Bollywood awards: Real deal or rigged? Why Amitabh Bachchan (and Aamir) have their doubts


It’s been speculated often enough. Some A-list stars have even boycotted such awards for this very reason.

Now, in a span of two days, two actors have questioned the practice that goes behind the awards circus that has Bollywood doll up every year for its annual red carpet shows.

Industry stalwart and superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra’s nephew Abhay Deol did not mince words in bringing the awards practice and its credibility into question.

Bachchan took to Twitter earlier this week to vent his grief over the nominations practice that failed to credit thespians such as Dilip Kumar for performances that have set the benchmark for generations of actors who have followed.

Even his own son’s highly acclaimed performance in ‘Guru’ failed to make the cut.

Bachchan wrote: “Sat with Abhishek and caught ‘Guru’ on Doordarshan, and still filled with pride on his performance, the film and its making.

“Not a single award came his way for ‘Guru’. I console him by saying not a single award came my way for ‘Deewar’, nor to Dilip Kumar for ‘Gunga Jamuna’, which to me has been his best ever....”

Touted as one of Bachchan’s finest performances on celluloid, ‘Deewar’ launched the veteran into superstardom overnight.

He added: “Relationships and circumstances sometimes decide who it is that shall be rewarded.”

The actor goes on to narrate a famous incident involving Hollywood’s two legends, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor.

Both the actresses were nominated for the Oscars that year. But while MacLaine was boarding her flight from New York for the ceremony, she learned that Taylor had been rushed to hospital.

The actress promptly cancelled her flight.

He added: “Shirley MacLaine cancelled because she knew the sympathy would be with Liz, and they would give the Oscar to her.”

Bachchan’s bitterness comes through in his next comment, when he said: “Let’s move on and forget this topic of awards, before a tin can gets opened. Most would not be able to bear up to it.

“Matters not whether someone else recognises your potential for award, what matters is whether you found your potential worthy.”

Meanwhile, Deol was even more scathing in his attack on the organisers of such awards shows in India.

In a candid chat with the media on the sidelines of the International Film Festival of India, Deol was quoted as saying: “Talk to any actor ‘off record’ and he will tell you, you either go because your winning an award or you go because you’re getting paid, otherwise you don’t go.”

He went on to say: “In that case pay me, and I’ll perform. If you tell me you’re awarding talent then no.

“It’s just an exercise in appeasing those you’ve worked with or appeasing those you want to work with.”

 Deol’s breakthrough performance in ‘Dev D’ (2009) failed to win him any awards.

“I was promoting ‘Road’ at the time the Filmfare Awards were happening and no one wanted to talk to me about ‘Road’,” he confessed. “The entire press wanted to know why I wasn’t selected for an award. And I said it was a family fare, if your part of the family then you will get it. And I stick by that.”

10 and going strong

Over a decade and a half ago, Aamir Khan was one of the first few actors who spoke up against the practice.

As the story goes, he was asked to perform at the Filmfare Awards in 1996, the same year he was nominated for his breakthrough role in the Ram Gopal Verma-directed, ‘Rangeela’.

However, when he turned down the offer, he also inadvertently turned down the chance of bagging an award for Best Actor for the same film, or so he was quoted as saying in an interview with Filmfare’s rival publication, Screen.

The award ultimately went to Shah Rukh Khan who performed at the awards that year.

Ironically, it was the same year that Shah Rukh tendered an apology on stage for admitting he tried to bribe his way into winning the Best Actor trophy.

Anyways, a disgruntled Aamir has refused to attend any award function ever since.

The year 1996 also proved to be a landmark year for televised stage show performances for such awards ceremonies that have grown into a multi-million dirham enterprise over the past 16 years.

Every year, Bollywood’s film factory and its supporters churn out 10 such awards functions that usually kicks off in January over a six-month telecast season.

In case you’re wondering, the Screen Awards are usually the first in a never ending string of ceremonies that run into June, marking its conclusion with the IIFAs or the International Indian Film Academy awards.

From the posse of names, the Filmfare Awards are the industry’s oldest honours show, instituted in 1954, the same year the Indian government gave away the first set of National Film Awards.

The last 10 years have seen a new crop of shows, among them Stardust, Sansui, Zee Cine, Apsara, IIFA, People’s, Screen, the AXN Action Awards and the Global Indian Film Awards (GIFA).

With this commercialisation, stars soon began to demand money for onstage performances (earlier, they performed for free).

When Zee Cine Awards launched for the first time, organisers announced that every performer would be paid and no award would be given merely based on an actor’s commitment to perform at the event.

After that, there was no looking back.

In an interview with Emirates 24|7 earlier, Ashwin Warde from Stardust magazine said: “As far awards are concerned, we do not have any legitimate process or award function like the Oscars.

“All awards here are popular awards. And even if some actors say that they do not believe in awards, after getting one, they cannot stop thanking us and feeling proud of their achievements.”

But with so many trophies, does credibility go out the window?

It certainly seems that way, especially when all the awards go to the same set of films at every ceremony held in one year.

In a poll conducted in 2009, looking at the credibility of awards among audiences, out of 1.2 million respondents, almost half of them felt that every award were arbitrary and unfair and that the reactions on television said it all.

Maybe it is time for the Amitabh Bachchans, the Aamir Khans and the Abhay Deols to open this can of warms after all.


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