INDIA IN OSCARS : PARADISE LOST

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan describes himself with the quote”Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”. This quote has become the motto of Bollywood. Our filmmakers don’t give a damn about Oscars. They have created their own Academies and Awards, actually many of them. I tried to count once how many awards are distributed each year but lost count somewhere in between. Some of the names qualify to be termed as sentences (International Indian Film Academy Awards or Apsara Film and Television Producers Guild Awards and many more). It seems that film stars and producers sit at the start of each year and distribute the awards among themselves in advance. To deceive the audience, they have created a category “Jury Awards” and these awards are given to lesser known faces to give an impression of being genuine. These award functions remind me again of Paradise Lost, how after deceiving Eve and successfully tempting her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Satan returns triumphantly to Hell, amidst the praise of his fellow fallen angels. He tells them that mankind has fallen and now they have complete dominion over paradise. In the poem after this, all the fallen angels including Satan turned into snakes, unable to walk and talk. I am not suggesting an analogy between the Satan and the producers or between snakes and the film stars. But you are a free thinking citizen of a democratic, socialist, secular republic and can imagine whatever you want.

Ok! Enough. Actually, this outrage is the result of Oscar Nominations that came out a few hours ago. Court is a good film. Whether it deserved an Oscar or not is a larger matter. Sending films which are made on a shoestring budget, without any financial support to market them, is self-defeating. The process of getting nominated and winning is a very expensive one and requires huge marketing budgets.

A foreign film goes through two phases of selection. Nine films are selected in the first and the list comes down to five after the second round. In the first phase of film screenings, held generally between October and January, members of the Academy’s general committee are invited to rank the films on a scale of six to 10. That’s how the top six films are selected. Three more are added as per the recommendation of a special committee. In the second round, all nine films are screened in New York, London, and Los Angeles and five are shortlisted. In the first round what matters is a film’s popularity in the US. This can only be done through rigorous campaigning, publicity, and lobbying. The filmmakers have to hire publicists who know this business well. They also have to find distributors for their films in the US. The independently made movies that we send like this year’s Court or previous years Liars Dice, cannot build a successful campaign without financial backup from the government or independent agencies.

In 2002, in an interview to India Today, Shaukat Khan, the son of Mehboob Khan told, “I remember my dad telling us on his return that once he got there he realized you needed to do some marketing, that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes activity.” Mehboob Khan’s Mother India was the first Indian film to get nominated for the best film in foreign language category at the Oscars in 1957.

Perhaps Amir Khan would not have been able to get the nomination for Lagaan if he was not backed by a powerful public relations company because whether a film is good or bad is decided only after you have popularized it and have shown it to more and more members.

Court released in only about 150 screens across India where an average Bollywood production releases in 2000 screens. Despite being a solid contender this film is unknown in India, and we expect it to win an Oscar. We happily give 500 crores in charity to a” Dilwale” but cannot not fund a “Court” to win an Oscar. It again reminds me of the Paradise Lost and the “fall of mankind” as described by the celebrating Satan.

So, here are the Oscar nominations for this year:

BEST PICTURE
• The Big Short
• Bridge of Spies
• Brooklyn
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Martian
• The Revenant
• Room
• Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
• Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
• Matt Damon, The Martian
• Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
• Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
• Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
• Cate Blanchett, Carol
• Brie Larson, Room
• Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
• Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
• Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
• Christian Bale, The Big Short
• Tom Hardy, The Revenant
• Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
• Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
• Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
• Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
• Rooney Mara, Carol
• Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
• Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
• Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

DIRECTING
• Adam McKay – The Big Short
• George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
• Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
• Lenny Abrahamson – Room
• Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
• Anomalisa
• Boy and the World
• Inside Out
• Shaun the Sheep Movie
• When Marnie Was There

COSTUME DESIGN
• Carol
• Cinderella
• The Danish Girl
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Revenant

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
• Amy
• Cartel Land
• The Look of Silence
• What Happened, Miss Simone?
• Winter on Fire

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
• Body Team
• Chau, Beyond the Lines
• Claude Lanzmann
• A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
• Last Day of Freedom

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
• The Revenant

ORIGINAL SONG
• “Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
• “Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
• “Simple Song #3” – Youth
• “Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
• “Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

ANIMATED SHORT
• Bear Story
• Prologue
• Sanjay’s Super Team
• We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
• World of Tomorrow

SOUND EDITING
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• Sicario
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens
• The Martian
• The Revenant

FILM EDITING
• The Big Short
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Revenant
• Spotlight
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
• Embrace of the Serpent
• Mustang
• Son of Saul
• Theeb
• A War

ORIGINAL SCORE
• Bridge of Spies
• Carol
• The Hateful Eight
• Sicario
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN
• Bridge of Spies
• The Danish Girl
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Martian
• The Revenant

VISUAL EFFECTS
• Ex Machina
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Martian
• The Revenant
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
• The Big Short
• Brooklyn
• Carol
• The Martian
• Room

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
• Bridge of Spies
• Ex Machina
• Inside Out
• Spotlight
• Straight Outta Compton

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
• Carol
• The Hateful Eight
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Revenant
• Sicario

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