We are back to being a country that talks about box office numbers as the measure of what an audience's real feelings about a movie are, laments Sreehari Nair.
The number does have some significance in this case.
The 69th National Film Awards was doing you, while you were trying to do it.
And if you stay with me, I can help you understand why this is a tale of mutual disappointments.
You know what's sadder than The Kashmir Files winning the award for the Best Film on National Integration?
The fact that we still have an award with a label such as The Best Film on National Integration -- just goes on to show how infantile our film culture is, how ghastly our efforts are at eliding movies and PSA, and how little we think about the art of cinema.
You know what's sadder than undeserving films making it to this year's list? The fact that films like Sarpatta Parambarai and Jai Bhim were considered unlucky or passed over, and a film like Joji not even thought of as worthy of being in contention.
You know what's sadder than Allu Arjun winning the Best Actor award for Pushpa?
The fact that those who are taunting poor Mr AA don't seem to realise that medieval mediocrities like RRR and KGF have so become our benchmarks for 'wholesome entertainment' that we just couldn't judge Pushpa for what it was: The 'best bad film of the year.'
And if there is in your approach towards commercial cinema some final semblance of levity, you'll see that Allu Arjun's performance in Pushpa is actually an intuitive one.
On the other hand, if crying in close-up while being whipped is your idea of a great commercial cinema performance...
You know what's sadder than Rocketry being the choice for the Best Indian Film of the year?
The fact that we will mock paavam propagandist films like Rocketry, but hold up a film like Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, with its unending salvo of tokenisms and confused rhetoric, as an example of subversion in Indian Cinema. (I thought 'subversion' had run its course, but evidently it's back! And the news should make all genuine pleasure-lovers wary).
Finally, as an aside, you know what's sadder than the economic consequences of COVID-19?
The fact that, artistically speaking, we are not the country that we were in 2017 -- a country where the release of Amit Masurkar's Newton was an event, and the release of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum highly anticipated.
We are back to being a country that talks about box office numbers as the measure of what an audience's real feelings about a movie are.
We are back to being happy with movies that score minor victories over our dumb soap operas.
We are back to being a country that does not raise its voice enough when a small but well-made movie that has something to say (not a 'message movie,' but a movie that has something to say -- and there's a great difference between those two kinds of movies) comes out.
Our movies aren't expressing deep feelings, they do not matter to us anymore, and our arguments about them do not have the same animus that they used to have.
This edition of the National Film Awards will be forgotten and there will be another edition next year. But the quality of our film discourse being what it is right now, how adventurous can any jury prove to be?