October 1, 2007

Oscar And Eklavya-Lost Before We’ve Won

Filed under: India n Me,Movies,opinions,Random,This Gets To Me,Truth of India — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 3:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,


This is not a comment on ‘Eklavya’s fate at the Oscars. It is a lament on the pitiful rendering of what could have been and ought to be a national consensus.

The seriously deleterious goings on to do with the selection of ‘Eklavya’ as the official entry for Oscar 2007 has left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Its not so much about the contesting the validity of ‘Eklavya’ as the film that ought to represent India, but more about the non-serious stance by the Film Federation of India in selection of jury members. Much could have been avoided had those in power accorded the procedure a thorough, foolproof, meticulous filtering of names and enough emphasis on verification of biodata and other such mandatory regulations.

In absence of the above, what has transpired is rather embarrassing for India I must say. Imagine being hauled to Court since the selection has been termed ‘biased’!

Hearing a petition filed by director of Dharm , Bhavana Talwar, challenging the selection of Eklavya the High Court has asked Film Federation of India- which selects the Indian entry- and other respondents to file reply by October 10.

Division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud notedthat prima facie the selection looked biased.

Bhavna Talwar the director of another contender ‘Dharam’ opined that since she lost out by just a vote , that the committee members had reason to be ‘biased’ by virtue of the fact that two of its members Sudhir Mishra and Jagdish sharma were close friends of Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Ranjeet Bahadur was directly involved in the ‘making’ of ‘Eklavya’.This contention seemed to have won over the judges enough to admit her petition.

What is amusing however is that the next hearing is scheduled for October 10th when VVC will be sitting pretty in Hollywood cajoling jury members of the Oscar committee to view ‘Eklavya’. What gain then this whole rigmarole of legal entanglement? Much ado..

IMHO, Bhavana Talwar ought to have raised her objections about members of the jury before the results were out. Here one is presuming that the names were known. Rebelling and beating your chest after losing does seem like a case of ‘sour grapes’, despite the possibility of veracity in her objections and legitimacy in her claims. Cynically, this has given her and her film more mileage than what she had garnered at the release.

Both films blow a bugle on ‘Dharma’, both have it as the core thought /foundation of their films..yet what seems to be occurring presently is light years away from the concept of ‘Dharma’..!! Its so much easier to pontificate!

VVC is an old hand at bollywood tamasha. One is not for a minute doubting his involved mentality film making per se. However, one cannot eschew certain factors which prove that his intention of making a subject for the Oscars was clearly evident. The highly dramatised period look, replete with maginificent palaces, the length of the film ( one and a half hour), the subject that bespoke of Indias culture etc. all goes on to clearly exposing the inherent purpose of the making of such a venture.. Remember ‘Paheli’.. previous entrant to the Oscars?

One cannot ignore the lack of box office returns from Indians the world over as much as we should not circumvent the acclaims it has received from critics abroad. His blog boasts:

Eklavya – The Royal Guard has already received accolades in Hollywood. The film got a standing ovation at the Billy Wilder Theater in UCLA, where it was recently screened as part of the India Splendour Film Festival. Robert L. Friedman, the former President of Columbia Pictures and AMC Theaters applauded it as one of the great foreign films to have graced Hollywood in recent years. He further added, “The caring and most talented direction by Vidhu Vinod Chopra is worthy of maximum praise and awards. Mr. Chopra has created a masterpiece via this film, thanks to his genuine insight and love for his film vehicle. ‘Eklavya’ is a movie that transcends all geographical boundaries – a movie for all people, everywhere, it represents the very best that India’s great filmmaking community has to offer.”

Lionel Wigram, Producer of the Harry Potter films, said “It’s a masterpiece and I can safely say that it stands an excellent chance of winning India a much awaited Oscar in the foreign film category.” Jeffery Silver, Producer of the film 300, found it to be “a thriller that elevates to the level of art.”

