A Koimoi.com reader isn’t happy with the way the award system in Bollywood exists. She writes about why she thinks the entire process has lost its worth and why it is in desperate need for change.
The Bollywood award season is on and so are the hot debates around it. The Indian film awards are a unique breed. They have grown in number and splendor in the past few years but in the bargain they have turned into the entertainment shows rather than recognition of excellence.
Awards can serve the purpose of being recognition of good work, of being an encouragement or a pat on the back only when they are given by a proper authority and in a fair and just manner. Do we have the awards that fulfil these criteria?
Our inspiration has always been the mother of all film awards, the Oscars. Everything we do, including the very idea of having awards recognising the excellence in the field of cinema, to the actual presentation ceremony, is copied from the Oscars. But do these awards really deserve to be talked about in the same breath as the Oscars? Can these awards be taken seriously? Do they deserve any kind of respect at all?
Oscars Deserve the Glory
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the body of industry professionals that gives away the Oscars, follows a very elaborate, painstaking and a foolproof method of selecting the nominees and winners.
About 6,000 members of the academy use paper ballot forms to give preferential votes for the categories in their field of expertise. They name any five or less number of persons of their choice in order of their preference. Then, a totally transparent counting of votes is done manually, to get the names of final five nominees. The preferential voting system ensures that the persons with maximum first preference votes become nominees followed by those with maximum second preference votes. It is a very interesting procedure ensuring utmost fairness. The counting is done manually and with such diligence that it takes about six-seven days to tabulate these votes and declare the nominees. The process is transparent and leaves very little scope for rigging.
And The Winner Is…
Once the nominations are declared, all the members can vote for a winner in every category. Now, preferential voting is not needed. Every member can cast one vote per category and the nominee that receives the maximum votes, wins. It takes the accountants three days to tabulate the data and determine those winners. The names are then put inside the sealed envelopes and the film world waits with bated breath for those sealed envelopes to open.
When the winner is selected through such a rigorous procedure by considering preferences of thousands of experts in the field, the award means a lot. So, the Oscar glory can be completely justified. This explains why Oscars mean so much and why they can be a career defining moment for many
The Scene In India: Awards By The Dozen
First of all, Bollywood has multiple award ceremonies and all these awards are given by one media house or the other. Media is big business today, so the awards end up being more of a PR exercise and a quick money-spinner event than anything else. When there are so many awards competing with other similar awards, they need to stand out for the star turnout at their event. Hence, they have to promise awards or some honour, some tribute or some kind of showcasing to the stars in lieu of their presence at the award function. And they start losing the plot right there.
Popular (?) Awards
A few awards (or categories within awards) are very conveniently called as ‘popular’ awards. This saves them the headache of the elaborate selection procedure like the Oscars. It frees them from any accountability for their choices and from the responsibility of selecting the best, purely on the basis of merit.
So what do they do? They ask for votes from people. But where is the transparency in this voting procedure? There is absolutely no way of finding out if the people’s verdict is reflected in the final selection and that the results are not rigged. There is every possibility that what people voted for and what the organisers claim people voted for are not the same artistes/films.
Popular Or Not?
How come the popular choice for one award doesn’t even get a nomination for some other award? How does the popularity of actors or films change drastically from award to award? Where do they test this popularity?
As far as Bollywood awards are concerned, there is no fool proof method or even a seemingly reliable method for selecting the nominees as well as the winners.
The award categories keep changing every year. New ones are added and old ones are discarded as the organisers please. Unimaginable sub-categories are created to accommodate certain stars or to not to invite displeasure of the big names.
Sometimes organises give away special jury (or critics) awards making everything even more confusing and meaningless. Usually, it is a very small jury which selects the jury award winners. With very few people involved in the selection process, there is every possibility of rigging here as well. Moreover, these awards are considered as ‘lesser’ awards compared to the ‘popular’ awards.
If a star is associated with a brand or brands that happen to be the main sponsors of the event, it becomes necessary to glorify him/her at the awards ceremony in some way. So, that too has to be taken care of. Sometimes brands get associated because the brand ambassador is associated with the awards. There can be multiple equations between the stars, the award organisers, the television channel and the advertisers. We can only guess it to an extent.
Win-Win For Everyone
Hindi film awards work for everybody associated with them. Every award has a TV channel partner. So, TV channels get good software that they can use again and again, plus good revenue from advertisements. The award organisers get a new shine for their image and also a fee or share in the revenue from TV channels.
As far as stars are concerned, publicity of any kind is welcome for them. The glory of winning an award, even though artificial, is not something they will shun. Many a times, stars have to participate in awards to maintain good relations with the concerned media house. So, they play along. Some stars insist on staying away from award functions while some participate only for the stage performance and don’t care much about the awards. But these are exceptions rather than a norm.
All of the above factors clearly suggest that awards can be ‘managed’ if not actually ‘bought and sold’, as some people believe. Some technical awards may be justified but where stars, directors and producers are involved, there is every possibility of them being ‘managed’. Sometimes they ‘adjust’ and distribute the awards in various categories, among themselves. So, it is rarely a ‘clean sweep’ at any award function. Everyone is kept happy by giving an award in some or the other category.
Awards are basically for honouring excellence. So, the notion of ‘popular awards for honouring excellence’ actually doesn’t make any sense. Some awards follow a system where the jury selects from the shortlisted names. But, all in all, these systems are flawed, unreliable.
Major Indian Awards
The National Awards have so far been relatively fair but they are not totally free from controversies and cries of injustice. They have a committee of experts that selects awards from each category. These awards have somewhat succeeded in retaining their prestige.
Filmfare Awards is the oldest award in the Hindi film industry. It was the only award for many years and therefore is cherished by the industry people. However, its glory is fading. Now, it is just one of the many awards. Even in good old days, there used to be rumours of star secretaries buying Filmfare issues in hundreds and filling up the forms in favour of their star. Today, you have online voting sans any transparency.
Stardust, Screen, Zee Cine Awards etc. are similar awards given away by media houses. The all-important transparency is missing everywhere.
IIFA Awards was supposed to be an independent award and the true representation of the industry. But the picture so far doesn’t confirm the claim.
Apsara awards are given by the producers’ guild in Bollywood. They are supposed to be the industry’s own awards but again their selection procedure is rather unclear.
The Right Attitude Is Missing
Most of our stars and industry people are not broadminded and good natured enough to applaud the good work or success of others. So, these awards have also become good platforms for showcasing themselves and ridiculing rivals.
Indians are good at manipulating and corrupting everything they do. They can spoil any system with ease and make that irregularity a norm. This is evident in all walks of life and awards in many other fields also. Film awards are no exception.
With this typical Indian style of functioning and a lot of vested interests at play, these awards are neither popular awards nor awards for excellence. They are neither industry awards nor public awards. They are private awards with no standing.
Do you remember last year’s IIFA award for best music? Or Stardust award for best actress? Or Filmfare award for best supporting actor? I am sure you don’t. That says it all. These are just entertainment events and deserve to be treated just like that.
To Watch, Enjoy and Forget!
Manjusha Patil is a media and PR professional and a freelance writer. She tweets at @manjumuses