Sunday, January 22, 2006

filmfare awards 2005: pain is a many-splendoured thing [a retrospective from march 18/19, 2005 (beware the ides of march)]

[Jan 29, 2006] a less auto-referential version of this sans corrigenda makes it as my first post on

As award ceremonies begin rewarding Bollywood activity by solely focussing on maximising their horizontal coverage of achievements, one awaits[sic] the most important one of them all, the Filmfare Awards. Being dubbed as our equivalent of the Oscars seems appropriate when you consider the auto-congratulatory, cliquey spirit embellished with glitz, glamour and hype. It's much closer to the MTV Movie Awards, if only in spirit (what with awards like Scene of the Year). YT looks back at the awards ceremony last year to see how some trends persist, how some things are only destined to get worse, and how some things will never change.

The most significant aspect of these awards was the change in sponsorship. After the flavoured tobacco sponsorship from Manikchand (or, to be precise, Dhariwal Industries) had given the awards some much-needed context and counterpoint, Filmfare (or, to be precise, Bennett Coleman and Company, the owners) decided to switch to The Swarup Group of Industries after Interpol issued Red Corner notices to Rasiklal Dhariwal, the owner of said brand of guTakhaa, for his alleged underworld links.
Filmfare must've been really desperate and on their knees, because the chairman and MD of SGI (that's the Swarup Group of Industries, puTTan), Sri Guru Swarup Srivastava himself, appears to present a couple of awards (for art direction and choreography, two fields he knows quite a bit about) and contributes the second most embarrassing moment of the show. He stands there before the mike with nary a clue about what to do or say. And looks blubberingly to the emcee (Saif Ali Khan, dressed badly, sporting extremely unfortunate painful comic timing, and trying be an Atlas with this disintegrating world) for help. I don't care of this dude makes more money than everyone in my apartment complex, but he needs to be given a script, forced to go through a few rehearsals just to make sure he gets it right. How would he feel if Suniel Shetty proxied for him during a board meeting one fine day?
This move means that one can no longer make fun of the "Manikchand Filmfare Awards." Rest assured, the awards themselves will continue to provide fodder for many an evening of rollicking repast.

The ceremony hits you on the head with explicit product placement. It's as if the text you were typing turned bold in a font several points larger. This is actually in keeping with the rules of exposition in Bollywood films. Never assume any intelligence in the audience; make sure they are always on the same page as far as the intent of each scene and line of paltry dialogue is concerned. After all, your multi-layered film supports at most one POV and invites at most one possible interpretation. So you have Farida Jalal doing a painful product plug for Coke, Sonali Bendre (dressed in something that looks like it was rejected from the list of costumes for the dwellers of Skull Island in King Kong) plugs for The Times of India, Radio Mirchi, Sony Entertainment Television.

The change in sponsorship, however, does (and will continue to do) little to improve the quality of the proceedings as far as presentation and production design are concerned. Every year it seems like they hire people who seem to have managed events solely on a village-to-village basis. The sets look amateur, the lighting's abysmal, the sound's terrible (wait till a wind blows and you'll hear what I mean). No one has the faintest clue about packaging something like this. They insist on having this out in the open and then fail to find someone who understands the sensitive complexities of managing sound in such a domain. Most of us watch these proceedings on our television sets, and the experience only gets worse. For one such show, YT thought that the gross collective was suffering from a harmonious attack of flatulence after hearing the wide assortment of non-vocal sounds heard during the show.

Just as America's view of "the world" is geographically screwed up, Filmfare's awards corrupt the view of "national/Indian" cinema. Make no mistake. These are awards of Bollywood, for Bollywood and normalised from reader votes by Bollywood. The quality of voting can never rise to commendable standards, once you consider the kind of people who (a) read Filmfare on a regular basis (b) watch and crave nothing else but mainstream Bollywood trash (c) actually take the time out and cast votes that elevate Salman Khan's cameo in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to winning the Best Supporting Actor award (thus trouncing Bajpai's turn in Satya, a clear winner if there was any).

In true Bollywood tradition, the proceedings lack a decent script. Most people improvise off the cuff, and this is something they are really not capable of (hell! They can't even mouth scripted lines of dialogue with the appropriate emotion on screen, and you expect them to improvise? The name is John Abraham not John Coltrane). The only sign that there was some scripting involved is the presence of pieces of numerously folded paper that some of the presenters unfold and proceed to make sense of (which means they were written in Esperanto short-hand). Then you have missed segues (Saif Ali Khan and Abbas-Mustan, who arrived to present the technical awards); Mukesh Bhatt (brother of Mahesh, not the character actor) saying 'wow' over and over again during his presentation stint; Celina Jaitley reading the list of nominations for Best Lyrics (all five trumped by Javed Akhtar) and reading the winner's name (duh!) without naming the film, despite repeated hints from Sonali Bendre. Ms Jaitley is better suited[sic] to stand half-submerged in water wearing a piecemeal bikini and pretending to play the violin; Dev Anand refusing to stop his blabbering and denying Priyanka Chopra a chance to speak after winning an award for her role as Demi Moore in Aitraaz (Ms Chopra eventually has to interrupt Farida Jalal to get a chance to speak).

The linguistic standards of the proceedings continue to flounder helplessly in the swamp of Hinglish dreg. Most of the people you will see (the ones who're emcees, the ones who present awards, the ones who present retrospectives, the ones who accept the awards) are competent in only one language: cool-glish. They can barely pass muster on a class V spoken Hindi examination, they possess an adequate English vocabulary from class VIII, and cannot put a complete sentence together in all their ramblings. All this is fine during kaTTaa talk, or IM conversations, but not on a show that seeks to earn itself some serious reputation (instead of the notoriety it merits thanks to the shoddy package). So when Ashutosh Rana made his acceptance speech in Hindi (for the award for Dushman), it deserved all the resounding applause you could offer.

