Post March 28, 2022, the Indian media was flooded with majorly two news flashes, Will Smith’s outrage at Chris Rock’s crass joke on his wife and our very dear Lata Mangeshkarji and Dilip Saheb being left out of the ‘In Memoriam’ section for the 94th Academy Awards.
The second nail to the coffin was struck when Lataji wasn’t remembered by the 64th Grammy award as well, leaving fans baffled. The annual Grammy awards recognise the best recordings, compositions and artists.
Muhammed Yusuf Khan, aka Dilip Kumar, passed away on July 7, 2021
and Lataji on February 6, 2022. Both personalities had significantly contributed to Indian cinema by giving us classic works of film and music.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the 94th Academy Awards, which is infamously also known as the Oscars. Artistically, these awards are misunderstood and miserably overrated. Unfortunately, many people consider the Oscars to be the film world’s most important prizes, but funnily, they are ‘America First’ awards. In no way do they reflect global cinema. If the Oscars aim to truly become international film awards, they would have to radically rethink their categories.
From another perspective, there is nothing wrong with being a National award for America, and there is nothing objectionable about it. What is objectionable is how we Indians revere it and stay up all night to follow it. All of this is owing to the influence of the exaggerated glamour of the red carpet, Hollywood and Oscar’s own financial muscle.
Whereas with regards to the Grammys, within the 84 categories, Grammy voters do award many foreign artists, though it is true that most Grammys go to artists from Canada, Britain and the United States.
Circling back earlier, the Academy has included Irrfan Khan, Bhanu
Athaiya, Sushant Singh Rajput and Rishi Kapoor in its ‘In Memoriam’ section, which raises more questions than answers.
One Twitter user claimed that Lataji gave vocals to more songs than “shown in all Oscars combined”. They added, “Yet, the #Oscars2022 #Inmemoriam did not see it fit to honor her even with a mention. Sometimes, I think, colonialism still lives on….”
This leads us to the central focus of our piece.
Why do Indians always crave representation and validation from Western entities? Is the slave mentality so pitifully dyed in the wool by the white supremacist that we can’t grow out of it? Aren’t awards like the Oscars or the Grammys working out to be symbols of American imperialism?
What happened at the Oscars or the Grammys should raise more questions about us than the festival itself!
This is the perfect time for introversion, rather than cribbing how we aren’t represented enough through these events, which are clearly USA centric, and also focused on benefiting the Film industry of only those countries economically because of all the hubbub about it.
There are a few salient points to remember. Let’s first discuss the state of affairs of the Films Festivals that exist in India. Currently, most of the well-known film festivals in India are heavily domestic, with the aim of propitiating major films from Bollywood and functioning under the puppetry of big producers and A list Actors. At the same time, the focus must be to develop the Film Festivals in India that celebrate international films and Indian cinema as well, also focussing on regional Indian cinema. I think work is steady in this area. Currently, we have more than 100 Film festivals going on in our country around the year celebrated by Film enthusiasts.
We have festivals for the south; we have festivals for the north. Why not a few festivals that celebrate art beyond the barriers of language? India has a treasure of such hidden talents, and on the positive side, with the imminent wave of new media and the mature growth of viewers, valuable and noteworthy content is being appreciated and even becoming box office successes.
When ‘Parasite’, a Korean Film, became the first-ever international film to win an Oscar, it hauled in $8.8 million at the box office. Just imagine, if we are to create a Film Festival that is highly revered too, it will gross astronomical numbers at the box office from the Indian market itself, let alone the international market.
Another important point for introspection is the stratagem of a few Juries and their favouritism.
Indian Film festivals lose credibility the moment they celebrate actors and actresses because of the surnames they carry or films for the banner they are produced under. One classic example of this is when Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy swept the Filmfare awards in 2020. Gully Boy was a well-made film; however, it didn’t deserve laurels in so many categories, especially for preferring ‘Apna Time Aayega’ over the touching nationalist song ‘Teri Mitti’ by Manoj Muntashir at the Filmfare awards was intolerable.
This isn’t only a domestic phenomenon. Two years ago, a web series like ‘Four more shots please’ from Amazon Prime made it a nomination for the Emmy Awards, and Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy landed up being the official entry for the 92 nd Academy Awards from India. Shows like ‘Four more shots please’ probably didn’t really deserve a nomination in the comedy category.
This pulls me back to my interaction with the former president of the Academy Awards, Mr John Bailey and his wife Carol Littleton (former member of the board of governors of the Academy), for an event I represented my college for a few years back. When asked the question, who was their favourite actor and what film they liked the most from Bollywood? I very strongly remember their answer, as it shook me and raised some really serious questions for us fellow Indians.
Mr John Bailey said that for them, Bollywood is all about extravagant dance performances and masala. He said that he hadn’t seen a single film that has come from India that has celebrated the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharat.
Isn’t this a moment of shame for all of us?
Today’s Bharat produces the greatest number of movies in the world at between 1,500 to 2,000 every year in over 20 languages, many of them being critically acclaimed marvels and definitely laurel worthy. This is far above the 700 or so films made in the US and Canada annually.
To sum it up, the idea is to make ourselves stronger, and the idea is for us to be the benchmark for validation for other countries. Bharat, from time immemorial, has been the leading light in the fields of Architecture, Art and Culture.
It’s time for a whole new script for Bhartiya cinema.