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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Filmfare Awards and the new Bollywood

I usually don't expect much from the Filmfare Awards. It's rare that a Best Actor or Best Film Award will go to a movie that wasn't a box office sensation. Most years, top-grossing films are the winners and critically acclaimed films receive "The Critics Award," which is odd-- a clear demonstration that deserving movies do not receive the popular awards.
I do not like the Hollywood/ Bollywood comparisons, but The Filmfare Awards are often referred to as The Academy Awards of Bollywood. Keeping that in mind, can one imagine Spider-Man 3, the top- grossing film in Hollywood history, winning an Academy Award over No Country for Old Men?
One of my strongest criticisms of Bollywood was that the immensely commercial, made-for-profit-only films made money and won the awards, strengthening, and only strengthening, that one kind of cinema. But, thankfully, this year's Filmfare Awards reflected the new movement in Bollywood.
Any other year, I would have bet money that the box-office sensation "Om Shanti Om" would have won Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, and/or even Best Music. But it won no such award. The movie was entertaining and fun-- but definitely not worthy of an award. This year, movies that did win were movies that deserved to win (albeit maybe not my personal favorites).
All the films that won the main awards (Taare Zameen Par, Chak de India, Jab we met, Life in a Metro), were refreshing, innovative, and best represent the new movement in Bollywood cinema. All these films broke away from conventional themes of masala movies (some didn't even have a love story!).
One important point to note is that all these films still did make good money and had at least one major star in it. Granted, the movies that won were not parallel cinema, and most winners were actors who have all won Filmfare Awards before. But the films themselves represent the changing nature of Bollywood. An Om Shanti Om isn't going to guarantee an award, as it once would have in the 1990's. But a heartfelt story about a child with dyslexia won Best Director, Film, and Critic's Award.
The Awards represented, not a new Filmfare, but a new Bollywood.