India Uncut

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

There's no "Oscars jinx"

A headline in the Indian Express says, "Will RDB break the Oscar jinx?" Immense silliness, this, and not just because of the silly nationalistic sentiment involved -- after all, the Americans don't obsess about winning the Filmfare Awards, do they?

No, the silliness is because there's no jinx here. Indian mainstream cinema is essentially a different art form from cinema as America and Europe sees it. It functions in a different paradigm, with different kinds of narrative and different terms of engagement with its viewers. If Indian cinema has started doing well abroad, it is because of NRIs. The only Indian film-makers who have been taken seriously by the West are those who make films in what is essentially the Western paradigm of film-making: two prominent examples are Satyajit Ray, who was more inspired by Renoir than Phalke when he started out, and the exceptional Mira Nair, whose Monsoon Wedding used song and dance in an entirely non-Bollywood way, using an Indian setting but a Western structure.

I'm not making a value judgement here: it is entirely a matter of taste what kind of cinema we prefer. But this desperate desire for the West to validate us is somewhat pathetic. Barring a few Indophile exceptions, like the noble Maria, most Westerners will continue to look at our traditional Bollywood fare as little more than exotica. As long as we enjoy our films, why should we find that insulting?

That said, I wish they'd sent Lage Raho Munnabhai or Omkara as India's entry instead of RDB. Still, in the end, same difference.
amit varma, 4:02 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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