Sometimes, the ways of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seem bizarre. The Academy — picks the Oscars every year and has its headquarters at Beverly Hills in California — has invited 683 movie personalities to be part of...
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Sometimes, the ways of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seem bizarre. The Academy — picks the Oscars every year and has its headquarters at Beverly Hills in California — has invited 683 movie personalities to be part of its already huge membership of approximately 6,000. India’s Sharmila Tagore and Frieda Pinto are part of this latest invitee list.
The Academy — now under a cloud with charges like racism being levelled against its Oscar nominations and awards — has been under increasing pressure to try and change the demographics of its membership. This, the critics feel, will hopefully ensure a fairer and more diverse win list.
The idea cannot be faulted, especially after the Academy was blamed in recent years for keeping out blacks from the list of nominations/winners. But what to an Indian critic may appear somewhat strange is the Academy’s choice of Indian invitees. Pray, why Miss Tagore or Miss Pinto?
Tagore may have been on the Cannes jury once, and admittedly, we have seen great performances from her in several of Satyajit Ray’s films (Apur Sansar, Devi, Seemabaddha) and in other directors’ creations (Anupama, Safar, Aradhana, Satyakam, Mausam, Amanaush), but Tagore has little to show today.
Similarly, Pinto entered the movie world with a bang in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. She was marvellous in Miral as a Palestinian girl. She was okay in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna and unimpressive in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.
The question is what was it that pushed the Academy to invite Tagore and Pinto — when the Indian cinema has a whole lot of others with far more distinguished records. For example, actor Mohanlal, who has been virtually storming Malayalam cinema with his performances or Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who has just completed his 12th film, Pinneyum, and whose cinema has been celebrated the world over in movie festivals and museums.
What about Girish Kasaravalli, that extraordinary auteur from Karnataka, whose masterpieces like Ghatashraddha, Tabarana Kathe, Thaayi Saheba and Gulabi Talkies, moved beyond the arthouse circuit into the popular realms of audience appreciation?
One can name many other Indians who could have made a worthier invitee than Tagore and Pinto. There is Buddhadeb Dasgupta with a bunch of riveting films. There is Shyam Benegal — though not quite active now, but whose basket has gems like Ankur, Nishant, Bhumika, Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba.
But, well, the ways of the Academy are sometimes beyond logic.
Apart from Tagore and Pinto, some people of Indian origin like Toronto-based Deepa Mehta ( Fire, Earth, Water), Asif Kapadia (whose documentary on jazz singer Amy Winehouse won an Oscar this year), Pixar animator Sanjay Bakshi (The Good Dinosaur), animator Sanjay Patel and producer Anish Savjani have been invited to join the Academy.
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