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IIFA – Not Indian – just Bollywood

BollywoodBy Cinema Cynic    
The recently concluded IIFA awards, held in Madrid, turned up no surprises as far as the awardees were concerned. It was expected that Bajirao Mastani would dominate, some drama over whatever is going on between Ranveer and Deepika will make headlines and the much hyped Priyanka Chopra would try to entertain with singing and others would make their mark with some pretty corny song and dance routines that have become the norm for these excessively long shows that seem to celebrate the collective ego of Bollywood over the brilliance that is the hallmark of many types Indian cinema. That the IIFA ceremony is held in a different city around the world is a bit of a Bollywood conceit as its type of cinema has found little traction outside the Indian Diaspora and is still viewed as a curious joke by Westerners.
In contrast, the 1st IIFA Utsavam was held earlier this year (in India despite Baahubali’s current – and apparently well appreciated – run in Europe) to reward achievement in South Indian cinema. One look at the nominees would show that this was a much more nuanced and thoughtful list, appreciating a wide variety of films in four South Indian languages. That South Indian films weren’t considered part of the main IIFA event is tragic and pathetic. It makes no sense to have separate shows. As such one must ask just what do the IIFA awards celebrate?
            It can’t be Hindi films as brilliant and internationally recognized and rewarded films such as Titli, Margarita with a Straw and Masaan did not make it to the list of nominees for best film. It can’t be “North Indian” cinema as Punjabi and Bhojpuri films are ignored and it certainly did not recognize any of the superb Marathi and Bengali films that have graced the screens in the past few years. While it may nominate, it rarely rewards the edgier, less commercially minded films that Bollywood produces on occasion. Cinematic gems are ignored in favour of ugly star power.
So what do the IIFA awards represent? While I have nothing against any of the winners, it seems clear that the IIFA awards and the glitzy razzmatazz that accompanies them, are really a celebration of the Bollywood elite, for the Bollywood elite. It is a narcissistic display that does much to slake the egos and the “trophy mania” of some actors and is a testimony to the corrosive star culture that is too pervasive in Bollywood .  In this sense it is no different to any of the myriad of other award shows which reduce cinematic awards to an incestuous circle of repeat winners, fawning commentary and press coverage for what have been, at times, mediocre cinematic features. Unless this changes and award shows start recognizing cinematic brilliance from actors and directors who are not part of the Bollywood elite, the best of Indian cinema will not be adequately rewarded, showcased or appreciated. That would be a shame.

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