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Tryst with the Academy: Introspecting the politics of Oscars and Indian awards

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Anurag Singh Bohra | New Delhi

The narrative of Indian cinema and filmmaking saw a remarkable shift as Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan was nominated for the Academy Awards in 2002. Ever since no other Indian film has made it to the Oscars top 5 best foreign language film categories. Zoya Akhtar’s critically acclaimed Gully Boy, which was a commercial success, failed as well to impress the Academy jury. On the other hand, South Korean social-drama Parasite not only won the best foreign-language film award but also the Academy Award for best picture, best director, becoming the first non-English film in the history of world cinema.

Meanwhile, the Hindi film industry popularly known as Bollywood has been on the receiving end of a backlash on social media for its award functions. Many opinion makers have expressed their displeasure on the way Indian award shows are conducted as compared to the foreign awards.

Coustesy: Pixabay

Commercial success doesn’t impact Academy Awards

Actor Adil Hussain feels commercial success has nothing to do with Academy Awards. Hussain says, “Oscars need to be seen from a political perspective based upon the politics of film market and political opinions of people. Academy Awards depend on voting, it’s not a jury award.” He further adds, “Unworthy films do not win an Academy because their standards are very high. How much buzz a film creates in the US among the voting members plays a very important role according to my understanding. That makes a huge difference.”

There’s no formula to win an Oscar

Hussain considers Parasite as an artistically exceptional film. He says, “There isn’t any recipe that Indian filmmakers need to adapt in order to win an Academy Award. All one needs is a great script, impressive acting performances and enough money to promote the film. I don’t think we need to follow any other criteria in order to make a good film.”

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Award shows do not signify artistic superiority

On being questioned about the credibility of the Indian award shows Hussain feels that Indian film awards are given on the basis of success. He says, “Success of a film in India is measured on a different paradigm. I don’t give much importance to any other award in India other than the national award. The award shows only need to be taken seriously on the basis of the popularity an actor gets out of them. But I don’t think we should visualize it on the parameters of artistic superiority.”

Focus on the art instead of 200-300 crore clubs

As OTT platforms come up with diverse content, Hussain opines, “People are getting access to great content from across the globe. Be it South America, Israel or other Scandinavian countries, Western Europe, etc. It’s a great time for filmmakers from India. Quite often the focus is on a 200-300 crore film instead of a good film or a bad film. So it has more to do with the product rather than art. Hence, you have to change the yardstick and the way you talk about films.” The actor further adds, “Digital platforms are gaining popularity in India, I’m hopeful that the Indian filmmakers get inspired. We have talent in all departments of filmmaking but producers have to now start taking risks. And not be greedy about making a lot of money with one film. They should focus on making a good film and make little profit so that we do not have to sell ourselves to the point it becomes unbearably cheap.”

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Great times ahead for arthouse cinema

Feeling optimistic about the future of arthouse cinema Hussain says, “I hope we learn our lesson. Somehow at the end of the day, I feel things evolve slowly. It’s a good sign that in India there are some young talents who’re coming in. He adds, “I’m hopeful that Indian filmmakers shall come with more good content in the near future. Also, the trailblazers of Indian independent cinema from earlier generations are also coming into the picture making good films. I’m very fortunate to be at the helm of Indian arthouse cinema and being approached by young filmmakers to act in their films.”
(Anurag is a journalist and author of self-help book Awakening Ganesha. Follow him @AnuragfromKashi)

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