The most special Oscars to date, three cheers

Star Movies has beaten the downturn in advertising with record revenues and perhaps record ratings from the Oscar telecast. I think they should be ashamed of themselves. Poonam Saxena tells more.
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Updated on Feb 27, 2009 11:01 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

I’ve always found the Oscars a bit of a drag. The event goes on for hours, all the men look like penguins and you wonder how the women manage to walk considering most of their gowns seem to be held up by willpower.

The event is low on flamboyance and high on tedium. Give me any of our awards nights any day, with all the attendant naach-gaana.

This year’s Oscars weren’t much better. But they were the most special to date because three Indians (A R Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty) picked up three Oscars between them.

Star Movies began with the red carpet event, guaranteed to make most viewers see red. There was someone called Dominic trying to catch stars on the red carpet. But every few minutes he would say, “Now let’s go back to Sarah Jane in the studio.” That was the cue to cut to Sarah Jane in the studio. “Now let’s go back to Dominic at the red carpet!” she would respond. And we would go back to Dominic who would then take us back to Sarah Jane in the studio who would then take us back to Dominic…

In between this bizarre ping-pong game, Dominic caught hold of Anil Kapoor (who is behaving more like the lead publicist of Slumdog Millionaire than one of the lead actors in the film) and, thrusting the mike in front of him, thundered, “Forty million people in India are watching — do you have anything to say to them?” Anil Kapoor had a great deal to say and poor
Irrfan Khan who was standing beside him, didn’t get a chance to even open his mouth.

But more seriously, I gather from the papers that Star Movies has beaten the downturn in advertising with record revenues and perhaps record ratings from the Oscar telecast.

I think they should be ashamed of themselves. First of all, there’s the question of greed.

The Oscar telecast is tailored to commercials and the actual ceremony breaks so that the TV channels can carry ads.

This is fine but Star Movies broke with precedent to insert further ad breaks into the middle of the ceremony so that
Indian viewers got many more ads than say, American viewers. Not only did this break the flow of the event, it also ensured that the telecast went on and on.

Secondly, the only reason Star Movies made all this money was because India was up watching in the hope that Slumdog’s nominees would win. In the circumstances it was not a good idea for Star Movies to send some man who knew nothing about Indian cinema or about India (judging by the credits the show was done by the Hong Kong office) to represent us.

The one Indian anchor they had, the aforementioned Sarah Jane, stood awkwardly before the camera like a nervous schoolgirl forced to take part in an elocution contest.

Star makes a profit only because of India. Is it too much to expect that it will show some commitment to this country?
And finally, about the ceremony itself: it was hard not to like Danny Boyle and the rest of his crew of Brits because they seemed like decent people, not Hollywood insiders, and they all had the grace to thank India.

Simon Beaufoy, who won for Best Screenplay, made it a point to thank Vikas Swaroop who wrote the book. And Resul’s Brit co-winners allowed him to take all the credit.

As for the Indians or near-Indians, I thought Dev Patel was engaging and suitably humble on the red carpet.

Freida Pinto on the other hand, was less appealing, an impression not helped by a gown that made it seem as though John Galliano was playing a practical joke on her. Rahman was himself.

It was time that he finally got the international credit that was his due and it was hard, as an Indian, not to feel a surge of pride and emotion to see him standing on that stage claiming his Oscars, with a line of dialogue borrowed from Javed Akhtar’s script for Deewar. I suppose he will now say “Mere paas Oscar hai!”


    Poonam Saxena is the national weekend editor of the Hindustan Times. She writes on cinema, television, culture and books

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