The Awards Inc. at crossroads!

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The Awards Inc. at crossroads! (Column: B-Town)

India is the flavour of the season. And the entertainment industry adds to this flavour. A few foreign studios came to India to be a part of the Indian film industry. Having experimented with all aspects of filmmaking, they have decided what their core business should be, and have opted for a subscriber-based OTT business.

Now, with OTT having gone international, what with Indian content being beamed in over 200 countries simultaneously, we have also attracted the internationally placed awards.

“Delhi Crime” has become the first International Emmy Award-winning Indian streaming show. Quite remarkable for both the Emmys as well as this seven episode programme since, in 1949, when Emmy started presenting awards, its first ever award was given only to television programmes made in Los Angeles where the newly formed Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, was based. Emmy was its brainchild. The award did not even consider the content from rest of the USA. That happened only later, in the 1950s. And, now, with an award for “Delhi Crime”, it has come a long way.

In fact, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the parent body of the Emmy awards, included digital and OTT content to expand its base only in 2016.

Those who promoted Academy of Television Arts and Sciences or the Academy of Motion Picture Art And Sciences, were part of their trade. And, they judged which and who among them was the best for that particular year.

The film industry in India did try to initiate its own awards when The Film and Television Guild of India launched Apsara Awards. But, that did not last for long. One of the reasons being, the Hindi film industry has as many as four associations representing film producers. So, not all producers belong to the guild.

Even when it comes to television awards, there is no central award instituted. The channels give awards their own Bests.

But in India, there are many who scrounge on the film industry without a buck of investment and no stake in the process of filmmaking. They cater to and cash in on the vanity and ego massaging of the film folk, mainly the stars. And, they decide and give the awards!

Considering the after effects of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown vis-a-vis the entertainment industry, what will happen to the awards function enterprises run by these outsiders who sit on judgement on the merits of a film, performances and so on?

They are called the films awards functions. Yes, that is one enterprise that has no stake in the film industry, but eventually, at the end of the year, sits to decide who the Best was!

And, film folk gladly submit themselves to these no-stake outsiders to tell them that!

The award-giving became a lucrative business as just about every club, film society, film fan club, rags and established magazines, regional journalists’ associations and so on started distributing awards like a birthday kid distributes toffees in his class room.

A once-prominent film magazine was the first to start awarding merit in films. Then came a trade-oriented broadsheet, Screen, followed by the gossip magazine, Stardust. Don’t know what this gossip churner had to do with the merits of a film or performances! Anyway, while Stardust stopped its awards in 2016, Screen stopped its publication but continues with awards!

Then came the television channels. Merit took a backseat, sponsors demanded star presence and the awards became a jamboree. Stars were promised awards and rewards both. Even the big or small time actors who were invited to open the envelope naming the ‘surprise’ winner got a few lakh.

Just about everybody was into presenting and awarding films but, more so, the stars, for without them no function can be a success! There was an editor publisher of a nondescript Hindi publication that I remember, called Mr Shastri. He had devised an award nobody could refuse. He had no fancily-designed figurine as the memento, he simply gave away a statuette of Sai Baba as award! No filmy recipient risked saying no to his award!! Forget Mr Shastri, how could one reject Sai Baba?

None of the Hindi films awards enjoyed a semblance of credibility nor did they help a film better its prospects at the box office. But, the Emmy award may surely add to the viewership of “Delhi Crime” as those who missed are sure to catch up. Besides, the second season of the series will also benefit.

Since the announcement of “Delhi Crime” winning an International Emmy, I am sure a lot of OTT makers are googling how to go about it. I am also sure a lot many publications are cursing their business school management why they never thought of awarding TV and OTT digital content so far though in the US of A, it is an over-70-year-old concept when the country boasted of just about 50K television sets!

One has read the headlines like “Gully Boy” for Oscars or “Gangs Of Wasseypur” for Cannes. Next, you will read of such claims for many TV and OTT content. These headlines are grossly misleading. Not familiar with the affairs of these international events, the reporters just follow a press release. Nobody is invited to Oscars, a country sends its chosen film as a contender for the Best Foreign Film category. As for Cannes, most of those who go there do so on their own accord, which is to market a film, and not in the competition section.

But, who cares!

Since these film award functions started getting television live telecast sponsorships worth many crore, the credibility started mattering less. Earlier, it has happened that the awards were manipulated on the sly. Now, they are manipulated openly.

There was a time when a jury was formed of reputed folk from the film industry. They watched all films together and sat to decide the winners. Now, they are outsourced to a coterie that can guarantee a turnout of most stars!

The coterie has the liberty to not only nominate but also choose its favourites as winners. Some glaring examples of favouritism over merit was the lyrics of the song “Teri mitti” being ignored in favour of a run-of-the-mill song, “Apna time aayega”, or when “Raazi” was deprived of a National Award as well as when “Gully Boy” was chosen for the Oscar entry instead of many deserving films including the year’s National Awards winner, “Hellaro”. There are many such instances and nobody except the ones who got the awards were happy about it. Especially, the people at large were not happy.

So, now what happens to these awards distributors as the year 2020 saw just about three dozen films release in theatres and not many worth even a nomination, let alone winning an award!

Now, what does the Award Inc. do? Get into OTT judging? Too late, all makers will want International Emmy awards and it won’t be long before Indian content makers make a beeline for the Emmy nominations.

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