We tried to stay out of it. But the outrage that this decision has sparked, refuses to die down, and for once, we are beginning to hope that all the anger will amount to something.
Katrina Kaif will be awarded the Smita Patil Memorial Award on September 19 this year, for her contribution to Indian cinema. Notify the Oxford Dictionary, the word “contribution” has been redefined to mean a decade-long struggle to contort facial muscles into intelligible expressions.
The award was instituted in the legendary actress’s honour in 1984, and has been given to gifted artists like Tanvi Azmi, Tabu and Sridevi in the past. Unlike the recent award in the name of Dadasaheb Phalke that was handed out to Gurmeet Ram Rahim for, we suppose, inflicting damage only on celluloid, this is a genuine honour. Or so we were hitherto led to believe.
Smita Patil, for those unfortunate souls who do not know, was an actress talented beyond words. Her diverse repertoire includes memorable performances in Mirch Masala (1985), Bhumika (1977), Manthan (1977) and Aakrosh (1980). These are just a few of the many films which stand as proof of the raw, intense and honest performances which the actress was capable of delivering. Be it as the lower caste dairy farmer in Manthan, or as the prostitute in Mandi, she would become her character so effortlessly that it would be near-impossible for a viewer to believe that Smita Patil was anything but the milkmaid or the sex-worker.
About Katrina Kaif, the less said the better. It is charitable enough that we call her an “actress”.
Debuting with the ignominious Boom (2003), she has acted, or posed before the camera, in 30-odd films, the latest being Baar Baar Dekho. The closest she got to acting was in Namastey London (2007), a film that otherwise stood solely on Akshay Kumar’s strong shoulders. Let alone act, she can’t even lose her accent to play a born-and-raised Indian without having a non-Indian parent or education to account for it. And that’s it for Katrina Kaif’s Career.
You might argue, awards aren’t what they used to be, she is an entertainer too, there are greater issues that demand our attention, who even takes this seriously, right? Wrong.
Smita Patil with Shabana Azmi and Ila Arun In Mandi (1983). filmexpressions
Cinema is much greater than the 100-crore-rakers that Miss Kaif is a part of. Like every other art form, it is the expression of the zeitgeist of a generation. In the right hands, it is a powerful agent of change. Otherwise, it becomes a mass-production of formulaic movies which add no value to society, but which we pay for regardless, sending out the message that the audience will gulp down any nonsense that is served to them.
And then we lament about our films not winning Oscars.
Don’t get us wrong. We don’t worship the Academy Awards. Neither do we have anything against crowd-pulling entertainers. Or against Miss Kaif.
The problem is when her “contribution” to cinema is considered worthy of being recognised with an award that carried the name of probably one of the greatest actresses Hindi cinema has ever witnessed, desecrating her memory and telling us that all you need to do to win a prestigious award, is just stick around long enough.
The Facebook page Sabki Maa-Cinema aptly sums up the angst of all cinephiles with this post.
May better sense prevail!
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