6 to Kamal, 4 to Aamir, 2 to Mani
The Indian Oscar dream
Rang De Basanti  

Is it a dream, necessity, requirement or fulfillment? Does Indian cinema need an Oscar to prove itself to the world as an industry that makes quality films with consistency? This might be the right time to restart this debate with Taare Zameen Par being selected as the official Indian entry to the Oscars. There have been conflicting view points with regards to the Oscar and Indian cinema’s dependence on it for worldwide recognition. There are those who think that an Oscar won’t make much of a difference, there are those who think that the Oscar is just a glorified regional awards function because it is held by Hollywood who are so good at marketing everything that they make. But, all these opinions notwithstanding, the entire film industry or at least the film maker in question, get hugely excited when their movie is officially sent to the Oscars. Everyone, without exception of what they think about the Oscars, keenly follows the fortunes of an Indian film at the Oscars. The level of attention is above what is given to the prestigious Cannes and BAFTA awards. For some reason, the Oscars have a certain aura and romance

about them that makes them highly desirable objects of recognition.

India’s lone moment of pride at the Oscars belongs to Satyajit Ray. However, talking about Ray’s achievement is like talking about K.D.Jadhav’s bronze medal at the 1952 Olympics as India’s moment of glory at the Olympics. Well, fortunes at the Olympics have changed since, but Indian cinema still waits its Abhinav Bindra at the world stage. There might be many who contest this, in fact it is not surprising if the majority stand up against this sentiment, but the cold fact is that no Indian movie has won an Oscar. But facts count for little in the world of cinema which lives on fiction and artistry- abstracts that cannot be quantified like track speeds or gunshots. So, it is difficult and maybe impossible to explain why the Indian industry is a prominent absentee from the Oscar roll of honor, in spite of producing movies that are (at least to the Indian audience) among the best in the world in terms of technical and artistic brilliance. Popular perception is that a prejudiced jury may be playing the spoilsport. ‘Prejudiced’, not in the real negative sense of the word. Here, it means that the jury might consist of people who might not be able to judge an Indian movie for what it is. A popular cinema personality said that ‘Indian movies have a different grammar and the jurists might not be able to understand this’. Indian cinema might be an unlucky victim of this cultural difference. If that is so, then why do we need the Oscars? Because of the aura and romance that has been mentioned earlier. It is very special for a batsman to score a test century at Lord’s, for a singer to perform at the Music Academy, or for an international tennis player to win the Davis Cup for his country. These are things that might not make huge differences in the professional lives of the people concerned, but are special achievements; milestones that tell us how far we have come. An Oscar for Indian cinema is something like that. Sure, we don’t need a Hollywood certificate of excellence to do our business, nor are the audience, even if they are in Europe, Middle East or Africa, too concerned with such details. But we have to admit that getting one would be nice and very highly appreciated, after all who doesn’t like recognition?

On that note let’s take a look at the lucky few who have been officially entered at the Oscars. When I say lucky few, it is because of the number of languages in which movies come out and number of actors who can produce memorable moments. To stand out in such a crowd requires not only considerable merit, but a certain quantum of luck as well ( and some say, a person who speaks the same language as the film in the jury).

Who is the artiste to have the single highest number of his movies sent to the Oscars? The answer is a piece of cake, Padmashree Kamal Haasan. Starting with the Hindi Saagar, followed by Nayagan, Devar Magan, Kurudhi Punal, Indian and Hey Ram, a total of 6 nominations. The interesting thing to note here is the presence of Nayagan which was later voted as one of the best 100 movies of the century. It would be interesting to see whether the movie that eventually won the best foreign film award that year is also part of the top 100. But, perceptions change with time and so it is better left alone. After Kamal comes Aamir Khan with Earth, Lagaan, Rang De Basanti and Taare Zameen Par. The list is long, we can’t get all of them in here. A little bit of trivia, Jeans was the official Indian entry of 1996, a movie that is far removed from the types that usually make it to the Oscars. Apart from Kamal, the only other person from Kollywood to make any sort of an impression has been Mani Ratnam, with Nayagan and Anjali. But of all the entries only two movies thus far have managed to reach that final hurdle before being beaten at the post. Being sent from India is one thing and making it to the final nominees list is another. Only the legendary Mother India, Saalam Bombay and Lagaan have achieved it before and by the look of things Taare Zameen Par is all qualified to do the same and maybe even go one higher. Let’s hope that we get our first Oscar; it will put many questions and doubts to rest.

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