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Thanks, but no thanks

There's nothing wrong in giving acceptance speeches. They are just very tedious. That's why it was refreshing to see the Olympics winners not sharing their sentiments. Farrukh Dhondy writes.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2012 22:20 IST

Come to think of it, I have won a few prizes in my time but none for running, jumping, swimming, lifting weights or knocking someone supine or black and blue. No, they were mostly for writing this or that book or TV play and, apart from one rather prestigious one, nothing in the world-class category of awards.

There was an incident some years ago when I was still a TV bureaucrat sitting in my office looking through hopeless proposals from petitioners when my secretary, Dolly Daydreams (not her real name) poked her head round the door and said "The President of the Swedish Academy, Professor X is on the phone, do you want to take it?"

"Of course," I said and picked up my receiver. He introduced himself.

"Say no more," I said, "I accept!"

There was a very brief pause. He got it, poor man.

"Er.. not yet Mr Dhondy, not yet. I'm phoning to invite you to a literary seminar in Stockholm," he said, giving me the dates.

"I suppose that's second best," I said. "I'll be there."

A narrow miss, I thought to myself.

I am proud to say I didn't, in the next days and weeks, dream of what I would say in an acceptance speech were I to receive the Nobel prize ("For what???" I hear you ask! - O cynic, O detractor!). I know at least two writer individuals whom I suspect of passing several dreams and waking hours in this probably futile occupation.

The truth is I, and most right-thinking people, find acceptance speeches very tedious. So it's refreshing to see that the Olympic medal winners of London 2012 mount the podium, are garlanded with their medals, given a bunch of flowers, applauded and then played off the dias with the gold medallist's national anthem.

No speech from Usain Bolt or Andy Murray saying how much he loves his grandmother. But they do cry. Several medallists in these London games burst into tears on the podium. As they climb off and greet the crowds the reptiles (read TV reporters) are waiting and then the winners feel free to say that they are very happy, that this is the result of a lot of hard work, that they can't believe it's happening and to perhaps thank their coaches and teammates and indulge other such memorable sentiments. But one doesn't have to listen. There's always the off button on the TV remote-control.

It's a very useful button. Another one is the mute button which turns the BBC's bland and very often unnecessary and uninformative commentary off. Of course they tell you who the players are and one wants to know, but then they go into puerile rhapsodies punctuated by phrases such as "unbelievable!" for what you've just seen happening - and seeing is, as they say, believing.

Perhaps the commentators at the Olympics are not as boring as actors accepting their Oscars. I was once in a position to attend the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles when Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporewala's (note the credit for the writer!) Salaam Bombay was nominated in the foreign film category.

An actor who had won one of the leading prizes at that ceremony came onto the stage to accept his statue stoned out of his head. He began his acceptance speech thanking this and that one for his great triumph and as he went through the list forgot the name of his co-star. People from the audience shouted the name as he hesitated and stuttered and, to audience laughter which the cameras captured, he picked up the name.

It's not in any sense wrong to cry tears of joy at winning a medal, or thanking one's family and producer and the great aunt of the costume designer without whose nurture... blah blah. It's not even a crime, though it's fairly impolite, to get drugged on the day and forget the names of your co-stars. It would perhaps be more honest, and I would do it if I ever won an Oscar (Er.. 'what for?' again!), to stand before the audience and say "I want to thank my ganja dealer and the farmers of Columbia who haven't particularly helped in controlling spellings and typos..."

Nah! I'm sure the Academy's heavies would step in and stop anyone who was mentioning California grass in Los Angeles. The residents all call it 'LA'. So when they ask me where I'm from, I say "I'm from P". I have to explain that it means I'm from Pune and am as entitled as they are to abbreviate my city of birth to an initial. Whenever I am asked in the USA, 'P' it is! And if New Yorkers insist on calling their city The Big Apple, I refer to Mumbai as 'The Big Mango'.

As a writer of films one despairs of recognition. Everyone goes for the director and the stars as though the script were conjured from their talents, imaginations and vanity. Some years ago I wrote a film called Mangal Pande - The Rising. When it was completed and launched I was invited to share a platform with the superstar Aamir Khan and the co-stars Rani Mukherjee, a very beautiful lady whose name I forget and the producer, director and song and music composers.

We sat at a table confronting a battery of TV cameras, reporters and the audience. When the introductions were over and the press was invited to interview the team, there was a stampede onto the platform of cameras and reporters thrusting lenses and microphones into the faces of the stars. I have been in some riots in my time, but this was spectacular. I jumped off the platform and looked for a quiet spot.

A camera crew came rushing up to me. The lady whom I deduced was the director/reporter said "Sir, sir, sir can we interview you?"

Recognition at last.

"Sure," I said.

She had her man point the camera at me. I posed.

"Who are you?" she asked.

Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 16, 2012 22:15 IST