The 92nd Academy Awards, famously known as the Oscars, were awarded yesterday. In comparison to the previous ceremonies, the focus this was once again on rewarding true talent. However, the one film that surprised one and all was the South Korean black comedy ‘Parasite’, which bagged four unbelievable awards, including awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay.
However, ‘Parasite’ created history for becoming the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for both Best Film as well as Best Foreign Language Film. Though films like ‘Life is Beautiful’, ‘Grand Illusion’, ‘Z’, ‘Amour’, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ etc. had been nominated before in the same way, none of them managed to win both the awards.
No doubt it is any movie buff’s delight to see ‘Parasite’ win the top honours at the Academy Awards. However, it also hurts in a way, when one knows that we Indians had a film, which could’ve almost the same glory as ‘Parasite’, but was unjustly sidelined for an absolutely overrated film like ‘Gully Boy’. The film we’re talking about is the eponymous fantasy drama ‘Tumbbad’, which released in late 2018.
Directed by Rahi Anil Barve, and produced by actor cum producer Sohum Shah, the film focuses on the greed of Vinayak, who decides to satiate his lust by venturing into the abandoned Tumbbad Wada [Marathi for mansion] and steal the gold coins from the loin cloth of Hastar, a deity whose name must not be taken. Inspired by Marathi folktale, the film has developed a cult status for itself as of now.
It would be hard to believe for anyone that this film took 6 years to complete and, going by the effects used, it is almost unbelievable that this film was made on a shoestring budget of less than Rs. 10 crores. The film could make only Rs. 14 crores in its lifetime, courtesy the release of films like Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho.
VFX, Screenplay, Acting, Background Score, you just name the genre and Tumbbad has excelled in almost every sphere to be precise. Tumbbad has served a sweet fusion of history and folk tales in such a way that one can’t help but feel enamoured by every shot of the same. Tumbbad was nominated in eight categories at the Filmfare Awards, where it won awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Sound Design.
However, the film was rejected for an overrated flick like ‘Gully Boy’, which was almost a scene by scene copy of ‘8 Mile’. Ironically, the one who led to its selection was none other than the current president of the Film Federation of India jury, Aparna Sen. Aparna Sen, along with 48 other celebrities, wrote a public letter to PM Modi expressing their concern over the damage done to the secularism of the country by the alleged mob lynchings, saying that criticizing the government is not ‘treason’.
India has often been shown in many foreign films as a country full of slums, and this backward image was also repeated in ‘Gully Boy’. The film itself copied acclaimed movie ‘8 Mile’, and attempts to mock nationalism with songs like ‘Jingostan’. The film may have claimed to focus on street rap, but the way it attempted to influence our younger generation with propaganda is not hidden from anyone.
Moreover, India has never won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film till date, and has been nominated in this category only 3 times, which includes ‘Mother India’, ‘Salaam Bombay’ and ‘Lagaan’. As such, selecting movies like ‘Gully Boy’ will only dent India’s image further. However, this is not the first time that the Jury Committee selected Indian films for Oscars bypassing good films altogether.
In 1998, when everyone felt that ‘Satya’, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, would be sent for an Oscar, the jury surprised everyone by sending ‘Jeans’, an average Tamil comedy film to the same. Similarly in 2006, when the question of sending nominations from India for the Oscars came up, ‘Eklavya’ was nominated, ignoring all the other good movies that were released that year. Likewise, when everyone was confident that ‘The Lunchbox’ directed by Ritesh Batra would be nominated for the Oscars in 2013, the then chairman of the jury committee Gautam Ghose nominated a Gujarati film titled ‘The Good Road’.
Now imagine, if Tumbbad was sent for the Oscars, what would’ve been the response? The film’s wizardry in terms of storytelling would’ve given even films like ‘Parasite’ a tough run for their money. As such, Aparna Sen has kept her personal agenda above everything else by bypassing a gem like ‘Tumbbad’, which is harmful not only for the country but also for Indian cinema. As long as people like Aparna Sen remain eligible to decide which Indian films should be sent for the Oscars, forget winning an Oscar, India won’t be able to get a nomination at the same as well.