Made-by-India cinema gets first Oscars

Indian cinema first knocked at the door of the Academy Awards in 1958 with director Mehboob Khan’s seminal work, Mother India.

Published: 14th March 2023 09:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th March 2023 09:41 AM   |  A+A-

M M Keeravaani (right) and Chandrabose accept the award for Best Original Song for Naatu Naatu from RRR at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday | AP

Express News Service

Indian cinema first knocked at the door of the Academy Awards in 1958 with director Mehboob Khan’s seminal work, Mother India. Since then, this quest has been an obsession almost, with films like Salaam Bombay and Lagaan going agonisingly close. Of course, our artists like Bhanu Athaiya (Gandhi), A R Rahman, Gulzar, and Resul Pookutty (Slumdog Millionaire), have all won the Oscars, but those were all films made in India, but not by India. And now, finally, a documentary called The Elephant Whisperers and the song Naatu Naatu from RRR have made the world turn in our direction.

Naatu Naatu started as a Telugu song, became an Indian phenomenon and then a worldwide rage, gaining momentum in the lead-up to the Oscars, where it has won the ‘Best Original Song’ award, defeating the likes of Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. Accepting the award, composer MM Keeravaani said, “There was only one vision in my mind, Rajamouli’s mind, and my family’s mind too. RRR has to be the pride of every Indian and must put me on top of the world.” It was also a lovely touch to see Deepika Padukone introducing the Naatu Naatu performance at the Oscars and to see singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava perform it.

While the win of Naatu Naatu was a first for Indian cinema, producer Guneet Monga has cemented India’s place as an important force in the Documentary category by winning her second Academy Award for The Elephant Whisperers. She previously won the same award for Period. End of Sentence (2019). Guneeth shared the award with Kartiki Gonzalves, the director of The Elephant Whisperers, and said, “I stand here to speak about the sacred bond between us and the natural world. For respect of the indigenous community and empathy towards other living beings and finally for co-existence.” What a beautiful coincidence that the triumph should come on National Elephants’ Day! 

Asia, the big winner, at 95th Academy Awards

In a day of success for the Indian contingent, a downer was the loss of Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes in the Best Documentary Feature. The Russian documentary, Navalny, took home the award, for a film that has much political importance.

Oscars 2023 can be thought of as a year of representation, with Everything Everywhere All At Once winning a whopping seven awards out of its 11 nominations. It won many major awards at the ceremony, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huay Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert), Best Editor (Paul Rogers), and Best Original Screenplay (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert). The emotions ran high as every award recipient spoke warmly about the importance of family, heritage and representation.

Michelle delivered the line of the night, when she said, “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.” After a rather controversial 2022 ceremony, this year was wholesome and without any real blemishes. It was a night when every speech and every award led to heightened emotions and freeflowing tears. If Ke Huay Quan’s ‘Mom, I’ve won an Oscar’ left people in tears, Brendan Fraser’s emotional response to his Best Actor win for The Whale fetched much applause too. The Darren Aronofsky directorial also won the Best Makeup and Hairstyling award for being able to turn the genial, handsome Brendan Fraser into a morbidly obese recluse.

Apart from the overwhelming love for Everything Everywhere All At Once, it was a day when the German film, All Quiet on the Western Front, made history too by taking home the awards for Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. Top Gun: Maverick, credited with being the film that brought back Hollywood audiences to the theatres, won a solitary award in the Best Sound category.

Another highlight of the 95th Academy Awards was Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio winning the Best Animated Film, and his passionate plea for cinema to take animation seriously. Sarah Polley won the Best Adapted Screenplay for Women Talking, and Ruth E Carter won a record-making second Oscar for her work in the Black Panther films. She won Best Costume for Wakanda Forever and became the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars in any category.

There were certain snubs too, as always. Angela Basset missed out on a Best Supporting Actress win, and so did Cate Blanchett and John Williams losing in the Best Actor and Best Original Score categories, respectively. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was that much-anticipated nominations like The Banshees of Insherin, Tar, The Fabelmans, and Elvis did not win even a single award at the Academy Awards. Where India will go from here on the global stage is anybody’s guess, but what today’s Indian nominees and winners have done is show dreams do come true sometimes.


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