One of the best signs of any film’s greatness is the number of awards it never got. If awards were a criterion then Sholay (1975) wouldn’t be one of the greatest films ever made and Sochenge Tumhe Pyaar Karein Ya Nahin from Deewana (1992) would be a better song than the seminal Phela Nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992). Awards lose their charm and value for almost every artist at some point in their careers but India would be the only cinema in the world where even the audiences don’t care a damn for many of these awards.

For years now every Indian film award right from the prestigious National Awards to the Filmfare and the hundreds of others that follow have been marred by some controversy or the other. Sometimes a family member is found to be on the jury (who knew Mac ‘Sambha’ Mohan was Raveena Tandon’s Uncle when she won the National Award for the Best Actress, Daman (2001), sometimes it’s just politically correct (Amitabh Bachchan’s Best Actor nod for Paa (2010) and sometimes it’s simply business like Bollywood sweeping a major National Award on an yearly basis. If that’s not all sometimes it’s bizarre retaliation of sorts – Rumor has it that Rongita Nandy insulted Gauri Khan and Karan Johar at a screening of one of her films so Shahrukh Khan refused to perform at the Sansui Awards that were produced by Rongita’s father Pritish Nandy’s company even though he was a brand ambassador of the sponsor hence Pritish Nandy ensured that Sudhir Mishra, his film was produced by Nandy, in his capacity as the head of jury voted against Shahrukh Khan for the National Award for the Best Actor for his performance in Swades (2004) in favor of Saif Ali Khan’s Hum Tum (2004). This would have sounded crazy and even untrue but one look at what is being passed off in the name of awarding talent and you know that the crazier the tale, higher the chances of it being true.

Barring acting everything else is a criterion for many of these awards. Every television channel, newspaper, and magazine has its own award tied up with major corporate houses and the whole exercise is like an annual event where every major star gets something to take home. But Indian film awards weren’t always like this. There was a time when they were respected. So, when and how did these awards end up becoming a big joke?

Till the 1980s Filmfare was the only award besides the National Awards when it came to honoring popular Hindi cinema. The readers would fill out their nominations and a jury would finalise the awards based on the posted votes. It worked brilliantly and the fact that Amol Palekar, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri won Best Actor awards is testimony enough. Somewhere the line between art and commercial cinema became too prominent and the magazine started a Critic’s Award segment in an effort to placate the genuine winners. Soon rumors were rife that some actors started buying these awards and in 1992 when Dimple Kapadia didn’t even bother opening the envelope before announcing Anil Kapoor’s name as the Best Actor it only added fuel to the fire. A few years later Deewana (1992) won all the music awards over Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and Filmfare ceased to be the hallowed award it once was.

Irrespective of their backgrounds or their parent companies, almost all film awards in India are the same. Most of them are nothing more than a gala event where everyone’s expected to dress their best and do the same thing every year till they are invited. Even the television telecast is as predictable as brushing your teeth – every time you see the Bachchans it will be followed by an insert of Rekha! If Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan put on a show one year the next would see Imran Khan and Rabir Kapoor recycle the same thing. Depending on the budget and the particular actor’s affinity with the award you could see, like at IIFA this year, Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapur do the same number. The only thing international in IIFA or International Indian Film Academy Award is the venue it chooses every year. The award claims to honor Indian cinema but since when did a segment of Bollywood become Indian cinema? IIFA is a paid vacation where stars land up in exotic locations with their families and maids, shake a leg, pose for some pictures and think they have done Hindi cinema a great service before picking up their statuette. This is one award where a star’s presence is enough to get them an award.

Bollywood’s love for film awards is beyond any logic. Rather than saluting the year’s best awards it simply hands out an award to everyone present. Sometimes it ends up creating a category like ‘Most Powerful Scene’ just to ensure that the bigwigs don’t go home empty handed. A leading actress almost cried her way to an award organized by one of India’s most respected newspapers; she insisted that her rival who had three flops was being given one so how could she not cry foul! A platform for surrogate advertising for tobacco companies, an evening where mommies and daddies come back with return gifts and loads of in-house humor that seems to be scripted … film awards just aren’t what they used to be.


Born a cinephile and a close observer of society, the author is an award-winning documentary filmmaker/writer. He is a regular contributor to leading Indian publications and is currently working on his first book. Find out more about him here and follow him @gchintamani


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Updated Jul 11, 2012 04:01pm

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Comments (Closed)


