Monday, October 2, 2006

Rang de basanti, yaar

RDB is on Star Gold since it's Dussehra/Gandhi Jayanti/every freakin' India holiday rolled into one day off, so S and I are watching it again. An aside -- of all the Bollywood movies I've seen, the only ones I can stomach watching more than once have all starred Aamir Khan. What a hunk.

Anyhow, this has reminded me of the utter insanity revolving around Rang De Basanti and the quest for the global validation of Indian cinema. That's right -- despite RDB's massive success in the subconty, the film's producers seem to think it will all be for naught until someone hands them an Oscar.

(Background: Each year, the Indian government vets one film as India's official Oscar entry for the "best foreign film" category; the powers that be in Hollywood take suggestions from various countries/industry experts -- as I understand -- to come up with their official list of five nominations. The last time an Indian selection made it to the nominations was 2001, when Lagaan -- another flick starring Aamir Khan -- was picked; Mira Nair's 1988 Salaam, Bombay! and Mehboob Khan's 1957 Mother India have also made it to the star-studded ceremony.)

Now, as much as I enjoyed RDB, it's a mainstream hit. It differs significantly from most Hindi filmfare, yes, but have any of these producers and industry wonks actually, you know, watched winners in the foreign film category? We're talking (Hollywood's idea of) hoity toity, high art -- not an overdramatic musical ode to the promise of Indian youth. RDB may be subtle for Bollywood, but most Americans (based on this one's narrow experience) would find it...a bit declasse, trying too hard to be trendy and deep. In contrast, Water -- Canada's entry directed by Deepa Mehta, focusing on the treatment of widows in India -- seems much more likely a pick for the academy.

I don't know. Perhaps my instinct is wrong, perhaps those LA types will be as enchanted by the exuberance and energy of the film that they'll shower it with awards. But not bloody likely. Why should people in India care anyhow whether a shallow slice of the American industry understands and applauds the film? It's been a critical success here, and audiences have flocked to theatres. Isn't that enough?

It just seems that people here are setting themselves up for failure. Now, with Lage Raho Munnabhai somehow throwing their hat into the ring, the producers of Rang de have struck back by announcing "that, aside from the foreign language entry, they will seek to field their film in seven other categories -- best film, direction, cinematography, art direction, editing, screenplay and sound design."

Now, I'll give it to them -- they've got balls. But if I'm going to have to listen to people trumpeting the importance of RDB for months, then carping when all their nominations are rejected, I might pull out all my hair. America is not the arbiter of good taste! The Oscars are just a huge industry circle jerk! These are people who showeredTitanic with praise!!! STOP THE INSANITY!

1 comment:

rajeev said...


Nice blog!

Why don’t you consider writing about some of the new “India 2.0” sites that are creating a little buzz as well?