Sarmad Khoosat and Nimra Bucha in Manto. Courtesy: A & B Productions
Pakistani award shows are deliciously seasoned with all the necessary ingredients of a blockbuster commercial entertainer -- bizarre dance performances, a handful of crass jokes and staged emotional outbursts.
Last month, the nominations for one of the oldest award shows in Pakistan were announced. As I went through the list of nominations, I found myself questioning the credibility of an event where two of the nominations in the best actress category were for performances in two of the most preposterous comedies of 2015.
There is zero worth attached to an event that nominates half a dozen people for every category, especially given that just over a dozen films released last year.
It's disheartening to see a rejuvenating film industry's award shows teetering on the brink of collapse. There is absolutely zero worth attached to an event that nominates half a dozen people for every category, especially given that just over a dozen films released last year.
Not more the merrier
How can such events be turned into something that the industry seriously looks forward to? How can the celebrities be enticed to attend these events without being paid or being promised an award? Let's also just acknowledge that it's really hard to get things on the right track when there are so many awards doing the rounds. Does anyone even remember who won an ARY Film Award for Best Actor last year? Or the HUM Award for Best Actress? I am sure no one does because there are so many awards for an emerging film industry that hardly produces a dozen films per year.
At this juncture, nobody is aware of the secret voting process to determine the winner... no one is even aware of the method of choosing nominees.
Pakistani awards are desperate to ape their Bollywood counterparts, even though some stars on the other side of the border (Aamir Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Ajay Devgn, for example) have seen sense and are boycotting these gratuitous ceremonies.
Categories need filtering
In the ARY Film Awards this year, there were three categories that mean to reward the best film of the year: Best Film (Viewers Choice), Best Film (Jury) and Best Independent Film. Basically, there is a chance for three films to win an award for essentially the same thing. Why can't we filter it down to Best Film only? Electing a qualified committee to cast votes for each category will help a lot. It's simply ludicrous to reward multiple people for the same category.
At this juncture, nobody is aware of the secret voting process to determine the winner. Let's keep that aside, no one is even aware of the method of choosing nominees for each category. Who are the voters? For some reasons, we are made to believe that some jury members made their picks for all the categories except the Viewers' Choice category, which was determined by public votes. This argument is as contrived as last year's self-proclaimed blockbuster Bin Roye, starring the gorgeous Mahira Khan.
Bagging an award should make the winners feel like they have really earned something. If not, the rightful place for such laurels will be in the bathroom.
The best solution is to form a committee - comprising distinguished actors, directors and writers from within the industry - to ensure transparency in the entire process.
If we instituted a framework of this stature, then we could be confident that performers like Saba Qamar or Nimra Bucha would never be passed over for the Best Actress award. This time around, though, Bucha won a nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Female), while Qamar was overlooked entirely.
Saba Qamar as Madam Noor Jehan in Manto. Courtesy: A & B Productions
For this reason, I believe the length of the role should not matter while selecting an artist for a particular category. Nicole Kidman's Virginia Woolf in The Hours got her an Oscar in the Best Actor (Female) category even though she did not have so much screen time. Why did that happen? It merely happened because Kidman crept into Woolf's skin so deftly that it forced the Academy to recognize her talent.
It is important to note that having just one award for each category will have all the nominees (no matter how lengthy their role) and their supporters really rooting for a win. It would also be a good idea to stop informing people they've won beforehand just for their presence on the red carpet. Bagging an award should make the winners feel like they have really earned something. If not, the rightful place for such laurels will be in the bathroom.
Greedy channels and TRPs
Let's be honest, we must accept that no one takes Pakistani film awards seriously . Everyone knows they are a farce. It is time that the film industry joins hands to establish at least one worthy award ceremony to honour the most evolved films of the year.
It is time that the film industry joins hands to establish at least one worthy award ceremony to honour the most evolved films of the year.
The greedy TV channels must realise that rewarding art is not tantamount to garnering greater viewership. They keep showing gyrating stars on their channels for weeks to tease the hell out of a common man before the final telecast. Sorry, but it is just another cheap gimmick to get more advertising. Do we even need them? We must also accept that it is essential for the TV channels to get big stars to the stage in order to get big sponsorships. But we need to revamp this model.
Why can't we call big stars on the stage as presenters to briefly introduce the nominated films, actors and actresses in the top categories?
Doing things the right way
Doing away with the dance performances, selecting a worthy committee to make the awards selection process more transparent and introducing a sense of ownership among the local industry members will foster a culture of art appreciation.
A lot of celebrities will prefer not to come even if they are nominated, but as soon as the first brick of credibility will be laid they will start showing up soon enough. Since our industry is in the revival phase, it will be easier to transform the mindsets of celebrities. The scenario will not change overnight, but it will happen one day. Our artists will thrive in a milieu where only real talent matters.
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