Sunday, March 25, 2012

Indian media and the National Film Awards

Considering some of the free time I have got now-a-days, I have begun spending some of it to analyse some of the views of Justice Katju and P. Sainath. "Why so?", would be your question. That is because they both present a view that is many a time completely ignored in mainstream media, especially the electronic one. The more I view news channels, the more am I beginning to believe that the Indian media lacks the necessary depth, rigour and commitment to educate the Indian public in issues relevant to India.

While there are a lot of isses, which the media doesn't give proportional coverage, I will restrict myself to the field of cinema. The Indian National Film Awards are a tribute to the best of Indian cinema, which spans across more than eighteen languages (excluding local dialects). Awarded every year, by the President of India, these are considered a pinnacle of achievement by many in the industry, as the nominees have to compete across the entire spectrum of Indian cinema, rather than be restricted to a particular language(s).

The regional Indian cinema has been at the forefront of meaningful entertainment, frequently combined with conveying important social messages and practices. Especially, cinema in Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali (or Bangla) and also in Tamil, Telegu and Kannada, has been active in these areas. What Bollywood (or mainstream Hindi cinema) considers as 'parallel' or 'experimental' cinema is a proven track for good (and reasonably commercially successful) cinema in regional languages. The enormous variety of such cinema provides a huge opportunity for the media to build products around this cinema and improving the knowledge of the general public about this area. But the media still basks in the glory of Bollywood. New, for the media, could range right from Vidya Balan winning the National award to whether Salman and Katrina are still together.

The media, which devotes a lot of time running programmes about the Oscars and give a minute-by-minute update of the ceremony, has done nothing to bring forth the procedures of the National Awards. The task of the jury is not yet known to us. How do they judge cinema of languages which they may not know at all? What movies are nominated for the awards, how is the nomination and elimination procedure? How is the jury selected, in the first place? For the media, their task begins only after the awards have been announced. If anyone from Bollywood has won an award, then run endless programmes about that person and the movie for which (s)he received the award. But, at the same time, regional cinema winners are completely ignored after their name and award has been announced. E.g., Vidya Balan winning the award (and she deserved it) received extensive coverage in the print and visual media. But, what about Girish Kulkarni, who won the best actor award? How much mention did he get, compared to Vidya? That too, when his movie (Deool) has showcased the dark (and economic) side of religion and religious beliefs. The movie has also won the President`s golden lotus award and award for best dialogue. Similarly of other films like Byari and others. While the media gave extra wide coverage to A. R. Rahman receiving the Oscar, how much do we know of Neel Daat and Mayook Bhaumik, who won the National Award for best music direction? Or about Anand Bhate and Rupa Ganguly, the best playback singers?

I do not intend to say that news media should screen such movies. But the print and electronic media can definitely bring forward the artists who have at least been nominated for such awards. Of course, Bollywood has a marketable value, far higher than regional cinema, but then shouldn't the media help in furthering the cause of regional cinema and also, help inculcate and improve interest in good regional cinema? Similarly, the government of India to is at a fault that it hasn't been able to create an environment and viewer interest like the Oscars have done. The government should also pro-actively help develop interest and curiosity in the National awards so that the 'market' for such cinema improves.
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