Cinema Amidst the cheers for Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu, let’s hear from people who failed to make the cut at this year’s film awards ANUJ KUMAR

It is not just the season of love. We are also in the season of film awards. Backed by media houses and corporate giants, as many as five film awards have already been announced since December and two are yet to unravel. Like in love, you don’t like to be snubbed when you put in all for your passion. It leads to conspiracy theories. Some stem from jealousy but not all of them are unfounded. If the social media is abuzz with posts as to why the Academy ignored Ben Affleck for this year’s Oscars in the best director category, closer home we have plenty of examples where seemingly deserving candidates have been sidelined in a year where jury members and the voting public were spoilt for choices.

Last year almost every film critic praised “Shanghai” for its form and content, but the film failed to make it to even the nomination stage in the best film and best director categories at all the prestigious awards this year. Surprisingly, the film’s lead actor Emraan Hashmi was nominated in the supporting actor category, while the likes of Adil Hussain (“English Vinglish”) and Rajesh Sharma (“Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana”) didn’t make it to the shortlist.

Dibakar Banerjee sees the irony in it. “Why ignored? They must have thought ‘Shanghai’ wasn’t worth awarding! I take it as a proud distinction. Also, to continuously flout all written and unwritten rules of Bollywood cannot go unpunished all the time. They are slowly catching on who the real bad boy is! But I am glad that the technical awards like costume and sound design have come our way,” says Dibakar adding that sometimes to be deprived is the best proof of the fact that you are considered.

It is not a new phenomenon though. Once upon a time when Shanker-Jaikishen were at their peak, they were frequently charged with politicising film awards in their favour. In his National Award winning book “Bollywood Melodies”, Ganesh Anantharaman states, “I can’t still get over the shock that S.D. Burman’s ‘Guide’ lost to Shanker-Jaishkishan’s ‘Suraj’….”

In 2012, Nawazuddin Siddiqui shares the pain of S.D. Burman. He feels hurt for not being nominated in the best actor category at any of the awards for “Gangs of Wasseypur-2”. “Perhaps they want to slot me as a supporting actor. Perhaps they thought if I were nominated it will become difficult to sideline me,” says the actor who has won a couple of awards in the supporting actor category for his performance in “Talaash”. “I am disappointed because it is not every year that you get a role like Faizal Khan and I deserved to be at least nominated. If popularity is a criterion, the character got quite popular and the film did good business at the box office.”

The case of Richa Chadda is even more curious. She was nominated in the best supporting actor category for “Gangs of Wasseypur” at the Filmfare Awards but lost out to Anushka Sharma (“Jab Tak Hai Jaan”). Interestingly, she went on to win the best actress award in the critics’ choice category where the nominations are not made public. “I call it divine justice,” she asserts. “It was technically wrong to put me in the supporting actor category but I took it in my stride.” However, what happened at the Stardust Awards continues to baffle her. “I was nominated in the most breakthrough performance of the year category, but the award went to Shahzn Padamsee for ‘Housefull 2’. It suggests there are different lobbies which need to be balanced.”

The supporting actor category has become a little too flexible. Last year actor Pitobash Tripathi (‘Shor In The City’) complained when Farhan Akhtar walked away with the trophy at the Filmfare Awards for “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.” “He was one of the main leads. In fact his was the most fleshed out character in the film. Whom was he supporting?” he asked.

Randeep Hooda, who was ignored for his performance in “Jannat 2” says perhaps he is not yet a big enough actor, whose appearance in an award show will ensure TRPs for the channel which has bought the rights for the ceremony. “But I am not complaining, for the film might not have got me awards but it has got me rewards in the form of some plum roles.”

Neil Nitin Mukesh sees a trend here. “Performances in films which do not do good business or are panned by critics are ignored for awards —not realising that an actor could be good in a bad film. My performance in ‘Players’ was sidelined because the film didn’t do well. I deserved a place in the nominations for the best negative role,” he argues.

Sabbas Joseph, one of the directors at Wizcraft, the company behind IIFA and Producers Guild Awards, calls it a case of sour grapes. “Wherever Wizcraft is involved we define the process and then step out of it. The popular votes are audited by a respectable agency and we respect the decision of the jury.” As for the increasing song and dance in the ceremonies, Sabbas say they are integral to our industry and hence will reflect in the award ceremonies as well. “But I strongly deny that we offer awards in lieu of performances.” With categories like best romantic film and best thriller being added apparently to include as many films as possible, Sabbas admits some people are getting a little too creative. “We are purists. As for balancing interests you can’t do it even if you try.”

Seasoned film critic Bhawana Somaiyya, who has been associated with Screen Awards in the past and is a consultant with BIG Awards, says it was a very “performance rich year” and perhaps it was not possible to accommodate every good performance or film. “You feel ‘Shanghai’ should have made it, I feel Sridevi deserved a better deal.” Also, she adds, every award has a different profile. “One is about popular vote, another gives prominence to jury. Then there is one which relies on the buzz created by the film on social media sites and FM channels.” She says she believes in the goodness of life and would like to believe that juries do their job in a fair way. “I agree the awards are less about applauding performances and more about entertaining television audience, and as for lobbying and politics, it happens in the National Awards, it happens in the Academy Awards. Nothing is pristine.” Ask Affleck!