Opinion Op Ed 10 Mar 2018 Shobhaa’s Take: La ...
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Shobhaa’s Take: Law of low returns hits Oscars. Reinvent the format...

Published Mar 10, 2018, 2:55 am IST
Updated Mar 10, 2018, 2:55 am IST
Donald Trump bragged nobody really cared about the Oscars since he alone is the biggest star left.
The Oscars evening looks staid and tame when compared to our rambunctious, entirely OTT (over the top), fully fake awards, which domestic audiences perfectly know have nothing to do with screen talent or great performances. (Photo: Pixabay)
 The Oscars evening looks staid and tame when compared to our rambunctious, entirely OTT (over the top), fully fake awards, which domestic audiences perfectly know have nothing to do with screen talent or great performances. (Photo: Pixabay)

The law of low returns is here. Take the lacklustre Oscars. Did anybody really care who won in which category? Or even who wore what? You can keep your velvet Tom Fords and Christian Diors. BTW: Who is Blanca Blanco? This mega event happened and disappeared from public memory in a flash. All we know is that fish have replaced men in the romantic department. We had heard it all, seen it all. So much déjà vu! All that contrived humour! Those rehashed, tired jokes!

I remember the feverish anticipation of Oscars long gone. Some of us — ardent movie buffs — would host Oscar parties and watch the entire show, without skipping a segment. We had our favourites; we would place maamuli bets and leap up and cheer when our nominees won! That was a clear endorsement of our cinema knowledge and passion for all things Hollywood. Of course, we were starstruck, like the rest of the world.

 

So, what has gone wrong now? It can’t be movie fatigue. And it isn’t a sudden lack of interest in the glitz and glamour of the ceremony. Could it be a case of plain overkill? Or have we finally discovered our own Bollywood magic, which enthrals us much more? The Oscars evening looks staid and tame when compared to our rambunctious, entirely OTT (over the top), fully fake awards, which domestic audiences perfectly know have nothing to do with screen talent or great performances. Our awards are based on a single premise: money making. For the bucks to roll in, organisers have to provide mega watt entertainment, specifically designed for television audiences. No matter how many meaningless awards are given, hungry stars are bound to show up to grab those statuettes and mouth inanities.

Even in movie-mad India, fans no longer remember, nor care which star won. They watch the item songs, and get a kick out of the side shows which, in any case, are far more entertaining — all those grimaces, yawns, giggles and winks caught on candid camera by alert technicians.

Unlike our mega stars who happily sing and dance for their awards, and get paid a fancy fee for their efforts, Hollywood adheres to a more sober (read: transparent), format that hasn’t changed over the years. A tweak here, a tweak there, but other than that, the replaceable hosts swap the same stale jokes and the structure stays the same. It’s time to reinvent the format drastically. Viewership has been steadily shrinking, and showbiz itself has undergone a dramatic change, particularly in the last year.

The Oscars were always tuned in to political shifts, but this year’s duh selection of films and awardees shows the extent to which the hardcore politics has crept into the entertainment industry. I am OD-ing on #metoo and #timesup. I don’t need to be pushed into taking a stand, like the folks running the Oscars; like Donald Trump bragged nobody really cared about the Oscars since he alone is the biggest star left.

Politics and Bollywood. Now that’s what I call a truly dysfunctional marriage. The connection between netas and stars is very much a reality, and has been so for a long, long time, going back to the Nehru years. There is little or no real trust in this uneasy relationship.

Unlike Hollywood, where the biggest names state their political position and are open about their allegiance to a particular party, desi movie stars remain cagey and circumspect, till they officially jump on to the political bandwagon and join the set up which offers them the best deal. Most has-beens hanker after a Rajya Sabha seat, which comes with many lucrative perks. Greedy, out-of-work actresses park themselves in Delhi and brazenly lobby for the privilege.

Those whose terms are ending lapse into an instant panic mode and jump from one political party to the next, shamelessly hustling for a second term. Nobody wants to give up the trappings of power and the pomp of occupying a sprawling bungalow in the heart of Delhi, with an all-expenses-paid five-year vacation thrown in. That’s exactly what it is! What contribution can one expect from this lot? Most of them are like rare birds — their sightings in Parliament make news because they hardly bother to show up.

I think we should consider a “trial run” for celebrity-parliamentarians. There should be a stricter audit of their performance. If they fail to demonstrate their willingness to play the assigned role with responsibility, a committee should be able to vote on retaining them or throwing them out. The arbitrary and casual manner in which they treat parliamentary duties is pretty disgusting. Most of them do not deserve the honour. God knows what sort of favours are involved, but citizens believe it is time to review these appointments.

Back to the Oscars, we in India are feeling mighty chuffed about Shashi Kapoor and Sridevi being mentioned in the obituaries. Of course, they were huge, iconic stars and deserve the recognition. But let’s be brutally frank — India is a gigantic market for Hollywood blockbusters. Today, there are major studios in business partnerships with our top players. It makes perfect sense to play footsie with us and pay homage to our stars. We should not behave like Hollywood is doing us a favour. It’s business! Pure and simple.

While on the subject of Sridevi, her tragic loss to the movies will haunt her fans for decades. Her premature death in Dubai remains a mystery. Her fans definitely want to know the exact circumstances behind the “accidental drowning”. We must remember, this is Dubai we are talking about! As Sridevi’s ardent admirers, it is imperative for the agencies there to provide key information as and when required by concerned family and friends of the late actress.

As of now, all we have is her bereaved husband’s account, which provides a minute-by-minute recreation of the horrific scene. While our sympathies are with her loved ones, and their privacy must be respected, it is equally imperative to ask a few relevant questions and get convincing answers from independent sources. We owe Sridevi that much.

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