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Oscars- Indian pride, Western prejudice

india Updated: Jan 28, 2009 19:29 IST
Aakanksha Mohan Sharma
Aakanksha Mohan Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

So, West like slums, they like dogs and yeah they like slumdogs too. We like Obama, we like white stars and yeah we like nominations in Oscars too..

We love to be loved by Uncle Sam and brigade. We are so obsessed with the idea of being accepted by "the first world". And yeah, we are so touchy to be called as a third world country. We didn't like it at all when Mathew Hayden spoke about what he perceived as poor ground conditions and inordinate delays during matches "that happens in third world countries" last year.

Well, neither I have any problem with ten nominations of Slumdog Millionaire in Oscars nor do I doubt the cinematic excellence of the film but that excellence is not an exception.

"What changes would you do in Devdas to make it eligible to get nominated for Oscars?" This was the question which one of my friends asked me recently. "They should have cut it short and blah blah blah..." I made an attempt to give a cinematically correct answer. She said, "It would have nominated in Oscars for sure if Devdas was a bevda of any Jhuggi- Jhompdi of Kolkata."

Her answer might not have been a cinematically correct one but it was historically correct for sure.

There are very few Indian films or films based on India to get the nomination in Academy awards and all of them have these common elements- Hunger, poverty, and struggle for survival.

Sadly, all of them are symptoms of a same disease- 'the third world'... the label that we love to hate for ourselves. If we go back to the history of Indian films in Oscars, we find films loaded with these symptoms.

Mehboob Khan's Mother India that was made in 1958 was the first Indian film to be nominated for the Academy awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the story of a mother from poor rural India who kills her son to keep the honour of a daughter of her village. It is a showcase of post- independent India, which brings forth a story of great survival in the most adverse conditions of that time.

Mira Nair brought a brilliant film, Salam Bombay, on the tribulations of day-to-day life of children living on the streets of Bombay in 1988. The film was made by Nair to address the situation of poverty in India. It too got nominated for the Academy awards.

Third in this brigade is the legendary film Lagaan made by Ashutosh Gowarikar in 2001. The film was a cinematic masterpiece about the struggle and victory of oppressed peasants of British India who were suffering from a prolonged drought.

Another film, which made a presence in the same category, was Deepa Mehta's Water in year 2005. Although it was an official entry from Canada but it was a film set during the period of British rule in India and the orthodox Hindu traditions. It showcased the plight of a group of widows forced into prostitution and miseries.

We appreciate this fact that Uncle Sam and brigade is concerned about the problems of third world but we have something more to offer to the world of creativity and cinema. We don't care if our style doesn't go well with your trends. We don't care if you never give damn to the things other than slums and poverty. We don't care if you dislike the brighter face of the third world. We don't care if you think that we deserve only three nominations in last 60 years of Cinema. We don't look at Academy awards as the ultimate recognition of cinematic excellence. You might think that, but we do care Uncle Sam. That's why we are known by a name, which we are so reluctant to call upon by.

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