When Guneet Monga arrived at the Mumbai airport flashing her gold Oscar statuette, she was greeted like a hero. They were garlanded, showered with rose petals and subjected to continuous flash from photo and video cameras. A producer was getting acquainted with the life of an A-list actor. That is exactly what India is feeling and doing for its Oscar winners. But, the law of yin and yang cannot be neglected. There’s also a fight for every storm as people argue that All That Breathes was abandoned by the Academy Award jury. Elsewhere, politicians jibe at each other, saying the country’s ruling party has not made the RRR. Controversy be damned. There is no need to dampen the spirit of celebration and enthusiasm.
In this week’s Big Story, ETimes tries hard to make an impact on a global platform like Oscars. We also look at how award winners and runners-up should respond to unfair criticism and controversy. read on…
‘It’s not easy going global’
Aamir Khan’s Lagaan was nominated in the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards in 2002. This year three films made it to the Oscars in competitive categories. It took more than 2 decades to return to the big stage and that goes to show how challenging the feat really is. Meenakshi Shedde, who is an independent curator for several film festivals across the world and a key figure in taking Indian cinema and talent to the Berlin Film Festival, on how she strives to represent India globally, It tells She says, “RRR’s Oscar win for Naatu Naatu for Best Original Song is a hard-won global victory, indicating a majority vote of confidence by Oscar members, high-profile competition from Rihanna, Lady Gaga and others victory in the U.S., on top of a very expensive lobbying and media campaign, as well as recognition in the US.
A senior filmmaker from the Telugu industry told ETimes that RRR’s Oscar campaign was worth several crores. He says, “Every major Hollywood film has to hire an agency that helps create awareness of the film in the US so that the Academy’s 10,000 members can identify films as worthy contenders. , Team RRR worked under the vision of SS Rajamouli’s son SS Karthikeya and created an elaborate campaign to promote and create awareness for the film. I’m told the entire exercise that took over 6 months cost $6 million Must have cost more than Rs.10,000. It takes a lot of hard work to get in the right zone.”
Producer L Suresh, who has made Telugu hits such as Billa (2007) and Oorukku Noorpar (2001), explains that any producer wanting to make an impact in the West needs to show dedication and commitment. He says, “Being shortlisted as India’s official entry and being sent to the Oscars is just the beginning. RRR was not the last selection from India, yet it made a big impact. The producer of the film has to work dedicatedly to make his film popular. It takes not only financial strength but also mental strength to venture into unfamiliar markets and create space for your film. Winning the hearts of an international jury or audience is never an easy task.
There was also speculation last year that the selection of Gujarati drama Chelo Show – India’s official entry to the Oscars – was being questioned. TP Agarwal, Producer and President, IMPPA, explains, ‘What was wrong with sending the show Chelo to the Oscars? No politician has the right to comment on the film industry. The industry works like a family and in this case the jury decided to send the film on a consensual basis. And the important thing to note is that the jury was made up of members from every region of India. We had jury members from Mumbai, from Kannada, from other southern states as well. The voices of the entire country were represented and all of them took an informed decision.”
So it is only fair that these artists and their creations are given their due. He has put Indian cinema on the top of the global charts and whether it is RRR, The Elephant Whispers or All That Breathes, all three projects have taken years to plan, execute and present to the world.
‘Not winning is not a big deal’
Director Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes did not win an Oscar and a section of Indian social media exploded in protest. Actor-comedian Vir Das shared his opinion on Shaunak’s film in a tweet, saying, “Heartbroken for #AllThatBreathes, I thought this was the best documentary. A beautiful beautiful film. And just like that, Indian Twitter users launched a scathing attack on the Academy Awards jury, with some saying they snubbed the documentary.
Soon Shaunak took to his Instagram to put an end to all the speculations, writing, “Lots of chin-up messages of encouragement/support since yesterday. We were down there for about an hour, but soon became disoriented in the equanimity between the glowing people and things. The brain still has to wrap itself around the fact that this is the end of this chapter. We’ll be working hard to figure out India distribution going forward (HBO has ended its deal with Hotstar in India, and we’re figuring out which platform it will land on now). For now, it’s been great sharing this weird, bloated day with the brothers and so many other members of our crew. Many many congratulations to all the winning films from India!” It was the right message that the trolls needed to shut up.
