Film farce awards
March 14, 2011 5:27:37 PM
Popular film awards have become a kitschy sham than recognition of talent. At a time when a corporatised industry is ushering in pleasant winds of change and new-age directors are daring to dream big, the awards are serving as a deterrent. Rinku Ghosh analyses the trend.
Salman Khan thinks he made my brother's (Abhinav Kashyap, the director of Dabangg) life. Hope he does the same for Arbaaz when he does Dabangg 2. All the best. Abhinav Singh Kashyap, you rock. Show them what you are made of." So said Anurag Kashyap of his brother on his social networking site after the latter was dumped by the film's producers for a sequel. The man has every reason to spit venom. As one of the maverick filmmakers who, along with fellowmen Vishal Bharadwaj, Sriram Raghavan and Dibakar Banerjee, has brought about a tidal change in mainstream palatable cinema, he has a credible voice to take on the mighty Khans for appropriating more than their fair share of glory for Dabangg, Abhinav's brainchild. The bazaar town to megacity entertainer is now being sold as a commercial brand by the Khan brothers. So, at most award functions, admaker Abhinav Kashyap never won a director's award though the producers ensured that the best film award was in their kitty. He was even sidetracked for best debut director, that honour going to Maneesh Sharma, the director of Band Baaja Baaraat, a hit film that trod patent formula. But then he was being propped up by Yashraj Films, the big daddy of Bollywood, which incidentally offers its venues for most award shows. Besides, who dare take on the godfatherly Yashji or the bear-huggish Yash Uncle, who legitimised Swiss dreams for the masses, whose India has been shining at the box office for decades?
Peepli Live, the realistic movie that Aamir Khan lobbied for at the Oscars to tom-tom his intellectual side, didn't even pick a critic's awards at any of the desi honours list just because he fell out with its maker Anusha Rizvi. Besides, the actor-producer's absence from ceremonies rubs in his presence. And though nobody is grudging Salman protege Sonakshi Sinha's sensational debut, we're sure that at least one discerning panel could have spared a thought for Peepli Live's Natha (folk theatre artist Omkar Das Manikpuri) for an original, endearing screen coronation. But then the one-time vegetable vendor doesn't look too good to be dropped down in a lotus pod, does he?
The less said about the acting department, the better. An ageing Shah Rukh Khan, who is an enterprise unto himself, allegedly bought the best actor awards in town for his hamming act in My Name Is Khan, stealing the thunder from the interesting debutant Rajat Barmecha (Udaan). A nonsensical film like Housefull got nominated in the best film category while an Akshay Kumar used a best actor award speech to promote his forthcoming film.
When it comes to the awards season, Bollywood has still not matured like Hollywood. While the craft of film-making has moved forward with a never-before-seen variety in theme, ideation and treatment, the charmed star is yet to realise that his shine has somewhat jaded and that he indeed needs some revision lessons rather than clutch on desperately to the aura that's receded into the shadows a long time ago. That's why a Colin Firth wins an Oscar at 50 for a flawed character instead of the sexy Mr Darcy he was in his 30s. The Oscars are popular awards too that perhaps require more intense lobbying. But in the end, the world agrees that the top five deserve to be nominated and the best man/woman has indeed won. Despite hosting six award functions — Filmfare, Apsara, Star Screen, Zee Cine, International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) and Stardust Awards — Bollywood is yet to value merit. Truth is, if you want gala attendance, you have to satisfy the egos of those you want to attend. In the end, the viewer feels dejected, genuine talent feels betrayed and the award gets no reward. It's nothing but a show
Trouble is award ceremonies are still conceived of as spectacles, an almost operatic act with over-the-top excesses like SRK dancing in suspended animation tied to invisible harnesses. A classic, solemn stage honouring talent doesn't get in either sponsors or the television audience. It's about simple economics. Given the multiplicity of events, each has to outdo the other and recover the costs. Says Ayan Mukerji, director of Wake Up Sid, "Unlike the Oscars, our awards focus more on the grandeur of the show than the quality of awards. There is more emphasis on who turns up, who performs and how many eyeballs are grabbed. And there are just too many rivals in the business for any organiser to stick his neck out and do something worthwhile. Just compare today's extravaganzas with the good old times when there was just the Filmfare Award and every citizen of B-town walked gracefully up the steps of the Shamuganandha Hall, where thespians showed up regardless of whether they were being feted or not, where nobody bore a grudge..."
