The 65th Filmfare Awards ceremony was for the first time held outside Mumbai Saturday in Guwahati, Assam. The state has reportedly spent somewhere between Rs 20-Rs 30 crore out of its Rs 300-crore tourism budget for the Bollywood extravaganza. Assam has been on the boil for the last few months due to the anti-CAA-NRC protests.
ThePrint asks: 65th Filmfare Awards in Assam: Good to expand Bollywood beyond Mumbai or is it politics?
Filmfare Awards in Assam is welcome given how the state has always been cut-off from the ‘mainstream’
Hindi cinema was the sole preserve of Mumbai for the longest time, before it became a bit more geographically democratic with other big cities such as Delhi also being roped in for shoots and events. This year, the 65th Filmfare Awards — arguably the most ‘prestigious’ of them all — will be held in Assam. This is a pleasant and distinct departure from the Mumbai-centric tradition and is even more welcome given Assam, just as the rest of the northeast, has always been relegated to the periphery and cut-off from the ‘mainstream’.
While Assamese cinema has been fairly recognised, even winning National Awards, the representation of those from the region in Bollywood, or even of the region itself in Hindi cinema, has been disappointing and often trite. To that effect, taking the glitzy, jazzy award function and the array of top starts to Guwahati is a positive step.
However, there’s a catch — this ceremony has come at a time when Assam has seen massive unrest after the release of the final National Register of Citizens and its hyphenation with the new citizenship law, both of which tug at the heart of Assam’s uneasy ethnic fault lines.
It could well be a crafty diversionary tactic to put a veil on the boiling conflict and the BJP’s messy approach in the state. However, no harm done either. Who says simmering unrest and political turmoil means a state can’t enjoy some normality and a break from mundaneness in the form of Bollywood-style glitz and glamour?
BJP govt in Assam just wants to bury the anti-CAA voices behind the glitz of Filmfare Awards
The timing of the the Filmfare Awards in Assam couldn’t have been more wrong. This appears more as a ploy to diffuse the anti-CAA movement in the state. Two months since five people were killed, including a 17-year old musician who was shot down by the police, Assam has witnessed intermittent internet shutdowns and lockdowns.
Even though the BJP-led Assam government had signed the MoU with the event’s organisers in November, any other sentimental, people’s government would have cancelled the event. It is pretty evident that the BJP government wants to bury the anti-CAA voices behind the glitz of Filmfare. This is nothing more than an attempt to divert the public’s attention from the protests, and create a smokescreen to prove to the rest of the country that the people of Assam have made peace with the CAA.
The Filmfare Awards ceremony is nothing more than a private corporate affair — it will in no way promote Assamese culture and heritage, whose dimming significance is the only primary cause behind the anti-CAA agitations in the state. From an economic standpoint too, spending Rs 20 crore-Rs 30 crore on an indoor private event — when each year floods erode property worth lakhs of rupees and render thousands homeless — is nothing but an exercise without any vision.
An award function can’t boost Assam tourism unless the state has good infrastructure like roads and sanitation
The 65th Filmfare Awards in Assam is a clear political move on the BJP’s part to ensure that the rest of India believes ‘all is well’ in the state. The trailer of the event featured Bollywood actors such as Ayushmann Khurrana, Alia Bhatt and Bhumi Pednekar promoting the cultural ethos of Assam while conveniently not including any local artists. The event merely seeks to distract everyone outside Assam from the fact that the Assamese people are firm on their stand: “CAA ami namanu” (We won’t accept CAA).
CM Sarbananda Sonowal may argue that the event will boost the state’s tourism, but without basic infrastructure such as roads and sanitation, how can a state hope to boost its tourism industry? Sonowal’s own district, Majuli, was declared the largest river island in the world by the Guinness World Records in 2016. But not many people within our country are even aware of this island’s existence.
From Namami Brahmaputra festival to the Filmfare Awards, each event has been a futile exercise of using funds that could very easily have been used to solve the annual flood crisis in Assam.
Bollywood films have hardly represented the ethos of Assam. It is only filmmaker Rima Das’ 2017 flick Village Rockstars that managed to portray what the central government seems to have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the annual floods in Assam. The money spent for the event — Rs 20-Rs 30 crore — should have instead been spent on those people who suffered tremendous losses in the July 2019 floods.
It’s one thing to pander to govt but quite another to ignore the injustice and put on the celebratory mask
The shifting of the Filmfare Awards from Mumbai to Assam is a confusing surprise. For decades now, the awards ceremony has stuck to its glitzy, glamorous origins in Mumbai. So, the sudden change to Assam of all places, in the midst of socio-political upheaval, is suspect.
For the longest time, Bollywood has largely been apolitical when it comes to making public statements. Mainstream filmmakers, producers, and actors have always shied away from making outright pro- or anti-government statements, even in their films.
Of late, the CAA-NRC debate has highlighted how the mainstream film industry (minus a few) has always supported the government in all its decisions. Whether it’s for their own protection or just an aligned belief system, all that the Indian audience will end up with is a group selfie as a token of Bollywood’s stand.
The Filmfare Awards’ shift to Assam is part of that same tokenistic culture, only it’s more cringe-worthy and insensitive in this case. Assam has been fighting the CAA-NRC battle with the government, with people losing lives in the process. Bollywood ignoring the ongoing social strife in the state takes the cake, but doing it after ignoring its film industry for decades is the distasteful cherry on top.
It is one thing to pander to the powers that be, but quite another to actively ignore the injustice around you and put on the mask of celebration.
If the BJP feels that Filmfare Awards can push back anger against CAA, then their expectation is misplaced
Assistant editor, ThePrint
A state that has been incessantly questioning the Narendra Modi government’s attempts to solve its engagement with identity, and where indigenous artistes suffer on account of financial constraints every year, a Filmfare Awards event is the last thing Assam can gain from right now.
If both the state and the central governments think that the black lady’s razzle-dazzle will help push back the people’s anger against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), then their expectation is misplaced.
It’s been barely two months since Assam erupted in protests against the CAA, where at least five people have died in incidents of police firing. A glitzy event may not make people forget their angst.
The government is slated to spend around Rs 30 crore from the state exchequer for the event. Will it divert attention from the anti-CAA agitations? Or will it even give a boost to Assam’s tourism? Perhaps, it will not.
In fact, some top artistes in Assam have said that the awards ceremony, with all the Bollywood A-listers in attendance, can be meaningful only if the stars take time out to connect with local artistes – perhaps by holding workshops – and exchange ideas on how the two film industries can collaborate.
Besides, most people in Assam’s art circle feel that nothing much can come out of the Filmfare Awards in the midst of the political and social ferment underway in the northeastern state.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint