Adopting a ‘never-say-die attitude, the Producer of ‘Munnabhai lage Raho” has snubbed the jury by entering the film independently. Quite a race there..each vying for honours.Frankly, if a film manages to tailspin into the nominations, that itself is creditworthy. But will either of these attain the success of ‘Lagaan’?
“Rang de basanti” Indias entry to the Oscars has fuelled many an argument as to the corrrectness of its choice.As a film, it had its moments. The central theme had stirred up emotions in the audience since it closely corresponded with an average viewers impending issues, faced ad nauseum. For me personally, there were thematic structural problems in the film, which failed to go well with my sensibilities..but that bears little relevance to the subject of an Indian film representation at a world forum.
Simplistically, what is the criteria of selection? Or rather, ideally what should be the determining factor which excludes one film over another? If one is to go by the past successes in the ‘foreign language category’, the underlying theme has unmistakably been that of a simple, unpretentious, story line which interprets a slice of life imaginatively, at once flirting with cinematic techniques, albeit never succumbing to populist dictates. A case in point “Tsotsi” By Gavin Hood from South Africa, dealing with issues of class apartheid and ‘Vita E Bella’ or ‘Life is Beautiful”.by Roberto Belligni, the poignant story of a nazi victim and his son whose life he saves with a sense of humor, which was all he had at his disposal.. On receiving the award, I recall clearly, the standing ovation he received form the august gathering, where he excitedly stepped over seats, as if walking on air , in a hurry to receive the award..Playing the protagonist, writing and directing the film he was truly a ‘one man wonder”that day..and for me the when I saw the film ..I cried like there was no tomorrow.. bu then as hubby often says”you can cry in a Charlie Chaplin film’..sniff… show me a performance that rings true and there I go hurriedly .in search of tissue.
RdB, may have appealed to Indians the world over, yet as an entry for the Oscars, it evinces a quizzically raised eyebrow, wistfully. We are not , should not and cannot compete with films on the level of technique. use of the jimmyjib, lenses, cranes or whatever denotes ‘Indias coming of age’ technically. Because, lets face it, we are a long way off. This has nothing to do with talent but with budgets. How many of us know that an average ad film of 30 seconds made in UK or USA costs perhaps five times more than the most expensive “Devdas”? And yet, we have to compete with the best on that terrain.So where is the point in showcasing a small step forward which to our eyes may seem gigantic?
We excel in portraying emotion. Our literature, songs, poetry are abundantly rich with pathos.What is the USP of RDB? Probably, timeliness of the subject, capacity to entertain, hummable songs,the tapping on inner frustration of youth in their impotece at dealing with everyday evidences of corruption.
It will be truly surprising if these translate as good enough reasons for Westerners to appreciate the film as well, especially on the level of a world competition where lateral markings are mandatory..no handicaps awarded there.
“Water” has been sent by the Producers of the films individually. It should be no surprise if this garners lot more acclaim and interest..’Maine gaandhi ko nahin maara’, if sent as well. Keeping in mind the heavy lobbying involved, which entails that atleast two thirds of the jury view the film, irrespective of the number of screenings, a Producer like Rakeysh Mehra, under the auspices of Aamir khan, definitely scores over the others. Moreso. since Aamir has already successfully taken Lagaan to the finishing line, earlier. Perhaps this was the one factor that went most in favour of RDB, over say Omkara, Munnabhai..the ONLY others worth considering..
Subscribing to the theory “What Oscars?” is to me a defeatist attitude. One is living in a world where every other Indian film is beng ‘inspired’ by those made elsewhere. Why shy away from coming out in the open playing field then? Winning may not be the sole intention of participation. But showcasing talent is a definite high. When Indians are rubbing shoulders with the best universally,in Science, Medicine, Computers, not to forget the beauty pageants, then cinematic brilliance ought to be up on stage as well.
This is a rather complex issue, really On one level I have no doubt as to the capabilities of Indian films and the talent involved. On the other is the conundrum of the genre of films, turkeys, majority of which are catering to the masses, burdened heavily, shackled with commercial factors. Eventually in the process of getting Box office counters jingling, what we are churning out is sub standard stuff.. since our “Bihari Babu’ aint no oscar fan!! Therfore where are the choices? Either we make successful films or good films.. a paradox which has plagued every film maker worth his salt in India.
It will take a while before systemic revolution of the kind which solidifies a structure of adequate returns, dictates cinematic decisions. Where a Producer is in the business for the love of the art more than fructifying business proposals.Art would take precedence over commerce.. Its worth the wait. though.
Update 16th Jan’07: Results are out
Hmm..I was on mark :)