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The Oscar Connection

Many in U.S and Western Europe view the Oscars like we view the Filmfare awards. It's nothing more than Hollywood's prom night where glamour dolls walk in see-through wears and the men try to say something intelligent in front of the cameras running live. A crude comparison on the quality of an Oscar winner can be made with an IIT graduate - all of them don't shine or are super intelligent than the rest, but they all have an appreciable amount of intelligence. An Oscar winner in any of the top five categories (picture, director, male actor, female actor, adapted/original screenplay) will display a fair quantity of IQ and professionalism that you won't feel disappointed at the end of the movie.

Oscar night is primarily an event to celebrate American cinemas. Only a very few non-U.S movies make it to the prime category nominations, which leaves the rest of the international films to compete in the foreign language category. Just as how the common Indian man has come to adore and embrace anything American, the Bolly/Jolly-wood also aspires to garner a trophy or two of the bald man. The members of the Academy who vote in the foreign language section (which includes Hollywood producer Amritraj) see Indian movies as an exercise in 'escape from reality'. They call our films 'musical'. And needless to add, we emphasize our visuals, costume and design elements over story, direction and action. With this perception, it's difficult to command the members' vote or at least have them take our movies seriously.

And then comes the selection of movies - are we sending the right pictures to the Oscars? Anything with songs will be a turn-off. Mediocre production values will be a turn-off. Sub-par action will be a turn-off. Unbelievable storyline and lesser directorial efforts will be a turn-off. I don't have the list of Indian movies sent for Oscar consideration. But if they are in the same league of 'Jeans', then we might as well forget our Oscar dreams (that was a cheap ploy to get Amritraj lobby for votes and I don't think he would have done that anyway). Something like 'Kurudhippunal' has in it to reach across boundaries. I don't know how/why it was overlooked.

Oscar nomination or victory increases the visibility of a foreign language movie and makes for good marketing. Although winners are respected, I don't think anybody (even the winner) perceives it as the pinnacle of movie-making. If Indian film makers want to be taken as serious movie makers by the Academy, we should make more movies that question/transform/educate society and effuse an European aesthetic aroma rather than entertainers tailor-made for our audience. They have the talent, but they need support and encouragement from the public and producers alike. We need more movies where a woman's feelings are prioritized over her flesh, where songs give way for surrealism, where depth in a genre is respected over masala-scattershot, where stories are originally written instead of amalgamating under-performing Hollywood stories, where a director listens to the common man, watches his wife cooking, a child playing in the park and then gets behind the camera instead of....

Oscar, just like any award reflect the tastes of it's judges. Many great achievements/achievers haven't any awards under their belt. Martin Scorsese, considered one of the greatest living directors doesn't have an Oscar. But his movies will be remembered fifty years from now, and the directors who beat him may not be. Ultimately, it's the public that decides who's the winner and Oscar just happens to be a grand gala - nothing more nothing less.

6 Responses to “The Oscar Connection”

  1. # Blogger Badrinath.V.S

    "Wow, I like the way I've constructed the previous sentence. Time. I'm trying to analogize the role of time in my life and I somehow can't get the words right to express myself. It's like I poured all the different coloured paints onto a white (is it?) board and I'm staring at the board. Time is a robot. Time is a seer. Time is 'is'. Time sees me, understands me completely and laughs at my inability to understand neither myself nor time. I'm running a marathon with time. I started fresh, vibrant and energetic. Time being the seasoned runner, knows how to run and is going to outrun me. Just the realization that I will be outrun is a step closer to understanding. Understanding who, what? I don't know."

    Since there is no place where people can comment/respond about your "about ", i am using this. Sorry for breaking the protocol. When i started digging into myself and asking similar questions. I realized i need time(ironically) and space to understand my race againt/with time. So i moved out spent a lot of time in seclusion and reading books and have come to the conclusion that time doesnt race against us nor with us. Infact we dont race with time as a coordinate at all.

    Firstly your lifetime is your time and that(lifetime) is the only unit of measurement. there are no hours, no minutes, no seconds. and as you can see it its realtive. your lifetime is your time and mine is mine the scales dont match.

    Secondly there is no race , u cant finish a lifetime slower or faster.

    the only way to conquer/analogize this illusion(hours/minutes) that we call time and realize we arent racing is to truly realize that there is only one time -- now and there is only one place - here

    live in here and live now and all the problems are taken care of .

    my 2c, hope they help in your search.  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    "live in here and live now and all the problems are taken care of ."

    - What about planning for the future ? Is it subsumed in the consummate living that happens 'now and here' ?


  3. # Anonymous Srinidhi

    I agree with most of your points Prasad, but one thing - i don't agree that songs always act as a turn-off.

    It always depends on the presentation.

    If you look closely, a few movies which have had song/dance elements presented in the right manner have won Oscars.

    Chicago was a 'out-and-out' musical - it won 6 Oscars; 'The Sound of Music' won 5, 'Singing in the Rain' was nominated and i'm sure there must be many other 'musicals' in the 40s,50s which must have been nominated (the Frank Sinatra ones), and a few ones here and there after the 60s.

    If songs are integral to the story, and are not compromises included for reasons of commerce like they are in our Indian movies, then it would work. What is important is how well they aid the filmmaker in taking the story forward. Remember how important 'Que Sara Sara' - the song Doris Day sings in the movie- is for the climax in 'The Man who knew too much' by Alfred Hitchcock?

    Hollywood does give a lot of importance to music in film (soundtracks/background score), but has rightly done away with mindless and routine song and dance affairs, as too much of melodrama is wholly unreal. I remember some great movies made memorable just because of their soundtracks - by wonderful composers like Bernard Herrmann, Lionel Goldstein, Ennio Morricone, Nina Rota, Philp Glass and so on.

    'KurudhiPunal' was indeed a very good effort for Tamil cinema.


    But it would have failed to catch the attention or capture the imagination of an Oscar audience - simple because such a subject or presentation is not exactly new to them (remember the 'undercover cop' kinda movies, where the CIA/FBI guy ultimately dies at the hands of the evil guys at the end). But a movie like 'Veedu' or 'Anbae Shivam' might have worked - because of the human elements & the transcendental nature of these movies.

    AS mentioned earlier, i agree with 98% of your thoughts, so i guess this 2% doesn't matter all that much.  

  4. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    I agree that there are a lot of musicals that have been critically acclaimed and honoured with Oscars... but how many foreign language features that have won Oscars have songs in them? Very few, maybe... I don't remember anything on top off my head. I am of the opinion that to impress the members of the Academy who vote for foreign films, cutting down songs might be a good place to start.

    Regarding 'Kurudhippunal's theme, though it's a beaten track, I liked the treatment of the subject very much and I guess that counts.

    Prasad V.  

  5. # Anonymous Srinidhi


    Even i totally agree that 'Kurudhippunal' was a very good effort from a Tamil/Indian audience's perspective.We're only talking in the context of an Oscar audience - and that's why i said it wouldn't have worked for them.

    Personally, i'm a big fan of that movie too. It was well plotted & well executed.  

  6. # Blogger arunthealmighty

    What I feel was let's stop looking at the Oscars and things like that. I feel CANNES is BEST and it is the best recognization for good cinemas.


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