For me Awards and their corresponding events are at best entertaining events and at worse they are corruptive, not necessarily with regards to who is given what award but on their very structure itself. To start with filmmaking is a tremendous team effort and the Director can be the only person to know who in the team is contributing what, as their work is being benchmarked against his vision and requirements. The only exception to this will be songs as they can stand alone as separate of works of art in the album. So it’s highly possible that a very capable technician does fantastic work and the Director can screw it up by using it in the wrong context and if a technician does bad work it can be easily covered by the overall effect. In both the cases only the Director will know and not even the team members can know as they cannot independently have an idea of how good or how bad the Director was thinking to start with.
The irony for me is that after all the euphoria Indians had on Resul Pookutty winning an Oscar it does not even occur to them to ask what else he had done before this. They would have seen nearly 50 odd films of his previous work over the years ranging from good, bad and ugly but the point is that his sound designing in them went unnoticed. Now that the media screams that he has got an Oscar everybody is talking about sound design.
Does any of the guys who are jumping with joy about Oscar triumphs know or care who got the sound design award at the Oscars last year or all the years before that or for that matter in our own desi awards? Then what’s all this sound about? It’s nothing to do with Resul’s contribution and my proof of that is I have not heard or met a single person who saw Slumdog and mentioned sound in particular until the time the Golden Globe gave him an award and from then on everybody sounds off on sound design without even having a faintest idea of what it is.
There is a live effects track, a dialogue track, an atmospheric track and the background score track of which only a part is due to sound designer. All of these are made to come together by the final mixing engineer to create the desired effect sometimes in consultation with the Director and sometimes without. Any person who hears the final output of the mixed track has no way of knowing whose contribution to what degree is creating the desired effect. The only person who knows that will be the final mixing engineer who will be deciding what to keep, what to throw out and at what levels they have to be played.
The attempt of mine here is not to undermine Resul’s work but it is to make one understand that Resul can do better work which easily can go unnoticed and lesser work can create an impact due to reasons unrelated to work.
Coming to actor’s performances if the comparison for instance is between Aamir for X role and Abhishek for Y role and SRK for Z role, my question is what if SRK plays Y role, Aamir plays Z and Abhishek X? How can one know whether they would have done better than the other one or not? So are they giving awards to actors or characters? If it’s characters then they are written by writers and how the effect of a character comes about is dependant on a variety of factors, such as the screenplay, the co-actors performance, the editing, direction etc and under no stretch of imagination can that credit be given to the actor alone. Unlike the Stage the only true judgment of cinematic acting can be done between the start and the cut of a shot. It is because in this time period alone the actor is drawing up an emotion on cue and releasing it when the director says ‘cut’. So how much he elevated the character from the director’s vision, only the director can know and then it’s also highly possible that same performance can be completely screwed up by the director on the editing table or if it is wrongly placed in the screenplay or the impact also can be lessened by a ineffective reaction of a co-actor. So a number of people’s talents and their complex interweaving results in the sum total effect of a film moment or the film itself and there is no way for an outside body irrespective of their expertise to analyze and determine the individual credits.
I have always maintained that my successful films are due to my team and my failures are due to me alone. The reason for that is that each and every actor and technician are contributing their work and talent as per my vision and in many cases they enhance it far greater than what I had expected. But if I use them wrongly the film does not work. But when it works and I am being praised I know in my heart which individuals specifically have lifted a particular moment in the film or the whole film itself.
So in short, the success of a film is due to what contribution the actors and technicians gave in addition to what I expected of them and that is why it belongs to them and the failure of their equally great contribution belongs to me as I failed in channelizing it to its intended destination.
It has to be realized that in the making of a film the technicians and actors are working towards satisfying the director, and the director is working towards satisfying the audience. So only by the sheer understanding of the mechanics I have of what goes into the making of a film, I find the concept of an outside body giving Awards ridiculous.