The critics have also been unanimous in their praise:

Something about “Eklavya: The Royal Guard” suggests a lost film by David Lean.
– LA Times

“… Gives any House of Flying Daggers set piece a run for its money.”
– Metro, UK

“Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a poet on celluloid”
– Times of India

“Far from typical. Very strong and very Shakespearean”
– The Sunday Telegraph, UK

“Robustly unassuming and entertaining”
– Guardian, UK

“This is robust storytelling, with blood and thunder pumping through its veins, and real whiskers on its face.”
– LA Weekly

“Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s propulsive ‘Eklavya – The Royal Guard’ has epic sweep.”
– LA Times

One can in response quote here the rather scalding remarks from other critics but it will lead us nowhere.. the die has been cast. Eklavya is a a film which tried to hard to create an impact but failed to tell a story with conviction. If the purpose for making your film is other than unravelling a tale then various peripheral causes take over insidiously and blur the image.

I disagree with the manner of jury selection. To expect that in Bollywood a connection will not arise somewhere is immature and puerile. After all it is a family where there are no permanent enemies and no everlasting friends. Ideally the selection of a film should be made by a cross section of respected cinephiles who are privy to the selection process and parameters of Oscar guidelines. If we are to compete with world cinema then a world class selection mechanism has to be put in place of the rather shoddy and insignificant one at present. Either by pass the Oscars as complete hogwash and continue making and acclaiming the balderdash we do, celebrating the ‘entertainment it provides and the jingles the Box office as the only credential worth reckoning.

Or, then seriously appraise films made all over India with the single minded passion to zero on a film which has been made with guts, dedication, astuteness and love, no matter its language, budget or canvas. First assemble a jury which can recognise such talent.. no mean task. I cannot but quote a shair that is so apt here:

“hazaaron saal nargis apni benoori pe roti hai

Bahut mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida”

Its not enough to make good films.. connoisseurs have to grow in numbers as well. ..or then et prepared for talent like that of Ritwik Ghataks to get overshadowed by pompous and inane blockbusters.

Either we stop cribbing about Indian films as if a wart on our culture or stop patronising trash by the dozen if it features a ‘star’. If we deserve good cinema then we have to raise the bar of our personal sense of entertainment and applaud makers who have attempted to ‘dare’. It is so simple to say ‘flop’, ‘bakwas’, to a film which might have been the toil, sweat and blood of a film maker simply because one does not want to breathe fresh air and allow uniqueness to explode in our senses.

Or then keep getting mediocre fare, make them successes at the Box office to perpetuate another hundred to be made in the same genre while the dark horse loses the race even before it gets to speed.

P.S. Last year, here on ‘Sachiniti’ I had predicted ‘Water’ over RDB..I was proven right. This year there is ‘Nameske'( not sure if it will fall under Foreign language category since it is in English..yet..)..a strong contender ..unfortunately made by an Indian and about everything Indian but not representing India.. Come to think of it ‘this happens only in India’..cannot recall another country sending out its talented to end as diaspora who have forsaken their land.. correct me if I am wrong.

Ahh..this Oscar Shoscar

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  1. Now we have a jury that selects Devdas,Paheli,Eklavya etc for the oscars and Saif wins Best actor for HumTum – National award(not that saif is any bad actor but for humtum…) now we know what to expect from them.Indian cinema= Bollywood , regional cinema is totally ignored.Though i don’t understand marathi that much i liked “Dombivali fast” what a film it was?There are some very good films being made in other indian langauges too , but our jury intentionally ignores them.
    Coming to OSCARS , i don’t think our films are going to win coz our movies are full of cliches and stereotypes ,predictable plots,lack originality lot of times copied(or heavily inspired) from hollywood including scenes and dialogues .I even doubt oscar jury, would they give away oscar to an indian film so easily even if it deserves.They are also biased , not many blacks own oscar though they deserved it lot of times.Nevertheless OSCARS is extremely popular movie awards , if an Indian film wins it ‘ll be a happy moment for all of us but i don’t see that happening in the near future.

    Comment by Laxmi — October 1, 2007 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  2. Eklavya Oscar -Lost before we have Won

    a bad beginning in law courts to top the already raging controversy about its it so important to stoop to such levels to gain entry?

