In the civilized world, awards are supposed to facilitate the most outstanding actors, writers, filmmakers and technicians out of the many that give their best to the filmdom. There was a time when Academy Awards (in America), BAFTA (in England) and a couple more were the only ones that were taken seriously by the film people as they usually rewarded the right people. Even in Pakistan, the prestigious Nigar Awards were considered the trophy to acquire and that’s one of the reasons why Ilyas Rashidi, the brain behind the awards, discontinued them when the film industry nosedived at the turn of the century.
It was the same Nigar Awards that tried to make a comeback earlier this year, but fell flat due to numerous controversies including going to the audience for nominations instead of the other way round and favoring those who didn’t deserve it at all. Two other award ceremonies were boycotted by two of the most prominent leading ladies of our film industry because they didn’t have faith in the jury and rightly so. The awards went to those who were least expected to win, and that gave rise to the million dollar question: Are awards really a waste of time or worth it?
Why are awards important?
Awards usually measure how the filmmaker has fared in the last 12 months. Also, internationally nearly every actor tries to give their very best as he or she believes in the system, rather than their star power.
On the other hand in Pakistan, where the film industry is still in a reviving mode, stars are chosen over deserving candidates and usually, the ones with the most votes (brand affiliation is also considered) emerges as the winner. The jury is asked to shortlist the nominees, instead of finalizing the winners. Rather, viewers choose winners for different categories. The jury chooses the winner for the Jury Choice category only, which is off course, the most prestigious award for each event. There is hardly any regard for the homework done by the artist, the filmmaker and the writer and they usually go back empty handed in the hope of winning some other day.
As for brand affiliation, even the jury of one of the biggest awards in the country was stunned when the brand ambassador of their title sponsor was preferred over two reigning superstars of Pakistan, both in films and TV categories. No wonder the two actresses decided to boycott (one publicly, one not publicly) the event as a protest.
Are award ceremonies just another glorified function?
It is very hard to differentiate between the many ‘award ceremonies’ that happen in Pakistan every now and then. Channels are bashed for their biasedness in such awards and when some of them try to be different, others don’t submit their films. For instance, Hum TV did not submit its film, Bin Roye for the 2nd ARY Awards last year as the filmmakers were confused about the merits and demerits of the Awards. But as it turned out, Geo Films’ Moor bagged as many as four awards including Best Villain and Best Background Score in the said event, which was a big achievement. Until and unless there is unity amongst the TV channels and fair play when adjudging the winners, there can’t be a proper awards ceremony where losers will be happy for winners, the jury will have the final say, and the news of the victory will be shared with and broadcasted by all media outlets, not just the one that backed the awards.
How important are awards in reviving the film industry?
Awards could have played an important part in reviving the film industry in Pakistan, but since there weren’t many films being produced, there weren’t many awards. Gone are the days when actors and filmmakers didn’t care about trophies; now trophies ARE the measure of their success. It’s the wins, the acceptance speeches that drive filmmakers to go ahead and take risks, unearth new faces and deliver projects that get the approval of first, the audience and second, the jury.
In an ideal world (as we witness in international award programs), even a not-so-successful film with outstanding performance gets rewarded but in our country, we only nominate the successful ones. Even if a flop film does get nominated, it will be in a category that will make you laugh out hard (writer Pervaiz Kaleem for Blind Love?!).
No appreciation? Yes, problem.
ARY Films’ Ho Mann Jahan had a soundtrack to die for yet most of the songs weren’t nominated for the Best Song category at the Lux Style Awards. To this director Asim Reza reacted furious when the nominations came out earlier this year and that’s how film people react generally in Pakistan, especially those with any clout. They don’t trust the juries and even raise fingers on their ability to judge, which shouldn’t be the case. While the members of the jury should always be ready to defend their action, the filmmakers must also realize that there can be just one winner. A ‘Film category’ in any ‘Style Awards’ or ‘TV Awards’ isn’t the answer to the prayers of the film industry and its people should not settle for anything less than Film Awards, as Films are much bigger than Fashion and TV in the country.
And then there are the cinema owners and distributors, the last people who could benefit from any awards. There are no awards for them and there is still time before the cinema business pays off. They release films right, left and center in the hope that one of them might turn out to be an award-winning one. Award ceremonies don’t reward them and they are truly the unsung heroes of our cinema industry. Eventually, what do they do to get rewarded? They form a film production company and produce films, which can be argued as a good step, but definitely not the right one; you can’t have a plumber do the work of a carpenter just because it pays more.
All in all, the system needs to upgrade itself if it wants to stay alive, otherwise in the future, blog websites will be presenting their own awards (some actually are) and the TV channel – distributor – brand dominion will fade away.