RDB and Uncle Oscar

Jan 20, 2007 Jahan Bakshi

India's official entry to Oscar "Rang De Basanti" failed to make it to the final 5 in the Foreign Film category and here is an article By Jahan Bakshi which looks at the films' selection and why the film did not make it to the final five. The article has originally published earlier when the film got selected for Oscars.

Last year, amid much hullabaloo, Amol Palekar's desert ditty PAHELI was sent for the Oscar as India's official entry in the foreign film category over much the feted melodrama Black. The reactions were sharp, caustic, and critical. How PAHELI got selected was- to most people- the riddle and mystery of the year, pun unintended.

And this year, our very wise and honorable jury (including Aadesh Srivastava and now -extinguished CHINGAARI Ms Kalpana Lajmi) has chosen Rakeysh Mehra's cult hit Rang De Basanti. Brilliant.

It's not that RDB isn't a good film. That isn't even the point here. Point is, if RDB manages to clinch an Oscar- or even a nomination- I'll happily claim to be a certified idiot and a first-rate fool. This film simply doesn't stand a chance.

Let's look back again at the BLACK v/s PAHELI debate last year. Though saying which film was better is a matter of opinion, taste and much argument, I am most certain of one thing- of the two, PAHELI was definitely a better choice, if not the best of all.

What I'm trying to put across is that the best film may not necessarily be the best bet at the Oscars. Would the members of the Academy be interested in a melodramatic film, allegedly inspired by The Miracle Worker in which an alcoholic teacher keeps screaming at an obviously deaf and blind child, beseeching her through immensely long winded lectures to 'C-O-M-E INTO THE L-I-G-H-T!'

Or would they maybe like a piece of propaganda on how the lazy, materialism obsessed 'vela' Indian youths should transform into modern day Bhagat Singhs and Chandrashekhar Azads (who is that, they say) and shake the foundation of Indian politics by casually shooting a Cabinet minister during the day, and then nonchalantly announcing their crime on radio- galvanizing the nation into action?

Wait, wait- don't get me wrong- I liked both BLACK and RDB very much. What we must realize is that both of these, while powerful films, are also characteristically fantastical, melodramatic and loud pieces of work which only appeal to only Indian audiences. And cannot even hope to compete with other far superior international films.

This is why I think that sending OMKARA - which in my opinion is notches higher than any other film this year in any case- would have been a much more sensible move. Not that I say that it would win the Oscar- but it would at least be an intelligent, thoughtful choice.

The subject matter is universal. The performances are superb. The imagery is evocative and striking. And the film is a unique, subtly multilayered and brilliant piece of work. Something that can hold its own in the international arena- merging effortlessly with the rest, yet being distinct and Indian at the same time.

Yet somehow what really saddens me is the ironic fact that Deepa Mehta's WATER - a hugely acclaimed and successful film in the US and Canada goes as Canada's entry to the Oscars. It is indeed a shameful pity for us that Water could not be made or even be released in India.

Of course, then there are those who proudly proclaim that we should stop hankering for Oscars and be happy with our own awards. After all, we don't need an Oscar to validate our film industry, do we? (Ahem, as if the Academy is actually waiting to hand it over to us.)

I do not think we are hankering for an Oscar. It is perfectly fine to compete in the international arena and just because our media makes a huge fuss about it does not mean that we are literally dying to win one.

And as for our own filmy film awards- Filmfar(c)e, IIFA, Sansui, Star Screen (read- Star Scream), and even the National Awards - what can I say except...er, umm, ugh.

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Rang De Basanti


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