The 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards were held in Los Angeles this morning, and were trending in India hours after the ceremony aired on TV. That wasn’t just because of how gorgeous Priyanka Chopra was looking, but because of one acceptance speech – Meryl Streep taking on Donald Trump and his extremely divisive presidential campaign. Streep was brave, articulate, and unflinching in her take-down of the man who is set to become the next US president.
Almost everyone, except for Trump, was awestruck by how she chose this platform to talk about an issue that affects every American citizen. Back home, people had different concerns.
This is, however, not the first time a leading Hollywood actor has used an awards show platform to talk about larger issues like race and gender equality. But it makes one wonder, why have we never seen that happen in Bollywood?
Bollywood awards shows are not exactly known for their credibility, and not a single person in India, including the stars who win these awards every year, will deny that.
Everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan has questioned their authenticity, and it’s the industry’s worst-kept secret that the awards are either given to the biggest stars (not the best actors) or the people who’ve agreed to perform at the event. These shows are basically four-hour-long TV specials and, even then, barely anything the viewers watch on TV is real.
No actor wants to sit in the audience for four hours, so they arrive at their convenience, perform their act, collect their award, and leave. If they sit in the audience for 10 minutes, the cameraman captures their different moods, and uses them sparingly throughout the show.
So, every time you see Rekha on stage and the camera cuts to Amitabh Bachchan, take it with a pinch of salt. It might not have happened. Which is why, when an actor starts crying after winning a coveted award, it’s hard not to roll your eyes.
Bollywood has always carried a chip on its shoulder about being compared to Hollywood. They hate their name, they hate it when someone gets too excited about an Oscar nomination, and they hate it when their movie is denied an Oscar nomination.
But it cannot be denied that Hollywood does a few things better than us. The primary Hollywood awards shows – the Academy Awards, the Emmys, The Golden Globes, the Grammys, and the Tonys – are smart, crisp, and socially and politically aware.
Even when the Oscars were criticized for snubbing people of colour last year, the host, Chris Rock, dealt with it head-on in his monologue.
The hosts of our awards shows, on the other hand, are either busy making self-deprecating jokes about the industry or performing sketches they’d rather not be reminded about.
But, of course, we cannot place the blame for this on the industry alone. First, we expect our actors to be role models, and when they so much as express a politically-charged opinion, we skewer them.
The political scenario of our country is wildly different from the US. In a country where you can be shamed and maligned for making a joke on Snapchat, or abused relentlessly on Twitter for making an ‘anti-national’ remark, why would you want to take a stand at a function where you’re supposed to be awarded and lauded for your achievements?
Wanting our awards shows to be even a fraction as socially relevant as Hollywood’s seems like a Utopian concept right now, except… it shouldn’t. Why is the idea of an influential person using a popular platform to draw attention to a social or political cause be a Utopian concept for a democracy?
Our actors are smart, well-informed tax-paying citizens. If they can take a stand for what they believe in in interviews and on Twitter, they shouldn’t be scared or hesitant to do the same at an awards show. At least that way we won’t be fed the same insipid drivel year after year.
But for that to happen, a lot of things will have to change. We’ll have to be more receptive to ideas that don’t resemble our own, the leaders of our country will have to learn the real meaning of democracy and crush the self-appointed guardians of the nation poking their nose everywhere, and Bollywood will have to keep their differences aside. As an industry, it’s one of the most powerful and power-hungry in the country, so if they decide to stand behind their own, they have enough influence to change the way things work.