Bollywood Insider: Why B-town stars like Ajay, Aamir say no to award shows

Subhash K Jha

August 14, 2014 11:58:15 IST

The season of popular awards has come and gone this year and we, along with him, can heave a collective sigh of relief. Time after time, we see the same stars dancing and walking away with awards. It's hard to tell one award function apart from another.

No wonder Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan and Ajay Devgn stopped attending awards functions many years ago.

“Did they(the awards) ever have any credibility?” asked Naseeruddin Shah, considered by many to be the finest actor India has ever produced.

Ajay Devgn, who has two National awards for best actor openly expressed his contempt for popular awards in an interview to a daily. “I don’t believe in film awards," he said. "I have always made it a point to never take those awards... . They (the organisers of private awards) need maximum number of stars to attend their ceremony, so they call you up and tell you that if you attend their event, they will give you an award. So what is the point of getting an award only if you will attend the show? And if you are unable to make it at the last minute … the chit with the name of the winner changes and another actor gets the trophy. I have lost faith in such ceremonies.”

Courtesy: ibn live

Courtesy: ibn live

Two years ago, speaking about one of these dazzling awards events, a senior filmmaker told me, “They were going to give the Best Actress award to Sridevi for her performance in English Vinglish. In fact, it was mentioned on their website that Sridevi was the winner. And yet at the last minute, they gave it to another actress. Sridevi and her husband were shocked and decided to boycott all the awards of the season thereafter.”

R Balki, the producer of English Vinglish, expressed the dismay his team had felt when he said to me, “In the golden year of Hindi cinema, they forgot a truly golden performance. A 24-carat story. A gem of a screenplay and a sterling directorial debut. I think they are into silver.”

However Sridevi, no strangers to awards, can seek comfort in the legendary Raakhee Gulzar’s experience. “When I was told I was getting the award for best actress in an awful film called Beimaan I said I wouldn’t accept it , not when just a few years earlier they refused to give me the award for what I thought was a commendable performance in Sharmilee," recalled Raakhee. "They chose to give Asha Parekh the best actress award that year for Kati Patang. Shockingly, they didn’t even give Sachin Dev Burman the best music award for his soulful music in Sharmilee. In fact, Sachin and his son Rahul Dev Burman hardly ever got awards.”

In the year that Sohanlal Kanwar’s mediocre and long-forgotten Beimaan had walked away with all the awards , Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah was left deeply wounded. It lost all the awards. Unable to bear the snub to music composer Ghulam Mohamed, who had written the immortal melodies of Pakeezah, veteran actor Pran, who had won the Best Supporting Actor award for Beimaan, declined his award.

That was 40 years ago. Today, actors protesting on behalf of their unjustly-treated colleagues is rare. A couple of years ago, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was informed she was getting the best actress award for Guzaarish. She was aghast when the name of the winner was changed at the last minute, on the insistence of a spiteful leading man if the word on the street is to be believed.

Director and actor Satish Kaushik said, "I miss the days when there was one awards function, the Filmfare Awards, and the whole industry used to wait for it.”

What many viewers may not realise is that the reason there are so many awards shows is that they are big business. “They are a kind of reality television," said lyricist and advertising guru Prasoon Joshi. "They’re designed to entertain viewers. Awards functions are like consumer products. If we come to terms with this, it is easy to comprehend the presence of so many awards brands functioning within the awards space. As long as we recognize today’s average awards function as a consumer item, we are fine. ... However I feel National awards are a little different as they are not marketing tools.”

But as actor Sonu Sood pointed out, “It’s not only the film industry, but the people outside who are confused. Yeh kya ho raha hai? For most people, these are not awards functions at all but television programmes where actors and actresses dance the night away.”

Top actors and actresses apparently charge anything from Rs 75 lakhs to Rs3 crores to perform at awards functions. In addition, most insist on getting an award before dancing. Although some actors do dance at awards shows, it's usually actresses who take to the stage at these events.

“One is embarrassed and ashamed to see the film fraternity propagating and celebrating gender bias in a big way," said Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. "We have awards functions where this bias is turned into television entertainment. Tragically, our own iconic actresses choose to act out the bias. It’s girl power working against girl power. Why do they do it? Is it desperation for food? Are they abla naaris, desperate for do waqt ki roti, dancing to make ends meet? No! It’s not poverty. It’s just lust for instant fame and money. It’s all about easy bucks, easy fame. This is not art. It’s commerce at its most immoral. Every business has its ethics. The practice of dancing for big bucks is unethical.”

The lack of ethics isn't limited to the live entertainment at the awards shows. Paresh Rawal said angrily, “The popular awards are worthless and useless. They are big marketing events with no substance. A glaring omission was my film Oh My God, which didn’t get any nominations in the popular awards and there’re innumerable such sins of omission. Awards are as useless as a tail on a teddy bear.”

Shailendra Singh of Percept Pictures summed up awards as "a buffet". "You eat everything," he said. "But you don’t respect or enjoy anything.”

Actress Soni Razdan is among the few who isn't entirely pessimistic about the state of film awards in India. “This year, with the new dynamic crop of script-strong films garnering maximum awards, perhaps this (loss of credibility) is changing after all! At least I’d like to think so,” she said. Director Sudhir Mishra also felt that this year’s awards reflected excellence. “I think this year’s popular awards emphasized quality and excellence," he said. "By giving awards to films like Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani and applauding Ranbir Kapoor’s performance in Barfi, the awards redeemed themselves.”

However, Razdan and Mishra seem to be in the minority. For most in Bollywood, the attitude to awards shows is summed up by director Prakash Jha:"Jiss gaon jaana hi nahin, usska raasta kya poochna?" (Why ask directions to the place that you don't want to visit?"

Updated Date: Aug 14, 2014 12:00 PM