Indians have been cinema-crazy long before th any given time or place, more Indians see films, in a score of languages, than they follow cricket, any other sport or activity.
Indians have been cinema-crazy long before th any given time or place, more Indians see films, in a score of languages, than they follow cricket, any other sport or activity. It’s a century-old affair. That many of the winners of the 89th US Academy Awards, popularly called Oscars, announced on Monday, including ‘Birdman’ and ‘Whiplash’, are currently being shown in many of the Indian cities, unlike in the last century when one waited for long, is an indication of the deep interest that Hollywood has in India, a huge market and a talent pool, and vice versa.
The animated discourse in the run-up to the Oscars in the mainstream and social media is another indication of the deep interest Indians take in Hollywood. Besides the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and a vast and varied literature in different languages, Indian filmmakers draw their inspiration from Hollywood – quite unabashedly. Indeed, no other country can boast of its thriving indigenous versions, popularly named “Bollywood”, “Tollywood,” “Mollywood” et al.
India makes over a thousand films annually, which is twice that of Hollywood. The provision of 100 per cent FDI has made the Indian film market attractive for foreign enterprises. And yet, Indians, unlike others, have held their own, refusing to be swamped by Hollywood’s ‘invasion’. Foreign cinema is adapted, even absorbed, something akin to how past military invasions were met.
Indians have not won too many Oscars, though, considering their output. Mehboob Khan’s “Mother India” and Aamir Khan’s “Lagaan’ lost out after winning nominations. Not many knew Mehboob’s India and cricket the way Aamir played. For the rest, Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ and Robert Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionnaire” with Indian winners including Bhanu Athaiya (costumes), Gulzar (lyric “Jai Ho”), A R Rahman (musical score) and Resul Pokutty (sound editing) are undoubtedly remarkable, but they are like winning mixed doubles in a game.
When it comes to the Oscars, there is no denying the ‘inadequacies’ in India-made films. This is despite the fast-improving technology and ambitions of many an actor and film maker to covet an Oscar. A successful and growing outreach to a global market that is gradually growing beyond the huge diaspora has also not helped enough.
At the end of the day, millions have to be spent to make out a case for the Best Foreign Language Film category. There is politics in Oscars. And there are American and White Man’s prejudices. Past favourites have included East Europeans (as against Moscow), Taiwanese (to spite China) and those who jump the barbed wire fencing from Iran, Turkey – any place where ‘freedom is in peril.”
By and large, Oscar door ast, or a Bridge too Far for Indians. A film maker of Satyajit Ray’s caliber, feted in Europe, had to wait to get a “lifetime’s achievement” Oscar in his sickbed.