Meenakshi appreciates Shaunak’s resolve and says, “Shaunak Sen and team have been incredibly kind, even though his much-deserved film All That Breathes lost out at the Oscars for Best Documentary.” Film analyst and expert Sridhar Pillai says, “Success is part and parcel of the awards process. A filmmaker has to deal with setbacks on many levels. The film would get nominated but not always win at the local level, national level and even internationally. It’s normal to deal with setbacks, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Producer, writer and film expert Nasreen Munni Kabir believes that rising above setbacks is an art. She explains, “There are many artists who died never being fully recognized in their lifetime, take Van Gogh, he died. But this is a work that should have a long life. judges things.”
‘Dealing with unnecessary controversy’
Shortly after The Elephant Whisperers won an Oscar, people surfaced online to claim that the documentary’s subjects, Bowman and Bailey, a couple from South India, had neither seen the film nor received the film’s Oscar nomination. I knew about enrollment. Director Kartiki Gonsalves had to step in and assure everyone that Bailey and Boman had actually watched, liked and supported the 41-minute film.
Similarly, during a heated budget session in Parliament, a leader of the opposition brought up RRR in the debate and asked the country’s honorable Prime Minister not to take credit for making the film. Both cases were unnecessary, serving as a reminder that more often than not, Indian films and filmmakers become easy targets for political and social gain.
Reason Meenakshi, “Fair criticism is fine, but social media has created opportunities for disgruntled, attention-seeking individuals and groups to vent freely and feel self-important by taking down people and films without any justification or reason.” have also opened. So sadly, a lot of good work shrinks in the face of aggressive trolling and online abuse.
Filmmaker Faraz Arif Ansari, who has made the acclaimed LGBT romance Sheer Qorma, says, “I believe anyone who has an individualistic, creative voice becomes an easy target these days. It has become one of the untold curses of the times we live in. With bad comes good. The better comes with the worse. One must have the courage to embrace it all and put one’s heart into the process of creation. Everything else is noise.”
Filmmaker Vasan Bala agrees as he says, “Films and film personalities are always easy targets across the globe. They make click bet views now and earlier they used to sell tabloids. Any place that offers this much potential to earn money and fame will be competitive and criticism will be extreme.
‘Should artists speak out against trolling?’
Kartiki Gonsalves came forward and blew the whistle on the allegations against The Elephant Whisperers. Shaunak addressed the issue of being ignored in a subtle way. Rajamouli and his team refrained from commenting on any unfair comparison or misdirected salvo where ‘RRR’ was referred to. The process of dealing with trolls depends on the individual but there is a prevailing thought that silence has its advantages.
Nasreen explains, “Any work is going to be seen through very personal and subjective eyes – so it is open to a million interpretations. You see a film scene one way and I see it another way. That’s a given. The field of acting is competitive, but so is every profession today, for example selling a car! A dignified silence is best. Meenakshi echoes the view saying, “Silence or Ignoring criticism can also be a powerful weapon to up and put it down, and social media users generally have very short-term memory.”
Vasan Bala subscribes to the principle of ‘to each his own’ and says, “Nobody owes any explanation to anyone on these things. Do whatever you want, according to your own personality.” Faraz offers a more personal assessment, as he says, “It’s so easy to wallow and type hate on your phone screen, but I’ve also noticed that things are a little different in real life than that. In the beginning of my career, trolling used to affect me but now, with time and experience, I have learned that it is okay to accept everything and move on. In a way, no victory or defeat is ever final.”
Faraz sums it up when he says, “Awards and recognitions are great. But one must remember the true reason cinema and art exist – it is to bring about change. Entertainment is certainly the DNA of cinema, but what lies in the DNA of the beating heart is the desire to create a better, more inclusive world than the one we currently live in. Okay now that’s an award winning sermon.