(Bollywood Award shows are the new glam, entertaining and lucrative time pass in B-town! Point is - are they really about recognizing and rewarding excellence ... or exploiting opportunistic vested interest in the garb of a larger cause? Monojit Lahiri investigates.)
It is that time of the year again when the awards tsunami explode and flood, fullon! Reports indicate that in the last few years, there has been a torrential flood of close to (believe it or not?) 175 Awards Functions! Exploring different categories, showcasing stars of every size, shape, colour and status, these full-on, glitz, glam and gloss-driven shows translated to mega bucks for Organisers, Stars & TV channels that beamed those dhamakedaar spectacles. These shows were invariably followed by the ritual (staged?) bonding-shows, jhappis, bonhomie, camaraderie, khana-peena ... somewhere along the way, something critical is always missing: Seriousness credibility, purpose, transparency and focus, leading sane watchers to ask one simple question - who's doing what for whom ... and why?!
A quick look at Bollywood's Baap, Hollywood, presents a totally different picture. In his authoritative, seminal Paper on what's an Oscar worth, Prof. Randy Nelson (who teaches economics at Colby College) puts the average take-out for a Best Picture winner to a cool $ 17 million in ticket sale! Slumdog Millionaire - for people who are interested - zoomed into the dizzy $ 47 million slot, okay? Most Oscar-nominated actors climb up the pay-check and esteem ladder too and even smaller movies profit. Sure, there are veiled whispers of rigging, favouritism, etc. but hey, its practically impossible to 'fix' a 6000 member group to force a win! And multi-million dollar, hi-decibel campaigns, heavy-duty lobbying - as Mr. Perfectionist Khan will tell you - can only do that much. Everything considered, the results are mostly fair, the prize, hugely coveted and for sheer glamour, grandeur and glory, the Oscars remain the planet's premier show, spectacle and award!
In comparison, our award-mela - which begins in Jan & wraps up by mid-year - is often reduced to mockery ... the same, long, boring nights of hi-voltage hamming by the anchors, energetic dance numbers by our leading stars, gossip, bitching ... and yet the show - all zillions of them - rock! The Award phenomenon was formally launched 57 years ago in 1954 with the first Filmfare Award function. Today, six decades [and a zillion Award functions later] this whole thing appears to have been reduced to a populist, glamour-driven farce catering to the lowest common denominator. Diluted and devalued beyond imagination and solely engaged in the business of attracting TRP ratings and grabbing eyeballs, most of these award shows seem to have totally lost the plot - but does anyone care or complain?
Moans a Bolly-watcher tracking the Award function circus, "In recent times, these shows have turned into huge commercial, ego-massaging exercises! Star presence defines the show's success and remains the centrepiece. Aamir never attends, but the other two - SRK and Salman - are frequent participants, forever picking up awards at every show they grace! The limit was seen in hard close-up a couple of years ago when both these mega-stars got the Best Actor award - Salman, for Best Actor, SRK for Best Actor, Popular choice! "New categories are routinely added to add glamour, variety and spice but most importantly accommodate as many stars as possible because they are the show; the show is them! So, the bottom line is if you want a star to participate, make sure he carries home an award, apart from that fat fee for shakin' a leg, on stage." Young collegian Anita Chopra, a die-hard Award-show-watcher however vehemently disagrees. "C'mon yaar, let's not be cynical and do the kill-joy jig, guys! Bollywood is about stars, glamour, sex-appeal and entertainment, so why shouldn't the Award shows reflect it? Seeing SRK, Salman, Akki, Hrithik, Kat, Priyanka, Bipasha and Kareena sizzle on state is an impossible high! To most of us Bollywood fans, the value or fairness of the awards - naturally we want our favourites to win! - is less important than the action on the stage. Watching Ranbir, SRK, PC and Kat perform is like ... wow!"
However, apart from Aamir, at least one big star has had the guts to categorically veto the whole concept of today's Awards. Ajay Devgun - the quiet, intense and hugely underrated talent - has gone down on record stating "Awards seem to have become a business, dhanda ho gaya. The organizers sell TV rights for big money and have to justify it by bringing in as many stars as possible. The poor guys call everybody and when some stars say that they will come or perform only if they are assured of awards, these people are forced to buckle down. They create categories to fit in as many stars possible". Ajay however ranks the National Awards high but points that there too "sometimes politics makes an appearance". Dabangg Khan too doesn't give a damn. "To me they don't make any sense. I would rather with claps of the public any day". Actor Irrfan Khan agrees and adds his bit, "As far as India is concerned no award creates any market value for you. Its just there. With Cannes or Oscars its different. Here, neither are our awards genuine nor do they have any value. Also, sadly no serious attempt to institute any kind of award that would serve as a motivation or inspirational bench mark-like in Western countries-happens here". Film maker Mahesh Bhatt caterogically believes its "Illusion! Illusion! Illusion!" The local wit however insists that the only way to counter this Award-mania is to publicise and celebrate the desi version of the Raspberry Awards (In Hollywood) - Golden Kelas and Ghanta Awards! Point is, unlike Hollywood, will any of our self-absorbed and ego-tripping narcissistic stars have the guts or sporting spirit to participate and pick up their prize for the "worst of the worst" performance/films? Full marks to Abhishek Bachchan who had the 'cool' to pick up his Kela award for Delhi-6 last year. Bravo! Others should learn from the Chhota B ...
So what gives? Why can't an Industry - forever yelling its head off about being global, corporate, professional, respectable and generally at par with the best of the best and romancing a loyal fan-base of a gigantic 3.6 billion fans across the globe - put together one single, credible, believable, coveted, respect-worthy award function? Why doesn't any single award make impact on anyone - trade, fraternity, media, fans or Box Office? Surely, the true-blue Bollywood junkie deserves an honest answer. The truth, I guess, lies in playing safe, maintaining the status quo, pandering to vested interest ... and god knows, there's lots of it! A rather appropriate retort to the curious questioning minority who forget that we live in a blatantly consumerist world which knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing ... and so on to the next award (y-a-w-n) function!