Every year the world’s largest movie industry sends its official nominations to the awards celebrating the achievements of it’s more popular and affluent transoceanic cousin, but not without some associated hype and the occasional controversy. This year it is Amol Palekar’s Paheli – a love story of a ghost and a woman. But many beg to differ. They say Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black – a story inspired by the life of Helen Keller, was by far the best movie of the year and therefore it should have been the obvious nominee.

But, I too beg to differ. Though not entirely in support for Paheli, I can’t digest the Black argument. When Black was released there were accolades all over. I waited for some time for the rave reviews to disappear and made it to the theatre. When I exited, I didn’t feel that I had just witnessed the makeover of Indian cinema. It was only a relatively well-made film with a dark and damp look. The much appreciated acting seemed a little overboard. Histrionics is not equivalent to good acting. And all films sans songs are not necessarily good. It was just another hatke movie, but without the ability to really hata de.

Paheli (and its makers) had no revolutionary airs about them. In the classical Indian story telling style it narrated what it had to say. Songs, dance, emotion, drama, love, pain, betrayal, humour all the ingredients were present. But it was not a masala movie. Nicely executed, this movie is what Indian cinema is all about rather than attempting to ape a style with which the Academy members are more familiar.

The story of Paheli has been told before on celluloid and neither is Black anything new. A strikingly similar film made it to the Oscars some three decades ago. When the Aishwariya Rai starrer Jeans can be India’s representative, why not Paheli?

Can’t we have some connection between the National Award winners and nominations for international awards? After all the National Awards supposedly recognises the best of Indian cinema.

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