To be American , to be black, to be Muslim and yet win the Oscar in Trump’s America is a miracle that can only be nurtured and realized in the Land Of Dreams. Just days after an Indian techie was gunned down by a drunk American man in a bar in Kansas, Dev Patel walked up that red carpet with his mom Anita Patel, as the first Indian to be nominated for an Oscar.
That he lost the Oscar is not the point—Dev didn’t deserve to win in the first place. That he lost to an enormously worthy rival who was as “politically incorrect” in Trump’s territory as could be , is an eventuality that should make Patel feel like a worthy loser.
I think Mahershala Ali who wangled the Oscar from Patel was far more deserving. In Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight Ali played the protagonist’s mentor and father-figure with such reined-in strength and casual force that we barely noticed how much the actor invested in his character. As Ali stated in his thankyou speech, his acting teachers always taught him that playing a role was not about the actor. It was about the character.
Indian actors still need to understand the difference between playing a character and giving a performance. The loud histrionics always win the awards in India. So be proud, Dev Patel, be happy that you were nominated in the same list as Mahershala Ali.
At a time when American reels under the impact of a “Muslim ban” Ali’s triumph is a triumph of the human spirit,and one that we all need to celebrate.
The Oscars this year celebrated the power of Black America in the arts. Viola Davis was one of the three Black ladies nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category. When Viola won she didn’t hold back the tidal flow of emotions. She spoke about what makes actors special representatives of the human condition, and how cinema exhumes the dead past , digs up truths buried too deep for tears.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was not in the audience to hear Viola’s emotional speech. The winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film stayed away in protest against Trump’s ban on the entry of 6 nationalities in the US including Iran.
In no other year did we see the spirit of inclusiveness being celebrated so gloriously at the Oscars.
By the way, Mr Trump, Meryl says hi.