So Moonlight beat La La Land to the Oscars. But only after a tamasha on stage where the legendary Warren Beatty wrongly announced La La Land as The Best Film. The mix-up was unprecedented in the history of the Oscars.
At the Bollywood awards functions mix-ups and last-minute alterations are the norm rather than the exception. About one of these dazzling awards events a senior filmmaker told me, “They were going to give the Best Actress award to Sridevi for her performance in English Vinglish. In fact it was mentioned on their website that Sridevi was the winner. And yet at the last minute they gave it to another actress. Sridevi and her husband were shocked and decided to boycott all the awards of the season thereafter.”
R. Balki the producer of English Vinglish expressed the collective dismay of the entire team when he said to me, “In the golden year of Hindi cinema they forgot a truly golden performance. A 24-carat story. A gem of a screenplay and a sterling directorial debut. I think they are into silver.”
However Sridevi, no stranger to awards, can seek comfort in the legendary Raakhee Gulzar’s experience when she in her prime, was told she was getting the Best Actress award for what she considered a bad film and a bad performance.
Over to Raakhee, “When I was told I was getting the award for best actress in an awful film called Beimaan I said I wouldn’t accept it, not when just a few years earlier they refused to give me the award for what I thought was a commendable performance in Sharmilee. They chose to give Asha Parekh the best actress award that year for Kati Patang. Shockingly they didn’t even give Sachin Dev Burman, the best music award for his soulful music in Sharmilee. In fact Sachin and his son Rahul Dev Burman hardly ever got awards.”
In the year that Sohanlal Kanwar’s mediocre and long-forgotten Beimaan had walked away with all the awards, Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah was left deeply wounded. It lost all the awards. Unable to bear the snub to music composer Ghulam Mohamed for his immortal compositions in Pakeezah, the veteran-actor Pran who had won the Best Supporting Actor award for Beimaan, declined to take his award.
This was 40 years ago. Today co-actors protesting on behalf of their unjustly-treated co-stars is rare. A couple of years ago Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was informed she was getting the best actress award for Guzaarish. She was aghast when the name of the winner was changed at the last minute on the insistence of a spiteful leading man.
Many felt the redoubtable Sourabh Shukla deserved awards for his performance as wheezing cop in Barfi and as the sardonic judge in Jolly LLB.
Says Shukla, “There are too many awards. And an excess of anything leads to boredom. If you eat too much chocolate the craving is replaced by nausea. You can’t get excited about Holi if you had to play it seven times a year. Awards are a celebration of talent. If you have too many choices they are no longer exciting.”
Concurs Satish Kaushik, “Too many players spoil the game. These are more like reality shows than awards functions. I miss the days when there was one awards function, the Filmfare awards and the whole industry used to wait for it.”