Once the year settles into its groove, Bollywood gears up for its annual mutual backslapping ritual—the awards function.
Of course, it must be clear to even those who have just a nodding acquaintance with the industry that the awards are not meant as much for recognising excellence as for keeping the most powerful actor/camp happy.
Over the years, the most mediocre films have won awards, either because they were made by the biggest banners, starred a biggie or, as is often the case, was the best of a bad lot. So, unlike other awards the world over, where merit is rewarded, innovation honoured and creativity appreciated, in India it is mostly a swaggering bunch of power-drunk people at the top of the heap, who want to control even this aspect of showbiz. For the audience at the venues and watching on TV, these functions are variety entertainment shows at which top stars perform, getting paid huge sums for their effort. It is also whispered—and it need not be true—that a lot of stars charge just to attend. May not be money, may be a nomination or even a trophy. The ones who actually deserve the awards are often not the big ones with clout, so they are given critics’ awards as consolation.
So devalued are these awards, the day after the function hardly anyone remembers who won—probably not even the winners themselves. Because if they are honest with themselves (which it not a prerequisite for success) they know why they got the trophy. It is amusing to see how, over the years, the awards categories have multiplied, so that practically everyone who mattered that year goes home with a statuette.
Casting a glance over the list of nominations this year, one can easily know those who wrangled themselves in—films that were laughed out of the cinemas; actors who can’t even speak lines properly, leave aside emoting; music that is instantly forgettable; lyrics that barely make sense. Success is really no yardstick for judging excellence; let’s not forget, Hollywood had the gumption to award the small but honest Hurt Locker over the monster hit Avatar. It was gracious enough to let a British filmmaker Danny Boyle sweep the Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire. Which is not to say the Oscars always get it right, but there is still a degree of fairness and sportsman spirit that our industry lacks. Till Bollywood learns to accept and correct its own mediocrity, those trophies are as good as paperweights.