Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Tragic Story of the "Indian Oscars"

After years of corruption and highly questionable results, it's time to talk about The Filmfare Awards.
Often referred to as "The Indian Oscars" the Filmfare Awards are in some ways the biggest awards of the Hindi Film industry (which excludes regional Indian cinema). Whether this started as a self-declaration or people think they're the "best" awards may be discussed, but they are definitely the most-discussed Hindi film awards. Comparing them to the Oscars is a big fault in my opinion though, because although The Academy sometimes nominates and honours doubtful movies, The Filmfare Awards are the opposite: they only sometimes nominate high quality movies. Mainly, they just pick the most successful movies of the previous year, which may be anywhere between strawberry (Rang De Basanti) and lime (Raja Hindustani) explosions .

Especially small and independent movies are rarely (read: never) nominated, and every year rumours about corruption turn up - for example actor Abhay Deol stated he got a call saying that if he'd dance at the ceremony, he'd finally win an award. Most "serious" (don't take the term too seriously) directors, producers and actors have thus distanced themselves from the Filmfare Awards for good reason. I mean, they're given by a movie magazine! (The Filmfare magazine, in case anybody wondered).
The request of the Best Film winning movie becoming the Oscar submission has happily not been conceded yet - although sadly, this year's Barfi! did both win the Filmfare Award and the Oscar submission. Highly undeservedly.

But before I judge the awards without reason, I decided to have a look at the history of the Filmfare Award for Best Film
- perhaps we'll find it's not all so bad. 
I'll only write about the ones I either have seen or have something to say about, because anything else would be kind of unfair I think.
Other nominated movies are written in italic.

1954: Do Bigha Zamin, IMDB: 7.5
NOT SEEN - Not so bad I guess, but I'll watch it soon and tell you about it.

1958: Mother IndiaIMDB: 7.4
SEEN - The Indian movie for film buffs that don't know much about Indian film. What can I say... it was informative because it mirrored the society of that time but still - so over-the-top! I mean, Pyaasa would have deserved this one so much more.

1960: Sujata, IMDB: 7.1
Anari, Chhoti Bahen
NOT SEEN - Treating the caste system issue and having a good score on IMDB, I do think this one deserved the award, but Anari definitely would've too.

1961: Mughal-E-Azam, IMDB: 7.9
Masoom, Parakh
SEEN - An exception in many ways: an old Hindi, historical over-length epic that I still somehow managed to like, nay love! How did Mother India gain an Oscar nomination and not this one?

1976: Deewaar, IMDB: 7.7
Aandhi, Amanush, Sanyasi, Sholay
NOT SEEN - This is one of the oldies I really need to see, but it just struck me that it won over Sholay - only the most-quoted and probably most-loved Hindi film ever.

1979: Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, IMDB: 7.1
Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Shatranj Ke Khilari, Trishul
NOT SEEN - Just wondering why the hell Don wasn't nominated? Not serious enough? Anyway, I'd love to see the winner - there's almost nothing to find about it online.

Sorry, but I haven't seen any 1980s Hindi films. Something I need to change soon. Except Salaam Bombay, but I don't think that counts.

1992: Lamhe, IMDB: 7.1
Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Henna, Saajan, Saudagar
NOT SEEN - Yeah, I'm just racking my brain about why the jury would nominate Saudagar. Honestly, Saudagar! Saudagar! As in "Saudaaaaagaaaaaar... saudaaaagaaar", the most horrible song from this so-horrible-it-was-almost-fun movie.

1994: Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, IMDB: 7.4
Aankhen, Baazigar, Damini, Khalnayak
SEEN - Cute movie, although if you're not acquainted with Bollywood you'll probably hate it. It has a very special sort of humour. I was just wondering whether Darr would deserve to be nominated...

1995: Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, IMDB: 7.3
1942: A Love Story, Andaz Apna Apna, Krantiveer, Mohra
SEEN - I know there's a lot of split opinions on this movie and I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but... I HATE IT...! Especially the weird "...!" It's a three hour wedding video.
And as for Andaz Apna Apna, I can only shake my head in disbelief too.

1996: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, IMDB: 7.9
Akele Hum Akele Tum, Karan Arjun, Raja, Rangeela
SEEN - And then again, this is the reason why I love Indian movies. That a film like this can win all awards, hearts and theaters in one year is amazing and makes me so happy. 
But then again, movies like Karan Arjun shouldn't even be made. "Whadda joke".

1997: Raja Hindustani, IMDB: 5.9
Agni Sakshi, Bandit Queen, Khamoshi: The Musical, Maachis
SEEN - You know, Mira Nair's Fire came out in this year. Exclamation mark. Exclamation mark.