Today, every faction in the industry will bring in sponsors to host an event to incestuously gratify themselves and ensure they are relevant. The result? A spoof. For example, at the recently concluded Star Screen Awards, Shah Rukh Khan asked buddy-cum-loyalist Hrithik Roshan and his wife Suzanne Khan to come on stage. The Badshah then gave Roshan Jr a few tips on national TV on how to pamper his wife that ranged from showering rose petals to falling at her feet. How this contorted depiction of couple therapy would rid industry-wallahs of the philanderer tag or contribute to great cinema is anybody's guess. Says a director who does not wish to be named, "I really do not know how organisers can do such a thing. Everyone knew that it was a well-orchestrated act. I felt like walking out of the function."
Insiders feel that award functions are shallow because most of them are organised by gossip magazines which see them no more than a marketing opportunity. "The industry has as many as six film award functions organised by magazines. So, the results are frequently accused of being rigged as the winners are often 'good friends' of the organisers. The jury is deliberately kept average to ensure compliance. Therefore, there is no such thing as a deserving candidate winning the award," says director Ashu Trikha, who did try out-of-the-box ideas in his maiden offering called Alag.
Little wonder then that gossip columns are enacted live on the arena and toilet humour is peddled under the cool garb of delusional confidence: "We are family and we don't mind pulling each other's leg in public, we are like this only." So, the normally composed Ashutosh Gowariker ends up fighting with Farah and Sajid Khan and a young Ranbir Kapoor's PDAs with PYTs are legitimised on the big stage. "We have to realise that the reality bug has bitten Indian television in a big way. Every man is a star, no matter how crazy his/her antics are. So, stars are projecting themselves as the common man. From news to entertainment channels, everyone wants to connect with the audience, cutting across metros and headquarter towns. Therefore, organisers go to the extent of manufacturing reality," says the director who doesn't want to be named.
Nasty tussles are recorded as teasers to hook the viewer who invariably turns couch potato on the telecast day. The TRPs skyrocket and the next organiser follows what soon becomes a repetitive but trusted formula," he adds.
Such "acts" have forced actors like Aamir Khan to boycott award functions, but the Khan does not avoid them completely. As he said recently, "I do not see any value in these awards. But I have been to a couple of them. I went to the Kolhapuri Award, which was in Chennai. It's a very small ceremony; they give just one award in the whole evening to a first-time filmmaker. I have also been to collect an award that I got from the Deenanath Mangeshkar Trust. These are two awards that I had value for in my heart."Star power
We haven't checked the said organisers but we respect them because Aamir said so. With their new-found intellectual pursuit, no matter how banal, in blogs and Twitter, we have gone beyond listening to their dialogues to their brand of dialogue-baazi. Award shows, therefore, need stars not only for their glam, but also their sham.
After all if the Big B tweets "Was at so and so awards ceremony last night. Mesmerised by the display...," imagine what that stellar commendation can do for the organisers. Why then blame the star for not cashing in on doling out this free publicity? It follows then that Big B has a trophy gallery lined up with "special achievement, lifetime and decades of excellence" categories, all picked up in the years when he wasn't in contention for best actor. Explains why he began to boycott the IIFA when his territorial rights passed on to new kings. Actress Katrina Kaif is by now used to picking up a best entertainer award, a category created to ensure she enthralls the audience with her jawaani.
Meanwhile, Shah Rukh Khan's cosy arrangement with Wizcraft International for his Broadway-style shows abroad means that anybody using the event manager's world-class hosting ability accepts Khan as a package deal. The price of an award? He will dance and prance around the stage for free.
Call it despicable, rigging, bullying or pathetic in-breeding but as Mukerji confirms, "Whoever attends an award function gets it." That is why stars who are left out simply don't attend, unless they are present in support of their buddy group. But there are times when an unexpected star does turn up. What does the organiser do then? After all, a star cannot be marketed if he picks up just a critic's award? That's like writing an epitaph of his brand value. Actor Ajay Devgn, who has boycotted award functions, answered this one for the Press, "They give awards to those who attend the function. So they keep their options open. If all come, then the award gets divided." Like this year, the Apsara award for the best actress was jointly given to both Anushka Sharma and Vidya Balan. No offence to the Yash Chopra camp's poster girl but she can hardly be bracketed with a powerhouse like Balan. It doesn't help matters when the latter accepts happiness at making the crossover from critic's choice to popular appreciation.
