It is the season of awards. Filmfare, Screen, Apsara... Neither merit nor aesthetics counts for much in this grab-all saga.
Varun Badola was nominated for the best breakthrough performance of the year in "Main Me ri Patni Aur Woh", Katrina Kaif walked away with the trophy for the best breakthrough performance, female, for "Maine Pyar Kyon Kiya". This is no prank but the scheme of things at the just-concluded Stardust Awards. Of late, there is a sudden surge in th e number of awards in tinselville. We are in the second half of January and already we are done with three. Screen, Apsara and Stardust. Once, there was just one Filmfare, and today, two hands wouldn't suffice to count the rewards that different media an d television houses are bestowing on talent in association with corporate biggies. There is the Zee Award, there is Sahara, there is MTV, there are the India International Film Awards, MTV Immies and countless others. For some, the foreign location itsel f becomes the draw, for others, the star performers are the sole attraction. And the real cause? "That's secondary," says Cyrus Barocha who is actively involved with the Immies. "The main criterion is, who can attend the ceremony and who would perform." With TRPs deciding the advertisers, award ceremonies have become an easy means to gather some. A cursory look at some of the nominations of this year shows little care has been taken in deciding the names. Since the year of release is flexible, some clea r contenders have been sidelined. "Page 3", which won the National Award for the Best Film in 2004, was not even been nominated in the best film and director categories at the Screen Awards this year. If we accept the film had a 2004 Censor certificate, then the nomination of Konkona Sen in the best actress category mocks at the criteria followed. And one of her competitors in the category was Sharmila Tagore for "Viruddh"! It was probably to make sure of Sharmila's presence at the ceremony. At the Apsa ra Awards, the time frame was so flexible, the word `annual' lost its meaning. From "Swades", "Mujh Se Shaadi Karogi" and "Murder" to "Aparahan", everything has found its way to nominations in different categories. Apsara even ignored Ramgopal Varma for "Sarkar".
Similarly, "Paheli", India's official entry at the Oscars this year, hasn't found a nomination for the best film at any of the awards announ ced till date. The selection of "Paheli" by the Film Federation of India as the official entry itself created a furore, for some felt "Black" and "Iqbal" were better options and the Federation chose a film that panders to the Western view of Indian ethni city. Counters seasoned filmmaker Vinod Pande, who headed the jury, "It is very high on cinematic excellence and directorial competence. It is steeped in Indian ethos and true to the Indian concept of fine arts, costumes and art designing." Shah Rukh Kha n, who also produced the film, went one step further, describing the film as standing for "women emancipation". Talking of the juries, few people know that the late Harmesh Malhotra was the Chairman of FFI. As he was indisposed, Vinod Pande took over. Im agine somebody who had made films like "Nagina" and "Akhiyon Se Goli Mare" selecting India's official entry to the Oscars! The National Awards are no better. In the past, the Anil Kapoors and Raveena Tandons made it to the podium clearly for being on the right side of the political dispensation. Last year, Saif Ali Khan's selection for the best actor - usually reserved for high intensity, socially relevant roles - for his performance in Yash Raj Films' "Hum Tum" raised many eyebrows. Sudhir Mishra , the head of the jury, defended it thus: "Why must the best actor award always go to a heavy duty performance? Can't an actor leave an impression without having to quiver his lips and deliver high-pitched soliloquies?" Similarly, he defended the selecti on of a commercially successful "Page 3" despite having a separate category for the best film providing wholesome entertainment. That's aesthetics. And awards are up for grabs. Because there are TRPs to be taken care of.