By Meera
The Oscar Showdown, kamal haasan, naayagan


India has submitted over forty movies to The Academy Awards or Oscars as they are commonly referred to. Although most movies submitted were in Hindi, there are about eight movies that have made it to the submissions. Ulaga Nayagan Kamal Hassan features in three making him a prominent figure. Yet an Indian movie has never won a single Academy Award in the Foreign Language category.  Does this mean that our movies are mediocre when placed on a pedestal with world cinema? Or does the jury fail to understand the emotions and drama that unfold so strongly in our multiplexes?

The answer to this question lies in the question itself. Indian cinema is diverse and dramatic. It reflects our culture and heritage aptly, exaggeratedly and sometimes mutely. Yet there is so much to showcase that is quite common for the movie makers to get lost in the conundrum. We often submit movies like Barfi or Taare Zameen Par or Anjali where a child’s or an adult’s struggle or desperation with life is captured poignantly. Or there are movies like Rang De Basanti or Lagaan or Indian where we light up the country’s darkened alleys and efforts for redemption against the system. We also shove melodramas that hinge high on music like Devdas hoping to enchant the jury. All of this has failed.

Kuruthi Punal was a slick police action drama that illustrated the reign of terror and the clutch it has on earnest officials. Jeans displayed technological marvels in a country which was largely animation challenged. Hey Ram attempted to twist the recital of history or narrate the story from a different point of view. Nayagan was our local Marlin Brando which we treasure as the best in Indian cinema. They were indeed, the best we had and we offered them to the world, yet received no accolades.

In all the years that the Academy Awards have been awarded there has been rich controversy surrounding the winners and the losers. But isn’t that the case with every award in general. Do we hang our heads in shame for facing rejection every time? When a movie like Thevar Magan fails to receive a nomination, it isn’t the failure of the movie itself. Here is a rural story unfolding in the heart of India – its villages. There is romance, religion, revenge and redemption. It mirrors our lives. We want to escape but eventually succumb. Our father’s words mean more to us than God himself. For familial pride we will forsake our progressive futures. Even if the world does not understand the contorted lives, we have to keep making cinema that stays close to our roots.

When movies like Rang De Basanti secure a seat to the Academy, my only exasperation is that it apes the west more than I’m comfortable with.  But when movies like Indian fail, I know that it is not a failure of the movie itself. Everybody knows that the Academy Award is a huge recognition for movies and for the makers but the buck does not stop there. Today Indian cinema enjoys a far greater reach than we could ever imagine. But the only way we can keep the audience hooked is by sticking to our local flavors like Aadukalam, Subramaniapuram or even Chennai 600028. Because in the end, Ithu enga area, and we remain very damned proud of it.

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