    Trackback by — October 1, 2007 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

  3. nice! i guess you should also focus on the absurd choices we seem to make. like laxmi above has commented.

    Comment by riyak — October 1, 2007 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  4. “If we deserve good cinema then we have to raise the bar of our personal sense of entertainment and applaud makers who have attempted to ‘dare’.”

    Good! and true.It will take a while but signs are imminent. Meanwhile we will have to make do with heyy babyys or whatever the spelling is.
    Liked the couplet.

    Comment by Jatin Lall — October 1, 2007 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  5. In all this commotion we have lost our best chance to win the Oscar. Yes, CDI was India’s first sports movie (while Hollywood has had many), and NO “Laggan” was not a sports movie, it was a villager, i.e. Bhuvan’s Wet Dream. Nonetheless CDI was much more than a sports movie. In the garb of a sports movie it was a testament on what ails India today. It was no less than a Bimal Roy movie when looked at from a social perspective. One can say that CDI is a modern day tale of today’s “Sujata”. Or that it is a story of a 21st century “Bandini” shackled beneath a glass ceiling. Clearly CDI provides us a ring side view of the struggles of an educated Kabir Khan in India, it gives us an opportunity to understand his pain. Hence please let us not call CDI just a sports movie. Yes it was a damn good sports movie but don’t hold that against it. CDI as a movie is fit to be put in a time capsule and sealed for later study. It transcends the domain of a mere movie and pricks our collective guilt. If it had been sent to the Oscars, the sports movie part of it would have made CDI more palatable than any other recent Indian entry. It is through this familiar territory (Hollywood has had many sports movie) that the jury would have been slowed cooked to appreciate the real essence of CDI, which is its social issues. Hence from where I stand an Oscar was waiting for CDI but alas.

    As an eternal optimist I console myself with the thought that there is a process to all things. We have to learn to walk before we run. India will get there and the guys who will take them there are SRK/Adi/K Jo. These three are masters of technique and the market. Remember when the time was right (from a business perspective) YRF made CDI.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — October 2, 2007 @ 10:25 am | Reply

  6. Oct 10th if the courts rule in favour of Ms. Talwar then Eklavya will have to be called back…which ends in no Indian film for the Oscars this time. Most certainly a black mark for the jury and its chairperson Vinod Pande

    Comment by dilip — October 2, 2007 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  7. Hi,
    Agree totally. Ther have to be movies to send to the Oscars and to choose form before we crib. here it is always a andhon me se kaana raja.. the best from the worst!

    And shaan will never stop his band wagon for Yrf.. CDI is supposed to be direct lift of a film.. the name Shaan would know it was not eligible.
    The most annoying thing I saw some time back. At the theatre PVR in Juhu huge montages of Yrf, Subhash Ghai nd Rakesh roshan have been put alongside of Akira kurosawa, spielberg,etc…God, how could they do that??? its obviously been mamaged by these three..they must have donated some dough there.They shouldnt figure there..

    Comment by Neha — October 3, 2007 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  8. Neha

    With due respect and in all humility I have to say that even two parallel lines meet at infinity at a point. Hence one can make an argument that all things are congruent. But really, don’t you see CDI more than just a sports movie (cross your heart and …). To the best of my memory there has never been a movie so rich with social content while also catering to the noisy front benchers. CDI is a new paradigm and I believe that it would have won India its first Oscar.

    I agree with you that seeing YR, Sub Quality Ghai and RR alongside Akira Kurosawa is an assault to one’s senses. Ghai and RR do not belong in that elite group. I am glad we agree. Shame on RR & Ghai. What were they thinking ?

    Comment by Shaan Khan — October 3, 2007 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  9. Kaveeta, i agree totally.
    Read this interesting post are film critics ‘retards’?

    Comment by aneesh — October 3, 2007 @ 6:48 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Laxmi,
    Its quite a conundrum imho. Inept jury->undeserving films->poor show at oscars->demoralised bollywood fraternity->lack of interest->inept jury.. and the vicious circle continues with viciousness.
    Nothing seems right .. neither the selection of jury members nor the films they select. Oscar awards are certainly not above board either.There are plenty of film makers who have never won an oscar.. Alfred Hithcock is one such and so is Charlie Chaplin..while the rest of the world worships them.
    However, as avid film goers we Indians ought to feel contented that the best film has been sent. Winning or losing is immaterial.

