Prize unwise

Bollywood’s awards season is close to an end: almost all awards have been over and done with and even the National Film Awards have been declared. One may have even followed all the functions diligently, week after week, with the same stars dancing to the same songs and almost the same actors winning awards across all ceremonies.

Sonakshi Sinha
Sonakshi Sinha during a rehearsal for her performance at an awards show. pic for representation purpose only

But if one was suddenly quizzed on who won what at any particular awards ceremony, it would be tough to recall. It is hard to tell one award function from another. No wonder Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgn, Prakash Jha and Ram Gopal Varma stopped attending awards functions many years ago. “You can’t get excited about Holi if you have to play it seven times a year,” says Saurabh Shukla. “There are too many awards. And an excess of anything leads to boredom.

Sridevi in English Vinglish
Sridevi in English Vinglish. Producer R Balki feels the performance deserved better recognition at the awards

Awards are a celebration of talent. If you have too many choices, they are no longer exciting.” Concurs Satish Kaushik, “Too many players spoil the game. These are more like reality shows than award functions. I miss the days when there was one award function, and the whole industry used to wait for it.” Quips Shailendra Singh, head honcho of Percept Pictures, “It’s a buffet out there. You eat everything, but you don’t respect or enjoy anything.”

Worthy overlooked
“Did they (the awards) ever have any credibility?” wonders Naseeruddin Shah considered by many to be the finest actor India has ever produced. The fact that several times, ‘worthy’ films are ignored at awards functions and the ‘unworthy’ are awarded also raises the ire of a section of the Bollywood fraternity. Many years ago, Raakhee refused to accept the Best Actress Award for her performance in Beimaan because she felt her performance in the film did not deserve it.

Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway at the Academy Awards. One definitive award is more meaningful

Rakhee said, “When I was told I was getting the award for Best Actress for an awful film called Beimaan I said I would not accept it, not when just a few years earlier, refused to give me the award for what I thought was a commendable performance in Sharmilee. They chose to give Asha Parekh the Best Actress Award that year for Kati Patang. Shockingly, they did not even give Sachin Dev Burman the best music award for his soulful music in Sharmilee. In fact Sachin and his son Rahul Dev Burman hardly ever got awards.”

Sonu Sood
Sonu Sood believes popular awards have become television programmes

In the year that Sohanlal Kanwar’s long-forgotten Beimaan had walked away with all the awards, Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah was left deeply wounded. It lost all the awards. Unable to bear the snub to music composer Ghulam Mohamed for his immortal compositions in Pakeezah, veteran actor Pran, who had won the Best Supporting Actor award for Beimaan, declined to take his award. This year too, many B-towners believe that Saurabh Shukla deserved an award for his performance as a wheezing cop in Barfi as did Sridevi for her performance in English Vinglish.

Says Paresh Rawal angrily, “The popular awards are worthless and useless. They are big marketing events with no substance. A glaring omission was my film Oh My God which did not get any nominations in the popular awards. And there are innumerable such sins of omission. Awards are as useless as a tail on a teddy bear.” R Balki, the producer of English Vinglish, expressed the collective dismay of the entire team when he said, “In the golden year of Hindi cinema, they forgot a truly golden performance. A 24-carat story, a gem of a screenplay and a sterling directorial debut. I think they are into silver.”

Yet, co-actors publicly protesting on behalf of their unjustly-treated co-stars is rare. Instead, it is quite the opposite. A couple of years ago, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was informed she was getting the Best Actress Award for Guzaarish. She was aghast when the name of the winner was changed at the last minute on the insistence of another actor.

Reality TV
Sonu Sood feels awards have become television events. “It is not only the film industry but the people outside who are confused. Yeh kya ho raha hai? For most people these are not awards functions at all but television programmes where actors and actresses dance the night away.” Top actors and actresses apparently charge anything from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 3 crore to perform at awards functions. In addition, most of then insist on being given an award before agreeing to perform.

Writer Prasoon Joshi feels awards have been reduced to being a spectacle. “They are a kind of reality television. They are designed to entertain viewers. Awards functions are like consumer products. If we come to terms with this, it is easy to comprehend the presence of so many brands functioning within the awards space. As long as we recognise today’s average awards function as a consumer item we are fine. However I feel the National Awards are different as they are not marketing tools.”

Says Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra disgustedly, “One is embarrassed and ashamed to see the film fraternity propagating and celebrating gender bias in a big way. We have awards functions where this bias is turned into television entertainment. Tragically, our own iconic actresses choose to act out the bias. It is girl power working against girl power. Why do they do it? Is it desperation for food? Are they abla naaris desperate for do waqt ki roti dancing to make ends meet? No! It is all about easy bucks, easy fame. This is not art. It is commerce at its most immoral.”

Marketing events
Adds actress-director Soni Razdan, “Popular awards lost credibility the day they became marketing events for TV. While one understands the need to marry commerce with culture, it is no longer possible to take these awards functions seriously.” But Soni sees a ray of hope in the future. “This year, with the new dynamic crop of script-strong films garnering maximum awards, perhaps this (loss of credibility) is changing after all! At least I would like to think so.”

Sudhir Mishra also feels that this year’s awards reflected excellence. “I think this year’s popular awards emphasised quality and excellence. By giving awards to films like Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani and applauding Ranbir Kapoor's performance in Barfi, the awards redeemed themselves.” Prakash Jha, however, remains indifferent to popular awards. He says, “Jiss gaon jaana hi nahin usska raasta kya poochna?” (Why bother to ask the route to a village I don't want to visit?). “With so many brands jumping into the awards fray, it seems the original intention of an award being a recognition of talent has been lost.”

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