after the cross-pollinating bee, july 4th, 2006, Every super-duper hit movie in India these days, is followed by a buzz for an Oscar nomination... further followed by disappointment and wonder at why such "great" movies are not being acknowledged by Hollywood as masterpieces. Example, Asoka, Devdaas, Paheli only to name a few. Here are the Indian movies that got nomination for best foreign language movies so far:
01. Mother India (1957) -- an epic saga of the struggles and sufferings of an Indian peasant woman
02. Salaam Bombay (1988) -- about street children of Bombay, in the world of drug addicts, pimps & prostitutes (strangely similar in theme to Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids, directed by Zana Briski, which ended up with the golden dude)
03. Lagaan (2001) : fictional patriotic movie on Indian villagers fighting their British rulers
If you notice, "poverty" ( or is it "struggle for a better life"?) was the underlying theme for all these 3 movies... in other words "keeping it real" to what India was, or probably still is to the western world. For your amusement, some interesting excerpts from some of Academy's foreign language film committee members:
"We look at the films from the American point of view. What happens (in Bollywood films) is that in the middle of the scene suddenly (the actors) start jumping up and dancing and singing, which, to us, is ridiculous. When we see an Indian film and that happens, we don't know how to react to it. That's the problem."
"Lot of people walk out of films, because they get very boring. It is not out of disrespect. It is out of the fact that we have to see so many movies and we can't just sit there and be bored."
I guess Ms. Mira Nair leaves no stones unturned to make sure she is being recognized (?!). In her article, she questions, "And if the West is now waking up to our energy and confidence, will we be tempted to change? Will Oscar fever mean we temper our spice to suit Western palates?" ... then answers in mock defiance, "They'd better be careful. Soon this country will be run by people who look like us." and finally gives in... "The key to every seesaw is balance". Done with the street children of Bombay, and a colorful Indian wedding with songs and dances, she is moving on to "Namesake" (on migration and displacement) and "Gangsta MD" (hardcore commercial, which in her own words, hollywood is paying "good money" for). "India is still too far" her jaded friend had vented 18 years ago at the Oscars. Too far from what? Oscars? yes dear... if you keep losing your way and digress everytime. And with Gangsta MD, why do I get the feeling that was never the point to begin with?
On a side note, Satyajit Ray was the only Indian filmmaker who received an honorary Oscar (Life Time Achievement Award)... who's "World of Apu" got the Golden Globes at best. And this is one person who was never famous for compromising his integrity for commercial success.
And on a really really different note, how to sell your soul to the devil ... (for 18 and up, read at your own risk, bashkaranjohar.com will not be held responsible for your actions).