Bringing the Oscars to India

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The Oscar award nominations were made public yesterday morning in the USA. Already there are dozens of articles out discussing the surprise inclusions and exclusions, the complete absence of any black/brown actors and the inclusion of certain actors purely for sentimental value in the nomination lists. These discussions will continue in forums all over the internet right up to the ceremony in March.

By the time the Oscars roll up, people will begin to speculate about the hosts of the show, which is a prestigious vocation in itself. An Oscar host must be dignified, humorous, bold and satirical but with enough sense to rein in a joke before it crosses into vulgar territory. Many still remember the cringe-worthy 2011 award ceremony hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway with shudders of embarrassment. There are rare performances during the ceremony and the success of the show rests almost entirely on the stand-up and comedic timing of the host/hosts. The show is considered to be the epitome of elegance, dignity and honour in the film fraternity throughout the world.

Back home, the Indian award season is also just picking up with the airing of the Stardust awards a few days ago. This will be followed by a list of national award shows so long that it is bound to test the patience of even the most ardent and dedicated of cine-lovers. Elegance and dignity take a back seat in the minds of the organizers of these shows, when faced with a need of providing stage-time to every actor of note for dancing to the tune of their latest Bollywood numbers amidst fireworks and battalions of back-up dancers.

The stars of these shows are the hosts, but hogging the limelight in a closed game of tag year after year are almost always the actors, but for the temperamental and unapologetic Shah Rukh Khan, belonging to the elite first families of the film industry sending a clear message about who rules the industry and how unwelcome ‘outsiders’ are here. The hosts usually present in pairs and invariably succumb to slapstick comedy and, occasionally, to performing in very unappealing ‘drag’. They have also been known to resort to malicious mud-slinging, stopping just short of fisticuffs on one memorable occasion – remember the bout between Farah Khan and Ashutosh Gowarikar all those years ago. James Franco and Anne Hathaway would have felt so much better if they had only known.

The absolute frivolity of the hosting and choice of entertainment in these ceremonies, however, is the least of our worries. It’s the awards that have been tailor made to accommodate one and all that are hair-raisingly horrifying. Kangana Ranaut gave a stunning and impossible-to-ignore performance in the movie Queen last year. Sadly, she is not very media-friendly, comes from a small town, can’t dance and has surprisingly intelligent ideas about life. Awarding her best actress must have been deemed a complete waste of a good award. The Stardust awards therefore countered this depressing turn of events by adding categories like Best Actor/ Actress for Drama, for Comedy and for Thriller/Action movies, apart from the simple Best Actor/Actress award to the lists this year! Even as this audience member was recovering from the blow to her senses by this onslaught of all and sundry actors and actresses high-tailing it to the stage to receive their ‘awards’, she was nevertheless compelled to point out the oversight in missing the award category for Best Actor/Actress in Horror movies – in honour of our very own queen of Indian horror, Bipasa Basu.

In a bid to be sure that the biggest superstars to grace their show were adequately felicitated for deigning to perform on the award night and also listening to the feeble and drowning voice of their conscience condemning those same actors for making stupendously stupid films this year, the jury decided to be smart and add all-new awards to the list which had nothing to do with talent or superlative performance – the ‘Star of the Year – Male/Female’ – and happily dispersed them to appease their sense of duty and decorum to Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone.

Not to forget the veterans peppering the audience, once again the jury played a neat trick by tacking up the International Icon of the year award to the Lifetime achievement award to make sure that Amitabh Bachchan would not feel it was a wasted trip and threaten to absent himself from the proceedings next year. What with Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan not making an appearance, the organisers can’t afford to lose any more actors to the increasing incidence of ennui towards the film awards.

At some point it was also noticed the beautiful Jacqueline Fernandes was languishing in the audience and keeping in mind the necessity to be seen as an industry welcoming foreigners with open arms, once again Stardust rose to the occasion and showed superb presence of mind by awarding her the very ambiguous Style Diva of the year award on the basis of her blink-and-miss but working-professional (thanks to the script by Chetan Bhagat) appearance in ‘Kick’.

Maybe we should agree to settle for the song and dance routine with various stars and allow that the hosts will continuously try to come to terms with their feminine sides in horrible drag in front of the entire country, in return for the exclusion of utterly frivolous, contemptible and made-up awards to appease what are seen as the media-savvy actors and actresses of our country. We may never be the Oscars but at least we can strive to be honest and conscionable in our choices of those we choose to celebrate as worthy of our praise on the basis of sheer talent and the ability to surprise the audience with something original and lovable.

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