A movie buff usually plans the Oscars soirée in advance and spends hours glued to the TV screen rooting for his/her favorites.
I am however one movie buff who barely remembers the last time she sat down to watch the Oscars. My love for films and good stories currently only motivates me to follow the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Picture and then the list of actual winners for all categories once the gala is over. "Why?", I have been asked time and again. This would seem a simple question to answer but, upon second thought, it sort of opens a pandora box of thoughts regarding cinema in general, Academy award policies and, last but not least, Indian cinema.
The main reason I believe the Oscars have lost their filmdom shimmer for me is the fact that they have been so focused in awarding English language films. I remain perplex at the hundreds of cinema genres and musical rhythms being labelled as World Music and World Cinema in the English speaking world, as if the world was divided into two types of people: English speakers and the rest of the world. The Oscars are no exception to this view of the world and their measurement of merit has long seemed extremely reduced to me. A fine example is the Best Foreign Language Film category, where only a tiny handful of films from every part of the world compete together, therefore reducing the chance for many excellent foreign language films of benefiting from the platform they would deserve. Likewise, the Academy also waited too long, in my opinion, to give due acknowledgement to the colossal musical talent of A.R. Rahman, only doing so when he composed the soundtrack of a good English language film made by a well-known Western director.
This year a foreign film finally got its well deserved ovation, entering the mainstream English language award categories. French film "The Artist" received the attention it deserved. "Finally, the Oscars are able to acknowledge that a great film with a good story is worthy of an award, regardless of its language and of the "drag" of reading subtitles", I thought. Much to my surprise, upon documenting myself a bit more on the French film I came to know that... well... it was a silent film!
Oh Oscar! Why ist thy love so afraid of losing itself in the exotic music of another language and culture?
And this takes me to the inevitable question made by numerous bloggers and media representatives in India each year. What shall it take for an Indian movie to score an Oscar? O skies, when shall proud and reasonable Oscar see the beauty and seductive charm of Bollywood's thick fluttering eyelashes and fall at her feet?
"Mother India", "Lagaan", "Salaam Bombay" and "Rang de Basanti" almost lured Oscar into Bollywood's arms but it was not to be. Each year, the country that is the world's largest producer of films sends some of its best work to the Academy only to lose the coveted statue. I am a firm believer in a lack of mutual cultural understanding. "Communication is the basis of any love relationship, my dears", I once said to Oscar sir and Bolly madam. Will they one day listen to my advice?
The Academy seeks a good story by Western standards of a concise and rigorous script teamed with excellent acting and a good splash of realism that still succeeds in touching the audience's heart. Bollywood's tightest scripts usually have a couple of cracks that let escapism or unlikely developments seep through. Movies tend to be star-based (Indian films nominated by the Academy in the past have seldom been focused on a star). Fantasy and a mix of genres streamlined with romantic or musical item numbers generate more box office results than sheer realism in India. These strong differences between both tastes for cinema make it difficult to find a common ground.
As Indian films evolve and branch out into more and more different styles and as regional films gain in budget and continue to demonstrate the quality of their scripts, it is likely that an Indian film might conquer the Academy in the future. Then again, is a man (Oscar) who lacks interest in how things are done by others worth the while of a colourful, beautiful and thriving woman (Bolly madam)? Oscar baby, it seems like you also have a long way to go...