1998: Dil To Pagal Hai, IMDB: 6.8
Border, Gupt, Pardes, Virasat
SEEN - Typical Filmfare Award. Just pick the biggest movie of the last year.

1999: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, IMDB: 7.4
Ghulam, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, Satya
SEEN - Same as the previous, although this was my favourite movie when I was a child. Of course, Dil Se should've won this.

2000: Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, IMDB: 7.3
Biwi No. 1, Sarfarosh, Taal, Vaastav
SEEN - It's really hard to judge films you've seen many years ago but I guess this one wasn't so bad, except for the Hungarian "Italy".

2001: Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, IMDB: 6.6
Dhadkan, Josh, Mission Kashmir, Mohabbatein
SEEN - Well now, times were still a little 90s back then... Josh, Mohabbatein, KNPH - all these movies are quite ridiculous in a way. But they're the best I've seen from 2000s Bollywood. Except for Fiza - that one should've definitely been nominated!

2002: Lagaan, IMDB: 8.1
Asoka, Dil Chahta Hai, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
SEEN - The second Indian movie to be nominated for an Oscar (if you don't count Salaam Bombay!), this one's much better than Mother India. I was very worried about the long cricket scenes, so it remained a blind spot for many years, but I finally overcame my fear of boredom last year. It was really worth it, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend the movie as an introduction to Indian cinema.

2003: Devdas, IMDB: 7.2
Company, Humraaz, Kaante, Raaz
SEEN - With this one it's either love or hate, and personally I love it. I think Saathiya would've deserved a nomination too though.

2004: Koi... Mil Gaya, IMDB: 6.8
Baghban, Tere Naam, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Munnabhai M.B.B.S.
SEEN - So, if it was my choice I'd only nominated and let Maqbool win. The only good film I've seen of 2003 (sorry, just re-watched KHNH and realized how bad it is).

2005: Veer-Zaara, IMDB: 7.4
Dhoom, Hum Tum, Main Hoon Na, Swades
SEEN - Haven't seen this childhood favourite for a long time, but there are a lot of films from that year that would've deserved a nominate and a win much more than these. Dhoom and Hum Tum are definitely fun but they're just fast-food cinema, while Main Hoon Na and Veer-Zaara were nice masala entertainers. Films that very unfairly weren't nominated are Yuva (the best film of the year by far, in my opinion), Raincoat, Ek Hasina Thi and Chameli.

2006: Black, IMDB: 8.1
Bunty Aur Babli, No Entry, Page 3, Parineeta
SEEN - I don't get it, how can they nominate the horrible No Entry beside the okay entertainer Bunty Aur Babli beside the wonderful Page 3 and Parineeta? As for Black, I don't remember much of it, but it was one of the first "serious" movies I loved. 
Then rather take Iqbal and Water.

2007: Rang De Basanti, IMDB: 8.4
Dhoom:2, Don, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Krrish, Lage Raho Munnabhai
SEEN - The first winner here that I absolutely and unquestionably agree with. However, the nominees make me laugh - all of them (except the last, which I haven't seen).
Come on, what about Mixed Doubles, Omkara (!!!), Sarkar - even Nishabd?

2008: Taare Zameen Par, IMDB: 8.4
Chak De! India, Guru, Jab We Met, Om Shanti Om
SEEN - Wow, things really changed (or just were different) that year. I liked all of the nominees, and the winner too. Of course, I'd have loved to see No Smoking here, but it's far too controversial.

2009: Jodhaa Akbar, IMDB: 7.4
Dostana, Ghajini, Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Rock On!!
SEEN - Not my favourite year, the nominees are pretty much the best I've seen from 2008. However, my favourite Bachna Ae Haseeno wasn't even nominated, same for A Wednesday!.

2010: 3 Idiots, IMDB: 8.3
Dev.D, Kaminey, Love Aaj Kal, Paa, Wake Up Sid
SEEN - Whatever happened to the awards here?! Two of my favourite movies ever nominated (including winner).

2011: Dabangg, IMDB: 6.3
Band Baaja Baaraat, My Name Is Khan, Peepli Live, Udaan
SEEN - And again: whatever happened here? This one winning over films like Peepli Live and Udaan just because it was one of the most successful Indian films ever (or the?). And where the hell are Ishqiya, Karthik Calling Karthik, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Raajneeti, Tere Bin Laden?