Actor Emraan Hashmi echoes Devgn's sentiments: "If you see any award ceremony, they are pleasing everyone. There are three categories for every actor, comic, action and villain. A star is bound to score in at least one of them. It's ridiculous, three awards given for music. I don't want to be part of this circus." To accommodate more stars, new categories like "Best Jodi" have come up.
A few curious eyebrows were raised when Karan Johar won the award for the best director for My Name is Khan but most of the organisers balanced it by showering Ishqiya and Udaan (touted as better directed films) with critic's and technical awards. Why upset Johar, who brings in a trail of friends and loyalists who have been in on his coffee couch? It is an icing on the cake if good films like a 3 Idiots, Munnabhai and Jodhaa Akbar scoop up the awards not just because of their directors but the standing of their producers and of course, their lead star cast. Could you imagine 3 Idiots without Aamir as its anchor and Jodhaa Akbar without the rippling Hrithik? Both directors made prime commercial picks.
The fact that the awards are pre-decided can be gauged from Trikha's case. Alag was nominated for the best special effects category but he did not even receive the invitation to attend the award function. "Predictably, I did not get the award. They probably did not want to waste a seat," he laughs. Vikramaditya Motwane, the director of Udaan, puts it simply, "All the people seated in the front row are certain of getting an award. But I am not surprised. It is an old habit and will die hard." Says Trikha, "In the process, works of great actors get ignored. I personally felt that Rishi Kapoor deserved a meaningful award for Do Dooni Chaar. But he is not sexy enough in a stylish suit and pepper brown hair. This is the difference between us and the Oscars that only concentrate on performance."Rescue fallen honour
The fact is, however ridiculous, an award is an integral part of a performer's groW*H. He does get that extra motivation and bargaining chip to push himself a little further in a country like India where public memory is very shortlived. If it is fair, an award can change careers, be it of a debutant, director or an actor. How do we change the system? Says Mukerji, "I am one film old but I was invited to all the award functions this year. I attended only one of them. If people like me attend similar functions, then there will be no exclusivity or pride. The attitude can only change if organisers, the audience and more importantly the industry together want a change. It has to begin with the industry whose members must consider one mega awards show as a review of the year's work and attend them irrespective of whether they are winning or not. I do not think the change can come quickly but yes, it will come certainly."
This change, in turn, will not only give a much-needed impetus to new-thinkers, it will make the awards worthier. Says the director who does not want to be named, "There are many ways of going about it. One of them can be to give the National Awards a makeover, take them to the stature of the Oscars. In that case, all the other magazine awards will just remain spot entertainers. Once awards insist on quality, the competition will become sharper and there will be level-playing field between both Bollywood and regional cinema." Another way of implementing such a scenario, according to Mukerji, is by establishing eminent, impartial jury members who aren't afraid of calling a spade a spade and hurting starry egos just because their relatives, sons and daughters have future stakes in the industry. "Unlike the jury at the Oscars, whose worth has been questioned only a couple of times, our's has been declared tainted on almost all occasions. We have to realise that it is very important to be fair in our dealing and only then will we ever value the best."
Let us hope that in the coming year, a film like Love Sex Aur Dhokha makes it for the best film and its debutant actors get some recognition. Unless we internalise quality, we cannot think of sending the right films to popular international awards and winning one of them in turn. Till then , we could sit as happy as Kareena Kapoor who said, "Those who don't attend, their names are never declared in award ceremonies. Those who don't deserve get the awards and those who deserve land up enjoying pizzas at home."Why Aamir is so upset
Aamir Khan doesn't attend Filmfare, or for that matter any other film award ceremony. He is so opposed to the idea that he does not even give these award organisations the right to show clips of movies that are produced by him. He had gone to the extent of suing Filmfare for showing him holding the 'Lady in Black' trophy, to promote their awards.
Aamir used to attend Filmfare Awards during his early days. The problem began when he didn't receive an award for Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in 1992; the award had gone to Anil Kapoor for Beta. In 1993, Shah Rukh Khan won the best actor award for Baazigar at the expense of Aamir's superlative performance in Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke. It was, however, in 1995 that Aamir finally decided to boycott Filmfare when his Rangeela lost the race to Shah Rukh's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. After this Aamir decided it was enough and stopped attending Filmfare Awards and other popular movie awards.