In an attempt to get breadth coverage, the show features numerous other awards guaranteed to (a) soothe some souls wounded by populist idiocy [Satya swept the Critics' Awards in the year that Salman trounced Bajpai] (b) keep some egos fondled [the Power Award, bestowed this year to Shah Rukh Khan, who plants his expensive-boot-covered foot firmly in his mouth by indulging in extremely juvenile and non-PC utterances about being proud to be in India by referring to Michael Jackson as a small black boy growing into a rich white lady and mounting criticism for Bush being re-elected after all the craven carnage he had effected; the Golden Glory award which went to Dev Anand and then Rekha] (c) auto-fellatio [who can forget the Kapoor home video dedicated to the marriage of Karishma Kapoor? Who cares, dude!]

Each show boasts some innovative[sic] showpieces where our stars who make tons of money dancing abroad in over-priced specious shows, repeat their shenanigans to enthral one and all. Most people chosen to perform rarely lack the basic ability to dance that even the most unimaginative dance choreographer possesses. Some items are usually tinged with a tablespoon of nostalgia. This usually gives you a mixed bag of duds and delights. This year's show featured 1.5-left-footed Rani Mukherjee and Priyanka Chopra doing separate items that could be classified as "down memory lane." Each performance featured attempts to dance to a medley of songs from the past topped with some recent hits that are destined never to die the death they deserve. How one can even attempt to tackle songs like aaj phir jiine kii tamannaa hai or ho.nTho.n pe aisii baat (both featuring vastly more capable dancers [Waheeda Rehman and Vyjayanthimala respectively -- ack to JR for noting my sloppiness in combining the two]) is jaw-droppingly befuddling. Just about the only interesting aspect to the proceedings would be that Priyanka Chopra would be a good dead ringer for the late Parveen Babi when they decide to make a biopic about her. Mahesh Bhatt, who seems like the most obvious person to do something like this, seems have already begun something like this with a flick called Actress, but chooses to use Bipasha Basu to do the needful (the phrase "lack of taste" seems too mild here), along with the usual host of duds like Emraan Hashmi and Deepal Shaw. Shah Rukh Khan inevitably does his item, and this time it features him romancing actresses old and new [Vyjayanthimala, Sharmila, Zeenat, Jaya Prada, Rekha, Kajol, Rani, Preity]. The best item of the evening however was a strip-show by Sonu Nigam. In a bid to present a trip down melody [read: aural malady] lane, Sonu decided to sing snippets of songs from films from the 50s to the 00s. He also hit upon the bright idea of switching costumes for each decade, and so began his performance looking like a stuffed teddy bear, and with each decade, more clothes came off. Mercifully, he didn't do songs from the future. One thing was clear: there is a reason some of those old songs stand the test of time -- no one around today can muster enough talent or dedication to tackle those songs. Despite continuing to be a talented, trained, effeminate watered-down clone of Mohd. Rafi, Mr. Nigam managed to salvage some post-modern reputation by doing a competent imitation of Kumar Sanu's patent-pending nasal attack when he sang saa.Nso.n kii zaruurat hai jaise.

A lot of deserving bad jokes got trashed by bad comic timing as Saif Ali Khan did a sole riff of getting cell phone calls throughout the show. Wasted jokes include a call for B Subhash to propose a cross-product film called Tarzan the ja.nglii car where the car swings from tree to tree, and another call from Nandu Nylon for Mallika Sherawat.

Rule of thumb: If you're a winner in the technical awards section, don't bother preparing an acceptance speech; they're not going to let you talk. In fact, just give them a mailing address, and spend the awards evening elsewhere with your family.

Auto-fellatio moment: Abhishek Bachchan, when announced as the winner of the Best Supporting Actor award, drags his father the Big B to the stage, refuses to accept the award and gives it to his father, who (in true Big B diplomatic grace) returns it with a joke.

most embarrassing moment of the evening: Jackie Shroff, called to present the scene of the year award, calls Yash Chopra, Saif Ali Khan (who's already on the stage), Rani Mukherjee and Kunal Dasgupta (CEO of Sony Entertainment Television, AFAIR) to the stage to accept the award for Hum Tum, but not the director and script filcher, Kunal Kohli. Saif salvages the moment by requesting Kunal Kohli to come up and accept the award. Kohli also managed to make the first acceptance speech of the night.

Gaffes: Gulzar is conspicuously absent from the list of people who've won the most Filmfare Awards.

Runner-up: Most interesting presenter pair: Jaya Prada and Sanjay Khan presenting the R D Burman Award.

Moment of the most Delicious Irony of the evening: Dev Anand presents the award for Best Actor in a Comic Role.

Greatest moment of the evening / Winner: Most interesting presenter pair:Bappi Lahiri and John Abraham (aka Appu Raja) arrive to present the award for Best Female Playback Singer. Abraham's at sea, incoherently mumbling sweet nothings that work for his fans who make his movies hits, but Bappi takes over instantly. He first congratulates Filmfare for their "50th Golden Jubilee" and then dedicates a song to the nominees. He then proceeds to belt out this song, a Bappi classic for aficionados like YT: dil me.n ho tum, dha.Dakan me.n tum. Abraham, meanwhile, has just experienced core shutdown and is left stammering like a duck on steroids.

This means that YT is looking forward to the awards this year. Hopefully, a splendid time is guaranteed for all. In the meantime, let us tune in to the songs of Mr. Prime Minister.

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