New Delhi: Recognition of Indian endeavours at the 95th Academy Awards became the subject of a long-ranging discussion as the Rajya Sabha convened Tuesday, with both the treasury and opposition benches coming together to praise the Oscar-winning song ‘Naatu Naatu’ from the Telugu blockbuster RRR and the documentary The Elephant Whisperers.
Praise for ‘Naatu Naatu’ — which won the Oscar for best original song — and The Elephant Whisperers, judged the best documentary (short), cut across party lines, with Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar even suggesting to I&B Minister Anurag Thakur that the government screen both for MPs and extend a special invite to the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
The discussion marked a brief departure from the tone of the House proceedings, which were marred by continued disruptions as Parliament reconvened for the Budget session Monday, owing to the BJP’s demand for an apology from Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and the opposition’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the allegations levelled against the Adani Group in the Hindenburg Research report.
Not long after the Upper House convened Tuesday, Dhankhar granted MPs time to appreciate RRR, the song ‘Naatu Naatu’ and The Elephant Whisperers. The wins at the 95th Academy Awards are a reflection of appreciation for Indian artistes’ talent, creativity and dedication, he said, adding that it is proof of India’s global rise and recognition.
The Academy Award for ‘Naatu Naatu’ is an endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to nominate the scriptwriter of RRR to the Rajya Sabha last year, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had said in a Facebook post the previous evening, while I&B Minister Anurag Singh Thakur, speaking in the Upper House, hailed it as India’s arrival on the global stage.
Opposition leaders, however, cautioned the BJP against branding the Oscar win as a victory for Modi.
Congress president and Leader of Opposition in the Upper House Mallikarjun Kharge said Goyal’s praise for the PM gives the impression that it was Modi who directed and wrote RRR and that it was solely on the PM’s account that ‘Naatu Naatu’ won the Oscar.
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‘India can become content hub’
It is a matter of pride for India that a documentary directed by two Indian women of eminence won at the Oscars, Piyush Goyal said in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday, referring to The Elephant Whisperers.
The previous evening, Goyal wrote in a Facebook post that PM Modi “left his stamp of quality in nominating members to the Rajya Sabha by choosing outstanding personalities who have made a mark in diverse fields such as Indian culture, social work and sports”.
He was referring to the nomination of RRR scriptwriter Vijayendra Prasad to the Rajya Sabha last year.
“Last year, Prime Minister Modi ji recognised his greatness and said ‘his works showcase India’s glorious culture and have made a mark globally’. Today, the global spotlight is on ‘RRR’ for winning an Oscar for the original song ‘Naatu Naatu’. This is a global endorsement of the Prime Minister’s choice,” Goyal wrote.
Goyal also listed other “illustrious nominated members of the Rajya Sabha” including composer Ilaiyaraaja, athlete P.T. Usha, philanthropist Veerendra Heggade and classical dancer Dr Sonal Mansingh.
Anurag Thakur said in the Rajya Sabha that the Oscars for ‘Naatu Naatu’ and The Elephant Whisperers are proof that “brand India has arrived”.
“This is just the beginning. India has the potential to become the world’s content hub. PM Modi said to think local, and go global. ‘Naatu Naatu’ was written in Telugu but the whole world is now dancing to it. It is a matter of great pride that the scriptwriter is a nominated member of this House,” he said.
Telugu pride, censorship & boycott
Opposition leaders, while hailing Indian representation at the Oscars, spoke about the challenges faced by the Indian film industry with a few even citing the calls for the boycott of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan, released earlier this year, to make their point.
Speaking in the Upper House, Kharge said that “the ruling party should not take credit as if Modi directed and wrote” RRR. “Both (films) come from southern India and we are proud of it,” he added, referring the two Oscar winners.
Abdul Wahab of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) suggested that all MPs should “dance to Naatu Naatu” at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to mark the awards. MPs from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, meanwhile, celebrated the Oscar for ‘Naatu Naatu’ as a massive win for “Telugu pride”.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said she hoped India’s performance at the Oscars would put an end to “boycott culture”.
“As I mention Deepika Padukone, I am reminded of the boycott culture on our social media platforms. I hope this year’s Oscars will help us get rid of it,” she said.
Reacting to Chaturvedi’s remarks, Dhankhar said in a lighter vein that the only culture he knew was “agriculture”.
As the proceedings went further, John Brittas of the CPI(M) sought a discussion on the issue of censorship but his request was turned down by the chairman who said that it was not the right occasion. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Manoj Jha, too, said India must “end censorship and promote freedom of expression more”.
“It is good that the House is debating cinema. From the days of Satyajit Ray, Indian films have been recognised around the globe but this win shows the Americans are recognising the potential of Indian cinema,” said actor and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan.
Referring to The Elephant Whisperers, DMK MPs emphasised the role of Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin in the establishment of a safe corridor for elephants in the state.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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