India has never seen success at the Oscars. Some say there's a jinx, some say it's because Indian movies are not well made. Whatever the argument, surfers all over the world have agreed that Rang De Basanti (RDB), though wonderfully made, will never win the coveted prize. Neither will Omkara or Lage Raho Munnabhai, had they been nominated.
"There's a major cultural difference between Asians and the Americans. What we consider nice stories and themes, the Americans rubbish as trash. This is because their mindset is totally different and they refuse to understand or acknowledge our culture. As long as this happens, it's hard for an Indian movie to win the Oscar," said Harry Singh from Houston.
Navejeevan Singh from Chandigarh begged to differ. He said: "Indian movies are good from a commercial angle, but then we tend to commercialise all our movies, even if they deal with a dark subject. This distracts us from the core of the film and leaves the audience remembering only the glitz and glamour in the movie. In this case, how can Indian movies win an Oscar?"
Reema from Bangalore had a different story to tell. She wrote: "As long as there is lobbying for the Oscars, no movie worth its salt will win. You can be sure it is the over-hyped, frivolous movies that will be recognized and ultimately fetch the award."
Agreeing with her was Shobit from Detroit, USA. He said: "It is pathetic that a movie like Black, which had such a good chance of winning the Oscar, was left out in favour of that stupidly mundane Paheli... also, Indian directors are not ready to take risks and making movies on books like the Lord of the Rings, was made on the book "Hobbits". And why can't Indian directors make a movie without having songs in it? Haven't we seen that movies like 'Black', without any songs in it, can be super hits too? The only condition is that the movie is sensible and not boringly stretched for 3 or 4 hours."
Two other views that came in are also worth mentioning here.
"Why don't we send regional films for the Oscars? Why don't we ever think of Bengali, Tamil or Malayalam movies? There are so many of them that are well-made, have a strong story line and class actors, and also appeal to the universal psyche. We boast of a secular state, yet we don't maintain secularism nor we do send films that have won National Awards. It is always Bollywood that represents India. Why is there this discrepancy? Isn't it a shame that a nation of 1.2 billion people can't win or get nominated to the final phase of the Oscars or Cannes? On the other hand, small countries like Sri Lanka and Taiwan are recognized for their efforts," said H Mukherjee, from Lansing, USA.
Rajender from Seattle in USA sent in a very telling comment. He said "Bollywood is still relying on freaking love stories and songs, it is time it thought big. Today's Bollywood movies are not technically sound. Ironically, older movies like Sholay were captured much better. I really hate Bollywood movies because of their childish concepts and never-ending love stories. Bollywood should improve. It's greatest drawbacks are its technical values, stories and songs. And if we remove directors like Ashuthosh Gowrikar,Subash Ghai, Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma, there is nothing in Bollywood. This has to change, for Bollywood to win an Oscar."
All the 335 surfers who responded, rued the current state of Indian films, while remaining sceptical about RDB's chances at the Oscars this year. What was interesting was that all the arguments, though different, agreed on one core fact: India needs to pull up its socks before it can eye the global arena.
The numbers said pretty much the same thing.
As many as 211 people were of the opinion that Rang De Basanti was the right choice as India's entry. Like Saya from Ahmedabad put it: "Omkara and Lage Raho… are fine movies, but RDB embodies more positive, universal emotions. So it is the right choice for the Oscar race." Meanwhile, 61 voted for Lage Raho…and 63 for Omkara as better representing India.
Now for the more pertinent question: Will RDB impress the jury? As many as 149 surfers said no, RDB does not have the universal appeal that say, Life is Beautiful had. 117 surfers said that RDB has been made very well, so it should impress, while 69 said there was a lot of lobbying happening for the Oscars, so it was difficult to tell.
Why doesn't India ever win an Oscar? 223 people said it was because Bollywood seldom dared to experiment with storylines or characterisation. 63 people said Hindi movies often have weak scripts and average actors, while 49 people said Indian films did not employ superior technology.
As many as 154 people said regional films are better than Bollywood, and so they stand fair chance at the Oscars. 134 people said that whatever was chosen, Indian films didn't ultimately win awards. Meanwhile, 42 people said the selection process was fair and genuine and so it didn't matter what was sent to the Oscars.
191 surfers said Paheli made it to the Oscars only because SRK lobbied heavily for it. Black, they felt, was a much better contender. 117 people remained non-committal; they said Bollywood still has a long way to go before it could compete internationally. And a small minority (27 surfers) said only good films were part of the Oscar race, as only good directors had the confidence to lobby for it.
Whatever said, Aamir Khan always comes up tops. This time, the majority (244 surfers) said Aamir had a fair chance of winning an Oscar for his performance. Not just in RDB, but on the whole, as an actor. 62 people rooted for Ajay Devgan, while 'Sanju' Dutt had only 29 people vouching for him.
So the verdict is clear: Indian movies are still far, far way from an international award. The reasons may be varied, but it's time film makers got together to make that one, fine movie that would finally bring glory to the country. Till then, we must be happy with being nominated for the grand race.
Vox Populi will be back next week. Till then, happy surfing!