2012: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, IMDB: 7.9
Delhi Belly, Don 2, No One Killed Jessica, Rockstar, The Dirty Picture
SEEN - Sigh, I guess they'll never learn it (although I would've probably picked the winner as best picture too, but the rest...).

2013: Barfi!, IMDB: 8.4
English Vinglish, Gangs of Wasseypur, Kahaani, Vicky Donor
SEEN - I think you all know my opinion on this, it starts with F*** You, and ends with Filmfare Awards. Not that I've seen much of 2012s Bollywood, but honestly how can a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur not win every award there's to win???

I hope this hasn't been too boring for people not acquainted with Bollywood, and not too insulting for the people that may worship the Filmfare Awards.
Any winner I should watch? Agreement, disagreement?


  1. I actually really liked Barfi!. The kind of shit we are subjected to these days, it was kind of brilliant in comparison. Though the best Indian film I have seen of 2012 is English Vinglish by a mile.

    I hate Hum Apke Hai Kaun too! So many goddamn songs!!
    DDLJ <3

    1. Yeah, I liked it too, but in a way that I'd have forgotten some weeks later if it weren't for all that attention the movie gets all the time. Having seen only bland films such as Teri Meri Kahaani from 2012 (except the much mentioned Gangs of Wasseypur), I agree that it's "brilliant in comparison" though. I also can't wait to see English Vinglish (and Kahaani).

  2. There are various points along the way in this article that I have to disagree with you but we are in complete agreement on one point the whole damn thing boils down to. Filmfares are a JOKE !! Plain and Simple.

    1. They are! But tell me, what do you disagree with?

    2. Well, let me see. It might get... a little Long-ish. :)

      Sholay and Deewar duel. The Best comparison I can think of is 2008 Oscars. No Country for Old Men won the Oscar over There Will Be Blood. Personally, I think TWBB is a far better movie but No Country is an exceptional movie. So, I won't really blame them. Similarly, Sholay is THE Hindi movie. No Doubt but Deewar is equally great or equally iconic movie that was a milestone movie was for many iconic careers(Amitabh, Salim-Javed) plus Sholay was never an Instant classic that Deewar was. It took lot of time to find its footing, mainly because nothing of the sort was ever done before. You'll probably not like it, it hasn't aged well at all but It was a BIG deal back in the day.

      I Love Mother India. Yes, it is TOO melodramatic and too over-the-top but the way it reflects the socio-economical status of then-India is just brilliant. I also have a very high opinion of Do Beegha Jameen for similar reasons.

      You know that I consider Andaz Apna Apna as one of the best comedies made in Indian cinema. It is batshit crazy but that is exactly why it works.

      Fire will NEVER get nominated anywhere, for anything. Meera Nair was really lucky that it was even released. Too radical, too controversial.

      2013 - I didn't care much for Barfi! and I would have English Vinglish over it but I have to agree that the nominated 5 movies were the Best Hindi Industry had to offer last year. Personally, other 4 and Shanghai make the Top 5 of the year.

      But yeah, I don't give a damn who wins a Filmfare and who doesn't.

    3. Thanks!
      I can't say anything about the 2008 Oscars because I haven't seen No Country for Old Men. However, it's true that There Will Be Blood was brilliant.
      The same goes for Deewaar vs. Sholay because I haven't seen Deewaar - thanks for explaining that situation though. By the way, you're right that I didn't like Sholay - I loved it!

      And yeah, you know what I think about Mother India. Not that I hate it as with Andaz Apna Apna.
      Of course Fire will never be nominated, haha, but it's still marvelous.

      I think the 2013 nominees are good choices overall too, although I haven't seen all of them.

  3. filmfares are a joke. movies that are way ahead of their times obviously get no recognition. for example, aks. on the other hand, useless rom-coms with the same damn plot get nominated year after year.

    1. So true. Just take Love Aaj Kal, it's so full of clichés - I mean sure, it can be a hit with the audience, but that doesn't make it award material.

  4. The fact I rarely enjoy Oscar movies (and knowing who votes on them, it's no wonder) and the general awfulness of pretty much all Indian awards has made me a general film award-skeptic. Even the National Awards, the only Indian awards that seem to honour regional cinema and Hindi films, can make REALLY odd choices. Saif for Hum Tum? Priyanka Chopra for Fashion? Ugh. (And I say this as a person who loves Hum Tum..)

    Anyway, looking at past winners, there are some films I might recommend and some anti-recs as well..

    1957 Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje – Rajkamal Kala Mandir – V. Shantaram
    This is a dance film I bought on DVD because I love classic dancing in Indian films. I haven't been able to finish it. Such poor acting, ugh.

