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Longing For Leonardo

06/03/2016 8:39 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio dancing in a scene from the film 'Titanic', 1997. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

The year was 1997 and I was in middle school. My sister, four years older than me, screeched excitedly to our father, "There's a film on the Titanic showing. I really want to watch it. Can we please go, please?" My father was visibly surprised at Didi's pleading. After all, we were bhodro (genteel) children of a Bangali bhodro lok. We weren't supposed to ask to go to the movies. If we did, the initiative had to come from the parents. But as a lover of history, he agreed, reminding us, "If it wasn't about the great ship that sank, I would have surely said no."

And just like that, all four of us, including our quizzical mother, went to see the night show of a film that was making news for being a huge blockbuster overseas. We went to Delhi's newly opened PVR Anupam multiplex, another first for us. As the movie progressed, our hearts raced. Leonardo DiCaprio had done to our teenage hearts what typically puberty does to the human body. We were amazed at the then 20-something Leo's good looks, his ability to take the girl out of the rich man's grasp and, when the end came, we were shattered by his death. It was as if a real person had lost his life before us.

Didi started cutting out any news item she found on him, often telling me lies like Kate Winslet and Leo would soon get married, breaking my tiny heart...

The madness started thereafter. Didi started cutting out any news item she found on him, often telling me lies like Kate Winslet and Leo would soon get married, breaking my tiny heart each time. In school, I found a similar obsession taking hold of many of my friends. It didn't help that I studied in an all girls' school. There was one junior who started calling herself Shyamashree DiCaprio (not her real first name!). "You all can love him but I will marry him," she told us seriously enough, sending the other girls into a rage.

Back home, Didi started visiting Nehru Place to buy posters of Leo and pasted two huge ones in our tiny room, much to Ma's despair. We read up everything about him that we could in a pre-internet era, from how he got his name to his earlier films, including the genius What's eating Gilbert Grape. So imagine our disappointment when in 1998, Kate Winslet was nominated in the best actress category at the Oscars for her role in Titanic but Leo wasn't. We sat to watch the award ceremony with much indignation. "Not even a nomination, tch. These guys don't know talent," Didi said. Much later in life, she agreed she had meant beauty, not talent.

"Not even a nomination, tch. These guys don't know talent," Didi said. Much later in life, she agreed she had meant beauty, not talent.

But the good-looking young boy slowly transformed into something our adolescent minds hadn't fathomed. However, soon after, our adult minds did. A brilliant actor, DiCaprio went on to make one great film after another, teaming up with giants of moviedom like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott. His movies left a mark purely for his acting prowess--as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, Jay Gatsby in the not-so-great The Great Gatsby or Billy Costigan in The Departed, Leo had become a Hollywood A-lister and the world knew it.

What continued to remain a mystery was how he never won that coveted Oscar. Yes, he kept getting nominated every other year, but the Academy continued to pick someone else over him, even as his Titanic darling and real life buddy Winslet went on to win an Oscar for her role in The Reader in 2008.

By now, most of his teenage fans had grown up but that one 'young' itch remained; why wasn't our Boy Wonder winning that golden statuette? Where was our sense of judgment (as an audience member and movie lover) going wrong? In 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street released and blew us away. The internet was full of stories on how Leo was at his creative peak and, yet, there was no pleasing the jury. What didn't help our argument was Eddie Redmayne with his brilliant portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

[When he finally won the trophy, the believers rejoiced... in our minds, each of us had won that award. The itch had been put to rest.

The internet industry that has been running on 'Leo and his Oscar luck' memes for the past couple of years turned angry to funny to plain tired. By the time The Revenant released, each person who had crushed on Leo once and held him in high artistic stead now, had started to feel like a failure. #TeamLeo was, simply put, clinically depressed. Many big but righteous fans claimed if he won the Oscar this time, it would be like a consolation.

And yet, when he finally won the trophy, the believers rejoiced. Some laughed, some cried, some pumped their fists and some calmly moved on. But in our minds, each of us had won that award. The itch had been put to rest.

As for my Didi, she WhatsApped me, "Hey, he won an Oscar. I told you he was good. Just that they didn't know it."

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