Awards season has begun in Mumbai and the chamiyas and chailas are practicing their dance numbers for the stage shows. In the meantime a twitroots revolution is slowly building up. Twitter will have its own awards and the jury will be journalists who write about movies and a few selected bloggers (based on a Twitter vote). The jury will nominate, and the twitterati at large will vote, to select winners! More details can be found at links http://twifi2010.in/ and http://on.fb.me/hN2jpp #TwiFi
There are two immediate problems I notice. Twi_Fi has about 1400 followers so more grass needs to grow in this grassroots revolution, and quickly! If “journalists” like Faridoon Shahryar can have 5000 followers while the big guns like Anupama Chopra can have 44,000 followers, then clearly visibility is an issue. Secondly, not many of the potential awardees, i.e. actors, directors, singers, seem to be following the Twi_Fi handle. Are they unaware or choose to ignore this movement? If they are ignoring it then what could be the cause? Do they see this as an award process that will ignore their efforts and sideline those who are in the mainstream? If the latter is the case then in my humble opinion we have a credibility gap.
Whose awards will they be? Will they represent what the viewing public sees and likes or will they represent what a select few see and like? Is either option better than the other? In essence we are looking at the great divide between the critics’ choice and popular choice. I think the role of a critic is to slowly move popular opinion towards “good” cinema. I would be surprised if we did not find a large overlap in the audience watching each kind of cinema in the US (or UK) and India. By audience I mean people who are movie savvy and do not go out and watch every big effects filled blow-em-up film (or item song and glamor filled extravaganza) and those that do. Popular cinema will never die, it will always have a place and will be made and viewed. That lesson is clear from the Hollywood model – hence we have The Little Fockers and True Grit doing almost equal business in the same week. This gap in numbers widens substantially when we look at Indian cinema – here a Robot or Om Shanti Om will do 10 to 20 times the business of an Ishqiya. Yet the trends are heartening and the popularity of the smaller cinema is growing. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that this cinema is made for common man – it may be about him, but it is NOT what he wants to see. That evolution is yet to come.
The “common man” has become a beacon of sorts, an unattainable goal for Hindi cinema. First we had Akshay Kumar trying to be R. K. Laxman’s common man, and being called a jackass as he showed all his pearly whites at Mr. Laxman’s hospital bed. Khatta Meetha was an average sort of film, box office collections wise, but Akshay Kumar is the common man’s hero and the film did good business at the single screens, while failing at the multiplexes. Does this mean Akshay Kumar’s attempt at being the “common man” worked for the common man? Who is the best judge of this? Is it the common man or the generally multiplex oriented viewership? [Here I presume that whoever the common man may be, he is not frequenting plexes or viewing films in premium lounges]. Single screen prices range from Rs. 25 to about Rs. 200 for the more fancier screens (and at that range are priced out for the common man), while multiplex tickets begin at about Rs. 200 and are never within the common man’s reach. So what does the common man watch? One can get a reasonable breakup of single screen vs multiplex viewership for the recent films to get some idea. Common man watched Dabangg in huge numbers, but likely never saw films like Udaan, LSD or Ishqiya.
So how will the Twi_Fi awards bridge the common man gap? How will they get more of the industry to buy in to these awards? Is it reasonable to have a bird (critics) and a whale (popular choice) category? I would suggest that this is a way to get the awards noticed by the film fraternity. Any forward movement can only happen after this first step. This will prevent the Twi_fi awards from being treated as a fringe movement that has no mainstream approval. Just a humble suggestion from a true lover of good cinema. I am hoping this will start some dialog on how these awards can become a big and beautiful event.