Waiting for Oscar

Every year,India goes through the same cycle of yearning and anticipation

Written by The Indian Express | Published: September 25, 2012 3:23 am

Every year,India goes through the same cycle of yearning and anticipation

India has settled on its official selection for the Oscars. Anurag Basu’s Barfi will go to Los Angeles and try its luck with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And we’re all a little invested in the decision,because unlike the other awards that involve individual talents,the foreign film Oscar is considered an honour to the entire country. Ever since 1957,when Mother India is reported to have lost narrowly to Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria,the prize has set off a cycle of yearning,anticipation,letdown and bitterness,with India getting no closer to the coveted statuette. Meanwhile,Fellini alone has scooped up three more Oscars.

Some of this failure has to do with shoddy selection processes. The official nominee is selected by the Film Federation of India after sifting through entries from regional producers’ panels. That process is shot through with bias,lobbying and inexplicable decision-making. Satyajit Ray’s best films have been passed over,as have excellent movies from the movie industries in Maharashtra and Kerala. The Academy’s considerations for the best foreign film are certainly less predictable than its other choices. India,though,seems to have tried every yardstick possible to impress the Academy. With Devdas,it decided to go with spectacle,rich surfaces and overblown emotion. With Shwas,it tried the poignant little realist film. But really,what could anyone have been thinking when they sent Jeans or Eklavya: the Royal Guard?

The point is,we have many thriving,creative movie industries that produce work of every kind — from small cinematic gems to all-star plotless wonders. Some of them don’t travel well. The Academy Awards cannot be an arbiter of value for an entire filmmaking culture. And if we’re insecure enough to consider it one,the least we can do is play by their rules and send a film that has a halfway chance.

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