    Hi Riya,
    I guess once we get the absurdities in jury selection right, the other problems will get ironed out. Right now it is a case of right not occurring since there are wrongs at every turn.Lot needs to be done.

    Thanks Jatin..

    Hi Shaan.. You will be glad to know I have finally seen CDI..and must admit I liked it a lot. It was a good film. As far as being the right choice for the Oscars I am not sure.

    And your last para.. was ..what can I say.. over the top?! 🙂

    Hi Dilip.. pertinent point. Lets wait and watch .. Oct 10th is crucial.

    Hi Neha.. After reading your comment I went to PVR just to watch this travesty. I normally go to town Inox or missed it. but you are damn right. It was shocking and petty.

    Hi Aneesh.. Read the link…interesting write up although I dont agree with all of its contents. But the writer has a fair idea about Bollywood..and that was refreshing.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — October 4, 2007 @ 12:03 pm | Reply

  11. Not all but most of our bollywood directors are “Pirates of the arabian” , what you say about ‘Plagarism’ in cinema,fashion,writing… almost each and every creative field ?Nobody can write or create anything without getting inspired be it from real life ,or our own life or from a newspaper that we read in the morning but some directors copy like school kids scene to scene.Serious lack of genuine scriptwriters who can give out a original story without lifting from other sources.

    Comment by Laxmi — October 4, 2007 @ 8:00 pm | Reply

  12. Laxmi

    But why just blame Bollywood. Look at all the segments of Indian economy, are they also not just merely doing a copy job ? Have you seen a major indigenous software (Like Excel or MS Word 2007) out of India that was adopted by the rest of the world ? Or Have you seen a medical drug in recent times that was researched and invented in India and then adopted by the rest of the world ? Hence I find this complain very disingenuous. Why single out just Bollywood ? The engine that drives the world’s economy is USA. Most of the creative work is being done in USA. Don’t dump on Bollywood for issues that need to be addressed at a macro level.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — October 4, 2007 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  13. Shaan,

    People all over the world are doing ‘yoga’of India , and we don’t crave for patent rights like U.S for everything we do as part of our daily routine,what you are saying doesn’t come under copy .Bollywood (or Indian cinema) is not even a pebble of what India truly is ,India offers lot more(not necessarily material) and it seems you haven’t yet discovered true ‘India’ which i’m proud of .

    Comment by Laxmi — October 5, 2007 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  14. shaan,
    Yes u R right.India hasn’t contributed much be it developing indigenous software or even manufacturing electronic goods etc any scientific invention for that matter.Most of our I.I.T ains are leaving the country and some lack money and support for doing research .There are many reasons for this situation,one could be present education system .

    Comment by Laxmi — October 5, 2007 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  15. Laxmi

    Show your pride in India by NOT running down Bollywood at every available opportunity. Sure Bollywood is not India and India is not Bollywood but one cannot discount the part and not impact the sum total.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — October 5, 2007 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  16. Lets jus say bollywood directors cant afford to make original movies coz, there wont be any audience to appreciate it. Mira Nair and Manoj Night Shyamalan are Indians shinining in hollywood liberty while Vidhu vinod Chopra and Imtiaz Ali,Shimit Amin and such have to please an ‘ullu’ audience,which is a fact.

    Comment by Thomas — May 15, 2008 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  17. The biggest bane Directors of caliber face is catering simultaneously to the Bihari babu and the snobs within Bollywood itself and then mange to find the balance and score a hit.

    The above mentioned three have struck it lucky working for big banners and have had stars..mind you, it was IMPOSSIBLE to have made hits otherwise. For a second try and replace the stars with non stars and YRF and other such producers with the less influential ones and the same films with the same story and making would have flopped.

    Finally its about stars, promotion, packaging and publicity. The S & P of it.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — May 15, 2008 @ 11:18 am | Reply

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