Popular films may break box-office records but almost always fail to impress critics and not every work of cinematic genius is a mass entertainer. Indian film awards like Filmfare and Star Screen like to celebrate the best of both.
The Print asks: Should Filmfare and Star Screen stop separating awards into popular and critics’ choice categories?
Critics’ choice stands for equality and recognition
India’s cultural veracity is reflected in the plethora of films it produces every year. While some stick to the blueprint of the masala genre, others tell stories creatively and thoughtfully. It is poignant to note that Indian cinema is an amalgamation of both creative and art films. Some catch the wind at the box office while others remain listed as underrated movies on critics’ lists. A bifurcation in categories at movie award shows like Filmfare and Star Screen is a means of providing equal recognition to both these flavours of films.
Award shows, in general, have never really borne the reputation of being honest; however, the critics’ category has from time to time been the recluse for true efforts of actors and directors.
I see no reason why this practice should be dropped by the industry. Without a separate critics’ category, we would have never seen Rajkummar Rao hold an award for his brilliantly bewildering performance in Trapped. Even non-commercial gems like Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (2014), Nandita Das’s Firaaq (2010) and several others would have never been known to the masses. These small-budget films, are after all plagued by fewer screens and small distribution.
The critics’ category is a coveted list for cine lovers looking to escape from the glamorous brandishing of Bollywood.
Don’t take awards seriously
I don’t think Filmfare, Star Screen, Zee Cine awards etc should be taken seriously. These award functions are nothing but prolonged scripted shows often hosted by two not-so-funny men and Karan Johar. And of course, one cannot ignore those hilarious dance performances.
Coming to awards, I believe all talented and deserving actors are only seen in the nomination list (some are not even nominated) and not on stage. Take for instance in 2015, Sooraj Pancholi was awarded the best debutant actor for Hero, whereas Vicky Kaushal was sidelined despite being critically acclaimed for his performance in Masaan. Exactly why these awards don’t matter. Look where both actors stand now. Vicky is busy winning hearts and only Pancholi knows where he is.
Also, forget about separating awards into popular and critics’ choice categories, I think these award shows should eliminate categories like ‘Entertainer of the year’, ‘Most stylish actor of the year’ and there was also a category called ‘Nothing to hide’, like seriously?
Critics’ choice inspires actors to do better films
For an artist it’s just not an award it is a motivation which drives them to do better work. In the past decade, Indian cinema has broken many conventional stereotypes and the credit definitely goes to the artists, including the filmmaker, director, cinematographer and the whole cast.
Those who actually possess the knowledge of filmmaking, know it that it not an easy job to get into the skin of a character. If popular actors can be awarded for their frivolous work then it becomes imperative to create a segregated category of awards to honour the skill of the talented once.
It also sets a benchmark for those who could not achieve it and inspires them to hone their skills, especially those who are new to the business. A lot of people in Bollywood have gone on record and said “Hum award mein nahi reward mein vishwas karte hao (we do not believe in awards, we believe in rewards)” because they know every film of theirs will cross their last box office record, regardless of the content.
A separate category for critics’ choice ensures that the award ceremonies are not biased
The problem with any form of art is that it generates a popular opinion which becomes quite powerful, so much so that it can often overwhelm the very context of the films. Take Gangs of Wasseypur, for example. It is hugely popular for a multitude of reasons. That often belittles serious issues like the excessive use of violence.
Critics, on the other hand, are supposed to be a focal point of the multiple discourses that run through the public. They have the vital responsibility of chalking out all the points of the film without being swayed away by the popular notions about it. Hence, a critic’s opinion should always be of value.
Moreover, the critics’ choice award ensures that the procedure of these award ceremonies is not biased. Low key, small budget films with superb screenplay might not be considered by the usual voters.
The ordinary audience is usually wooed by the big budget, box office hits. Since this procedure has a chance of leaving behind small-scale films that see little publicity, it is not an inclusive process.
By separating awards into endless categories, the awards jury is diluting the benchmark of quality
There’s a reason why “three-time Filmfare award winner” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Three-time Academy Award winner”. Cultural hegemony of the West aside, the only way the world will begin to take our award functions seriously is if we do. And right now, they’re more circus than critical evaluation. By separating awards into a wide and seemingly endless array of categories, the award jury is diluting the benchmark of quality — nothing is the ‘best’ if everything is. Bollywood needs to decide if Filmfare and Star Screen are meant to be more than a three-hour long song and dance show, in which every mediocre contribution is recognised just so actors don’t feel bad during their performances.
I don’t think a lot of people care who wins these awards — the anticipation prior to them being announced is lacking, and there’s rarely any outrage on social media about undeserved wins or surprise sweeps. Perhaps more than anything, we need more quality cinema — only when we start making good movies consistently can we set a standard by which to judge them.
By Neera Majumdar, journalist at ThePrint.
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