    1970 Aradhana – Shakti Films – Shakti Samanta
    This is a good film to check out if you're curious about Rajesh Khanna, his jodi with Sharmila Tagore or if you just want to see the legendary songs and their picturizations in context (Mere Sapnon Ki Rani & Roop Tera Mastana).

    1963 Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam – Guru Dutt Movies Pvt. Ltd. – Guru Dutt
    You've probably seen this already but yeah, it's a good one.

    It does seem like they've nailed it with some of these last years, but it's definitely a popularity contest. A lot of the awards at Filmfare are largely a sham, though sometimes go to deserving folk. People accuse of Oscars of being a back-patting event for Hollywood, but Filmfare probably deserves that title even more. For example, one year they gave out two awards for Best Debut Director because I guess they couldn't pick between two.

    I suppose it's the same as with any awards - the real test is that of time. I remember being annoyed when Crash won Best Picture and Brokeback Mountain didn't, but hell, who even remembers Crash these days? Brokeback was definitely the more important film of the two. Deewaar is a quoted, beloved film as well but Sholay became THE film of the 70's.

    1. Thanks for this long and informative comment!
      My opinion on the Oscars is very split... I do disagree with many of their choices, and the fact that the title of the academy is "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" should theoretically indicate a broader inclusion of foreign movies (although French and British movies have been getting more attention at the awards). But there are no perfect awards, and I like that you have a good source for "important" movies in the Oscar nominations. Whether I like them or not is 50/50 but I rarely hate an Oscar nominated movie. Plus I like the show in general, for example I can't wait to see the celebration of 50 years Bond films.

      As for the National Film Awards, it's the same to me (although I'm not as obsessed with them as with the Oscars) - they're a source for interesting films.

      I haven't seen Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (one of my goals in 2013 is to watch more old Hindi movies) but thanks for recommending it.

      As for Deewaar, I know that it's really famous even outside India, but Sholay is just something different, I think.

  5. Thanks for making this post. I haven't seen very many of these, but I've got it bookmarked for future reference.

  6. You know I think the main difference between Oscars and Filmfare (or any other Bollywood award) is that while Oscars are focused on films as "art" Filmfare focuses on films as "entertainment". In that way I actually find Indian awards a lot less pretentious.

    1. I don't think that you can really make a line between art and entertainment in film. How can film not be entertaining and how can film not be art?
      Furthermore, I don't like the term pretentious, because what does pretentious mean? What do you suggest the Oscars are pretending? Surely, they sometimes nominate less entertaining films and they do consider certain films such as franchises to be of less quality, and there are movies that you can immediately say will not be nominated, but the Oscars still value both entertainment and art in film. Why else would there be so many categories, especially technical ones (which many other awards didn't have until recently or still don't have). It's to show a variety of movies. Of course I'm not saying the Oscars are perfect or perfectly fair, but I think they do make some reasonable choices and are an overall interesting and entertaining award show.
      As for the Filmfare Awards, it's the same. They neither value art or entertainment more than the other, because that's not possible in movies. What they do though, is to focus a lot on economically successful films - which of the winning movies was ever not a blockbuster? This way, they do honour more or less "good" films, it depends (which is of course a very subjective term, just as "entertaining" is by the way), but they don't give room for smaller films that may experiment more and need some attention and spotlight too. For example, there is no short film category in any of the Indian film awards I know, and that's a shame because short films can really be your way into the industry.
      So, that's my opinion on the issue.

  7. I am not making any line - but when I looks at Oscars and when I look at Filmfare, Oscars are usually giving awards to films that are "artistic" and "deep". Filmfare gives awards to films that earned most money. Of course that is not the case everytime. It mingles. But all in all I definitely think that is the difference. Even the award shows are like that (I cannot imagine actors in drag dancing on stage at Oscars, but heck it did made an awesome Filmfare moment). In the end I was thinking only about the Best Film and Best Actor/actress cathegory, not abot technical awards. As for "pretentious" - I just don´t like how Oscars present themselves as the most important award in the world. As far as I´m concerned they are on the same level as other awards that happen all over the globe. I just dislike the whole Oscar thing humbug...

    1. You're right about what the Oscars "think of themselves" (to put it that way) - they're by far not the most important awards in the world, nor is any other award.
      But about the awards for best films etc., I think that awards should look at what film is best in many ways - in terms of story, narration, cinematography, actors - which film is best in average in all of these categories. Films that earned most money already have had a "reward" for that - although of course they may win awards. But I think the Filmfares just focus too much on the money aspect.


Let the discussion begin!