Tuesday, September 27, 2005

riddled @ the Oscars

In keeping with the fine tradition established over the last several years, the FFI (Film Federation of India) has chosen yet another stumper as the Indian entry for the Foreign Film Oscar. The film is Amol Palekar's Paheli [elsewhere: yours truly didn't care much for it]. Did they choose the film simply because its title would make good copy when reactions poured in later? Predictably some people have applauded the selection, some people have wished the film well, some people have begun to find cans of split (yeah, you read that right) milk to cry over, some people have chosen to be stoic (and let everyone know so). The usual mix and match. No matter what they had chosen, you would have had a sample set of each reaction to deal with.

The chaos that has ensued since only confirms the strangeness of the selection. Rediff's "Is Paheli the right choice?" page boldly includes a shot from Sarkar, which wasn't even in the competition. And the reasons proffered only afforded more chuckles. Vinod Pande, acting chairman of the FFI said, "Paheli has represented the Indian ethos. It is a film based on the Indian language." In fact, his bowdacious answers to a set of stupid questions make me postpone my next Mithun movie appointment. As for that little business about originality: even Paheli doesn't stand up a firm footing of originality. The source material was adapted by Mani Kaul in Duvidha (and I might be willing to wager on that being a much much more rewarding effort than this box office suck-fest).

Anyone following the Oscars closely every year will know that what separates their auto-fellatio from ours (remember the Filmfare Awards?) is that they pull off a much slicker show and also have movies that, all things considered, score over our pieces of dog dung in several departments. After all, the Filmfare Awards never claimed to be about rewarding the craft of filmmaking. They're all about feting moneymakers and people who churn out mind-numbing popcorn product in droves and providing absolutely no room for the hope that we have a discerning audience who will request no more insults to its intelligence.

Our recent selections have indicated that every year the FFI chooses flouting milksops who are woefully incompetent in matters of understanding what it takes to be a strong entry in the Foreign Film category. Despite the sucky nature of the Oscars, this category has seen some great submissions from other countries; submissions that have been more sober than our gifts of eloquent superfluity. And what have we been doing? We have been sending movies like Indian, Jeans, Henna and Lagaan. The first two were massive (correct me if I'm wrong) brain-dead hits from Shankar (and the second in that list greatly benefited from an evident conflict of interest). The third probably got a breather thanks to exploited themes of Indo-Pak friendship and blah blah. There is no excuse for choosing the last one. Lagaan worked at the box office (although still less a success than Gadar) thanks to its mix of things dear to mainstream Hindi film viewers: songs, dances, cricket. And must one also note another implementation of the "satisy everyone" principle at work -- Page 3 was awarded the Best Film award at the National Awards earlier this year and yet another film was chosen for the Oscars. Double standards? What's good for us ain't good for them?

We have interesting films made every year that compete and win laurels at other international film festivals that host some of the greatest current foreign cinema. Yet, our selectors seem to prefer the local pirated video store as their font for candidates for nomination. Clearly, the selection process for FFI membership ensures the selection of balbutient loggerheads with butyraceous brains jectigating in the reniform hallways of mediocrity.

The FFI (an organisation that is as secretive as the KKK in terms of membership, official procedures and the like) seems to have a membership roster that rolls in fresh[sic] blood every year. This guarantees us some entertainment as far as nominees and the eventual pick are concerned; The National Awards have offered some competition of late, but that's fodder for a separate post. This years picks (link courtesy: Amit Varma) include Harmesh Malhotra, Vinod Pande and Jagdish Sharma.

Vinod Pande is perhaps the least harmful of 'em all. His films have dealt with man/woman relationships challenging the norms of society (his last film was the bare-back sex fest called Sins). He also gave us the opportunity to relish two Raghunath Seth soundtracks (Ek Baar Phir, Yeh Nazdeekiyan), gave us a cult box office tank called Star (dil bole ##boom boom##), directed the TV show Reporter (which featured one of the longest series of shots dedicated to a telephone ringing and a man's eventual act of lifting the receiver). Still, he doesn't quite inspire confidence.

Next up we have Jagdish Sharma. This guy has a more exciting filmography as far as B-flicks are concerned. There's Shiv Raam featuring a cop with a bullet lodged in his head in such a fashion that removing it would result in his death; two Arman Kohli vehicles Dushman Zamana and Juaari; the Mithun starrer Bhishma (Bourne Identity anyone?), Sapoot (the song: kaajal kaajal terii aa.Nkho.n kaa ye kaajal) and Judge Mujrim (featuring the ostentatiously funny Jolly Mukherjee song lailaa o lailaa).

Which brings us to Harmesh Malhotra. Harmesh Malhotra actually directed a film in 1982 starring Shatrughan Sinha titled Mangal Pandey (perhaps that's why Ketan Mehta's film figured in the list...). He was also responsible for one of the rare instances of a movie and sequel with Nagina and Nigahen. He directed Phansi ke Baad, which had Lata singing for Anu Malik (then sporting a different spelling) for the first time. He also gave us Mithun's Cheetah. Then there was Sridevi as the village-belle-turned-dacoit Sherni; the standard Jeetendra 90s movie Amiri Garibi (drama, pathos, conflict, shrieking music); the Anil Kapoor/Sridevi version of Heer Ranjha, Paapi Devata with Madhuri dancing to usakaa naam hai piyaa; the sad sad Kismat with Govinda and Mamta Kulkarni; and the increasingly aggravating Govinda romps Dulhe Raja, Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare and Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karen.

All this makes these guys perfect candidates to judge the eligibility of a film given their fine understanding of cinema of all kinds. I think it's time we dug up some Ramsay productions and sent them instead. At least we'd get some press for sh(l)ock value.

Faux Coda: The other nominees: Mangal Pandey, Veer-Zaara, Iqbal, Swades, Parineeta, Page 3, Black, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Sachein (Tamil), Anniyan (Telugu), Uttarayan (Marathi), Achuvante Amma (Malayalam), Graham (Telugu), and Kadal (Tamil). Of the ones I haven't seen I have no doubts about rejecting Mangal Pandey, Veer-Zaara. Of the ones I have seen Parineeta, Page 3 , and Black [thoughts] cannot hope to hold even a lit match to HKA [thoughts]. And HKA would have been my choice for a nomination were I forced at gunpoint to utter a title. Can you believe that our list of previous submissions includes Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Ankur, Manthan and Saraansh??

Coda: The stupidity continues as Rediff hosts a paean to Black. An extract:

You might have been less threatening had you not achieved self-actualisation; had you not been a masterpiece wrenched out from the depths of your director's being; had you not soared above conventional cinematic norms.
Maybe your passionate creator erred in exhausting his energy to rejuvenate us with soul-stirring melodies. He erred in burning his insides to extract the madness seated deep within your actors. He erred in believing us deserving of his creation.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.