Prabal Das
Jul 11, 2012 03:10pm
Sometimes awards creates awareness among audience, and they move to cinema theater. As for example, "Udaan".
Hassan
Jul 11, 2012 04:36pm
So true...
Jamshid Hoodboy
Jul 11, 2012 11:07pm
Chintamani is an India Basher! But he doesn't care as long as he gets paid.
PNP
Jul 11, 2012 09:49pm
Every media has its own B'wood awards. They are not to reward the talents, but to butter up the producers, sponsors, the wana-bees of B'wood. In the process, they churn out immense amount of commercial money for the tv channels. In India, it's an open secret that these so called awards are sham and scripted to suit the B'wood 'mafia'.
snr
Jul 11, 2012 08:45pm
quite impressed by ur comment,,bt mass audience love to watch faltu unreal impractical movies,,sad but true..
akk
Jul 11, 2012 04:44pm
Chintamani, what's new in this article as every indian knows about awards.
Has
Jul 12, 2012 04:11am
i sort of gave up on bollywood and recently started watching bengali art films which i enjoy very much....if bollywood wants to be taken seriously in world cinema they have to make some drastic changes
C. Nandkishore
Jul 12, 2012 10:30am
Ghulam Mohammad died before the completion of the film and Naushad stepped in. Anyhow Pakeezah should have got the best music award.
citoyen
Jul 12, 2012 12:05pm
Most Hindi films made today are plain awful. Bad music, vulgar scenes and stories from lala land. Nothing that Bollywood has made in the last 20 years can compare with Bengali or Malayalam films. Its a pity that people overseas associate Indian cinema with Bollywood and don't get to see good regional films.
C. Nandkishore
Jul 11, 2012 01:10pm
Naushad did not get for Pakeezah and Sachin Dev Burman did not get for Guide. Both the films got some of the best music ever.
Shubs
Jul 11, 2012 01:07pm
Awesome! Loved it....and the SRK - Pritish Nandy story!!! Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!!
Swami
Jul 12, 2012 02:35am
What grates me the most is that Hindi film industry passes off as Indian Cinema. IIFA should be called IHFA or else include Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Kannada and other regional films as well which often have superior script, content and technical brilliance than Hindi films.
Manish
Jul 11, 2012 08:30pm
Please try to understand, these award are just a Gimic, actually they are promoting there films and they have been successfull.. they did one program , media writes about it & we read.. Just wanted to know How much Dawn got for this article..
MKG
Jul 11, 2012 08:23pm
I agree!
deepak
Jul 11, 2012 08:06pm
Naushad did not score for Pakeezah. It was Ghulam Mohammad...
Harish Bansal
Jul 11, 2012 06:28pm
Good things are never created for getting awards. Moreover stage awards hardly matters when the real award is our father of the nation printed in green.
Shaik Imran
Jul 12, 2012 05:36pm
I think Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara got most of the major awards. And it rightly deserved so. Was sad to see Dhobi ghat and delhi belly not fetching some major ones...
Nasser Ali Khan
Jul 11, 2012 06:23pm
so right and so sad!
KDP
Jul 11, 2012 06:22pm
It is like the Indian Proverb "Aho Rupam Aho Dhwani" (Dhwani means Sound). In a gathering of camels and donkeys, Camels praise Donkeys for their "Sound" and in turn Donkeys praise Camels for their beauty. What a Sound (Aho!!) and what a Beauty !! They praise each other and exchange or Give each other awards
pakistani
Jul 11, 2012 02:21pm
dhobi ghat pan singh tomar vicky donor udaan a wednesday aamir vs don 2 desi boys dabang etc etc
Usman
Jul 13, 2012 07:47am
Pakeezah had one of the best scores ever produced. It could have been honored with something. Only best Art Direction Award was given
Rehan
Jul 11, 2012 02:39pm
I hardly followed Bollywood releases in 2011-12 due to extreme work conditions. Watching the re-runs of IIFA recently on a popular Tv channel with my family, gave me a glimpse of the movies and nominations. Add to my disbelief, my wife's annotations of Flop, Bundle movie, Mega Flop, Disgusting, Vulgar after every movie nominations announced me that, if everything was critically flop, why celebrate the awards? Commercialism, Money, Ratings and Glamour.
Mr.T
Jul 12, 2012 05:37am
Movies are change now they are more to entertainment then to give messages or to give positive message to the audience, its now commercialism in it too much. Also the the Moises / Actor's / Directors or film makers who set the mind of people, are inspired by west or Hollywood obviously the set the trend of that, and destroy the culture of "Not Hollywood" cinema's . I think Bollywood should change the name by "INCIMA" short of indian cinema and loollywood should Pak Movies (there are pak movies like the message & the children of heavn). In end nice column and its worth reading it.
murali
Jul 12, 2012 06:47am
Very aptly said.
Madhur
Jul 12, 2012 07:28am
Truly said , there are dozen awards and all the award cermonies looks same .Even the actors don't take these awards seriously .I request to all the audiences/patrons to treat these awards as reality show with doctored scripts
naveedjami
Jul 12, 2012 07:46am
There is nothing Academic or Arty about Indian Film Awards, These awards are distributed among the commercially successful movies.
Guest
Jul 12, 2012 09:48pm
Please don't see them.
Aftab
Jul 13, 2012 04:56am
Well no wonder you never see Amir Khan at any of these award ceremonies. His work speaks for itself. Be it Jo Jeeta Woh Sikandar, Lagan or Gajni As the author has rightly said these awards are there just to placate every Tom Dick and Harry. Great article
Mudassir Khan
Jul 13, 2012 06:01am
Thats the reason why Aamir the Great Khan havent got as many awards as he desrved to be awarded.
shaan
Jul 13, 2012 07:05am
think why Gabbar singh of sholay didnt get awards i wonder !!!!