts seem like cheap knock-offs.
A film like Spotlight would not even be attempted here, because the subject and style of film-making would be considered too dry. Also, it would require the kind of research any of our film-makers are hardly willing to invest in. Who would dare make a film like The Big Short? A film about America’s financial scam, which talks of things that would go over the heads of most people, but funny and entertaining enough to grip. The Revenant and The Room would be considered too depressing.
Sci-fi of the calibre of The Martian would perhaps not appeal to our audiences so film-makers would not pick a subject like that. Action and issue combined, like Mad Max Fury Road would be beyond our film-makers due to the massive budget. Bridge of Spies would be considered too political. Perhaps a love triangle like Brooklyn would be up Bollywood’s street.
This is not to denigrate our own industry in anyway, but to sympathise with the many constraints they have to work with, and a very narrow definition of what constitutes entertainment. There is too much dependence on too few stars and an audience base so wide that it is very tough for a film to please a pan Indian audience, make money, plus get critical acclaim, make it to the festival circuit and win awards. In Hollywood, all these factors are not seen as disparate; even though they recognise the difference between mainstream and art house, they do not think it necessary to please the powerful studios or major stars when it comes to giving awards.
Our actors think gaining and losing weight or changing their hair styles are the big preparation they do for a role. But look at Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant—one of the best-looking leading men in Hollywood, virtually unrecognisable—he didn’t just play the part, he became a wounded hunter, the pain and desperation filtering into his eyes, forming deep lines on his face. The film that made him an international heart-throb, was the romantic Titanic. Since then, he has never repeated himself. That’s real talent and real stardom.