We watch movies in theatres and now we have multiplexes to cater our pride and beat the hectic city schedules. But, have we sold our logic and reason to some unknown sheriff from a distant land or are we relentlessly poised to receive whatever trash we are subjected to? The answer to the question seems rhetorical. India produces the most number of films on this planet. However, we are yet to get congratulated by the biggest academy award in films, the Oscars! Let’s ask ourselves. Why?
India’s first ever entry to the Oscar “Mother India” got the nomination in the category of best foreign film, but lost by just one vote. After that it was a long wait of 31 years as “Salaam Bombay” by Mira Nair made it to the list of the last five. Recently, India’s interest in the Oscars was re-ignited when “Lagaan” was nominated but lost to “No Man’s Land”. I said recently to be ironical enough!
It does seem the Academy tends to favour European films with France leading the foreign language film nominations with 34 in total and having bagged nine Oscars, and Italy following with 27 nominations and 10 wins. But the Oscar has also gone to movies with people from Arab, Far East and Slavic backgrounds. Indian films never seem to have fitted the Oscar bill. Satyajit Ray, whom the Academy conferred with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” on his deathbed, never bagged a film-specific award. His “Pather Panchali” won 11 international awards, but no Oscar.
Ironically, Vittorio De Sica, who won two Oscars for “Shoeshine” and “The Bicycle Thief”, had deeply impacted Ray’s work. Even last year’s Oscar-nominated Iranian director Majid Majidi is a self-confessed admirer of the legendary Ray. Besides Ray, many filmmakers and an endless number of films have missed a chance at the Oscars but have gone on to join the repertoire of the finest cinema of the world. They include Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut, masters of the French New Wave, and others like Yasujiro Ozu, Michelangelo Antonioni, Mrinal Sen, Claude Chabrol, Alain Resnais, Kristov Zanussi, Robert Bresson and many more.
The other Indian to have won an Oscar is Bhanu Athaiya, well-known costume designer from Mumbai. She was jointly named for the best costume designing for Richard Attenborough’s multiple-Oscar winner “Gandhi” (1982). In 2005, filmmaker Ashvin Kumar’s “Little Terrorist” got nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Short Film category. And then in 2006, “Born into Brothels”, a documentary filmed in part by children of sex workers of Kolkata took home the golden statue.
With Indian studios churning out 1,000 films a year, it has the potential to be a film superpower. An Oscar will help in consolidating its power. But most experts say that India is simply not sending its best to the Academy. We still believe in films that make money in box office and we deprive that handful of quality motion pictures celebrating the bogus and senseless Indian films produced all round the year. Leaving a few alternate film makers who are recently making the headlines, the trend of Indian cinema never took the right decision of making and promoting better stories along with quality screenplay and splendid direction. Believe me, the jury members of the Oscar look for strong scripts with tight direction and not stories of ghosts, disabled people or a historic literature that fails to go up to the standards of Gladiator or Lord of the Rings! So, why don’t we send the right ones?
I believe the financiers are skeptical lest they lose this so-called commercial market and the chance of looting the audiences by showing senseless trash for a tedious 180 minutes! The answers are still resonating down your throat, come on and speak it up! India cannot be a country producing films with rain dances! We have a better appetite for movies and we will claim our rights very soon! Investigate!
Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture, expecting disarray in the system of film-making in India…