Because that seems to be the only reason why none of us could speak out openly about our “best” film to be sent for Oscars in the Foreign Language category.
Now that i have seen it, let me say it loudly – The Lunchbox is Casablanca compared to The Good Road. I will come back to the film later. Let me also clarify few things first. I have been reading articles, posts and tweets on similar topic since last 3 days, and some of them are on such a wrong tangent. So here it goes.
No, it’s not white man’s approval. It’s not even the best function or festival as far as films are concerned. Some of the best American films and actors don’t even bag a nomination. So why are we getting jizz in pants about Oscars?
Because it still matters. Because it’s money, market and reach. Because one nomination (and win) not only puts the spotlight on the director’s entire filmography but the country also comes into focus. Because it opens every possible door for its lead actors. The examples are many. In the last few years only Chile’s No, Israel’s Ajami and Footnote, Algeria’s Outside The Law, Greece’s Dogtooth, Denmark’s In A Better World, Argentina’s The Secret In Their Eyes, Japan’s Departures and Denmark’s After The Wedding have brought so much attention to their country’s cinema just by being nominated. Same goes for actors. Who knew Matthias Schoenaerts before the Bullhead?
A Cannes win also has the power to do all that. Ask the Romanian filmmakers. But Cannes is not so mainstream, Cannes is French, and Oscar is Amreekan. You know the difference, and two shall never meet. One is purely about cinema, the other is more about box office. Btw, do auteurs eat big burgers?
That’s the simple reason why Oscars count. Not for any white man supremacy. In 2011, when Asghar Farhadi went on stage to collect his award for The Separation, almost everyone knew that it was not only the “best foreign film” but it was the “best fucking film of the year”. The white man supremacy and approval logic is so 80s. The world went back to all his films and he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine in 2012. Difficult to believe that the journey started with “Nader and Simin” (title was changed later) getting the distribution fund at Berlin fest.
So do i believe in Oscars? NO.
An award ceremony which never did any justice to Martin Scorsese, how can they be fair?
Do i watch Oscars? YES.
The only day in the year when i get up early and see the rising sun. Why? Because Marty believes in it. Because it’s good fun to watch some of your favourite actors, directors, screenwriters, all under the same roof and still be so cool and candid. And because they still make it “look” professional. Some of the best talents never get their due but when they get, it changes everything. One nod is all it takes. That’s it.
Foreign Language Category & The Good Road
In the last few years, this has become one of the most toughest category. The number of submissions keeps on increasing every year. You are not just competing with the best of the Amreekan cinema but from best of the world. Last year it was a new record with 71 films. This year’s running list already has 45 films. Heavyweight Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is already in the ring.
Since FFI’s announcement on The Good Road came out, anyone having any doubts about it, the first question asked was have you seen it? And as far as i knew nobody except the FFI jury had seen it. So, before writing any post on it, i decided to watch the film, and am so so disappointed after watching it.
So far i was only arguing that it’s always about the “right” film at the Oscars, it’s not about the “best” film. Why get so holier than thou and sentimental about putting our “best” film? Especially when Oscars is just another ‘market’ event that does wonders. Put the “right” film out, play according to the games, play it smart, and get a nod. Simple. Just look at the big picture.
Now, if i consider this is the standard of our best film which is being sent to the world audience, am sorry to say that people will laugh at us. Don’t believe me, go watch “The Good Road”. The film is easily available on dvds and #youknowwhere. It doesn’t even look professional. Except an idea and intention, it has nothing to offer. It’s boring, the production looks tacky, direction is bad, performances are inconsistent, and acting by non-actors look like non-acting only. The arid landscape and the use of music are the only things that work.
The only Oscars bait was a sequence involving young girls in prostitution racket standing on platforms surrounded by coloured tubelights. Haven’t seen anything like that on screen.
With “The Good Road” as our submission, what’s our chance at the Oscars? i think ZILCH. I hope am proved wrong but i doubt it.
And what i am most confused about is the sudden support for the film. As a friend pointed out, just because it has suddenly become the David in front of The Lunchbox Goliath with UTV, Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap in its support? Strange. Very, very strange. Watch both the films and compare the merits.
More strange is the fact that not a single mainstream critic in this country bothered to review the film when it released – in theatres and on dvds. That says more about the state of film criticism in this country.
With The Lunchbox, many of us believed it had a *chance*. Yes, just a chance. And we have been shouting about it. It’s a tough battle there. But with Sony Classics having its US rights and many influential American voices already pushing for it after watching the film at Cannes, Toronto and Telluride, it had the right visibility factor going for it. Michael Moore, Ted Hope and many others tweeted about it. Aseem Chhabra has written more about it here. Also, The Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire, the two ends of spectrum, were counting it among the frontrunners. And am sure they know (at least little bit) more and understand their Oscars more than us.
It was just not the “right” film but it’s a much, much better film than “The Good Road”. Just ideas and intentions don’t make a good film, or a good road.
So what did the FFI jury saw in the film which i could not? Let me quote from this interview of Gautam Ghose…
The criteria is simple — we had to select a film that represents the country perfectly.
WTF! Represents the country perfectly? As in peacocks and elephants? Do they watch the Oscars? Not sure what it means (Can someone explain?). After watching the film, all i can say is that The Good Road represents us amateurishly. You all made us look tacky in front of the world. Forget The Lunchbox, any other film would have been better too.
Though just Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur’s performances were enough to pick the film. These two are not just the best performances of the year in Indian cinema, but they can be easily counted as among the best ones in world cinema too. So I would sincerely like to smoke what the FFI jury was smoking. Anyone?
Because this was our chance. Because we needed it. We needed to tell the world that we do more than naach-gaana now. We needed to assure Sony Classics that you can look and pick more Indian films that can do wonders. You don’t need to wait for 10-15 years again. We needed to tell the world that it’s not just Iranians, Romanians, Koreans, Greeks and Australians, we are also heading in right direction. And this was the best stage to do it. We had a chance, a bright and fair chance. But what a fuck up! what a royal fuck up this turned out to be.
One more thing – who made the rules suddenly that FFI can’t disclose the names of jury members? I would surely love to know the names of those 12 or 15 or 19 people who thought The Good Road was better than The Lunchbox and every other film that was submitted for consideration. As far as i remember, when the jury meet used to happen in Mumbai, almost all the jury members used to present in the press conference to announce their choice. What happened suddenly in the last two years or so? Are they afraid to endorse the film publicly because their taste will be questioned? Someone enlighten me here too. Come on, come out, tell us you loved The Good Road. And as the saying goes, any festival selection or win always tells you more about the jury than about the film. I will still try not to judge you.
( PS – The only consolation is we are not the only morons. We have company)