‘Not sure if you heard me right. We are inviting you to the OSCARS,’ said the voice at the other end of the phone line. The exasperation was justified. Who in their right senses wouldn’t jump at an invite to the biggest event in entertainment? Cursing myself for not being able to emote when the situation demands it, I assured the inviter that I was excited ... beyond excited. Thus began my ‘preparations for the Oscars’ saga.
Sonal at the Kodak Theatre where the Oscar ceremony takes place. Photo: HT City
Trillion dollar question Everyone, from friends to colleagues to relatives had only one question when told about my impending visit to attend the Academy Awards. ‘What are you wearing?’.
Unconvinced that journalists are never judged by their clothes, I was given an instruction to figure out a wardrobe fit for ‘the Oscars’ (read unaffordable).
Mercifully, designer friends Anky-Anjana Bhargav, Payal Jain, Reynu Taandon and Dev R Neil came to the rescue and I soon had a fabulous, borrowed designer wardrobe thrown together for my few days in Hollywood.
Going by the appreciative nods and smiles my ethnic Indian wardrobe fetched in America, it turned out to be a wise choice.
The baap of all events
The atmosphere in Los Angeles a day before the Oscars is electric, and all roads lead only to the Hollywood and Highland Centre, popularly called the Kodak Theatre. An entire floor of the Renaissance Hotel adjoining the theatre is pre-booked for media accreditation as various countries send their representatives to cover the awards. Watched by over 40 million viewers, the Oscars are the second most watched TV event in the world, second only to the football world cup. With hundreds of volunteers there to assist the process, accreditation didn’t take long, though it came with a stern ‘Don’t do’ list that categorically said, ‘Strictly no photos allowed in the winner’s interaction room’.
There went all hopes of hanging a framed pic of myself with George Clooney on my living room wall. Perhaps it’s a good thing he didn’t win. I may have embarrassed myself in the press room by trying to sneak that pic in.
The red carpet is a cacophony of different sounds, all at full volume.
The celeb has barely stepped out of the limo when the fans scream... and the photographers scream louder.
With loud cheers going up even for lesser-known TV stars, I wondered if getting ‘paid fans’ to mob you is not an India-only phenomenon. Dapper in formals While the women plugged their designers and jewellers, the men in tuxedos were left with nothing more to do than wave to the screaming crowd. As luck would have it, George Clooney and Brad Pitt arrived at the same time. A few girls fainted, only to regain consciousness when Tom Cruise made his entry. With a capacity of 3,400, the Kodak Theatre was bursting at the seams. And everyone, including the security guards, looked dapper in formals.
Having never seen so many well dressed journalists in one place, the winner’s room or the press room was an experience in itself. It was surreal to see stars of the stature of Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer interact with us in the press room — cracking jokes, taking digs, making funny poses with the trophy. Now I know why photography is prohibited in the press room — because cameras instantly turn celebrities from real people into pretentious beings.
The interaction with winners went on until late at night and I was jolted out of this ongoing engagement only when a journalist from the US asked me about my deadline to file, considering it was already morning in India.
Dammit. After a heady evening, here I am at 4 in the morning, almost dead trying to meet deadlines. If only Clooney had won, this wouldn’t have seemed like work!
The writer’s trip was on official invitation from the Academy of Motion Pictures and sponsored by Star movies at Walt Disney Corporation.