Awards are beautiful, shiny things that dispel your insecurities and instil you with the reassurance that you’re doing all right, after all. What of that moment just before your name gets announced to the world — that second when you’ve shut out the rest of the world and are hoping, desperately praying even, that the next word that comes out of the announcer’s lips is your name… Unless, of course, we are talking about Tamil cinema award functions, where the majority of celebrities attend an ‘awards night’ only if they’re promised an award.
This is quite a stark contrast from, say, the Academy Awards where the winners’ names are kept a secret until they’re announced. That explains all the nervousness, all the happiness, all the tears. BBC even did a documentary about the work that goes into keeping the names secret. No scope for such documentaries here; only exposés. This is why if you watch carefully enough, you won’t see the celebrity’s eyes widen in astonishment when their name is announced. The expression is more of relief.
As a singer quipped while we were on our way to an awards venue recently, “Of course, I know I’m winning an award. Why else am I going to come all the way? It’s not just me. Everybody knows.”
Actress Vidyullekha Raman — seen in films such as Neethane En Ponvasantham and the recent VSOP — was in for a surprise a few years earlier when she was new to the ways of Tamil cinema and attended an awards function as a nominee. She took her seat at a table with a few other popular names — only she didn’t know that they had all already bargained for themselves an award each. “I was the only nominee there. All the others were winners,” she says. “Now, I understand how the system works. Celebrities refuse to come unless they know they’ve won.” If you and I were any smarter when we were in school, we would’ve asked our PT master to guarantee prizes even before competing in competitions. Well, smarter… and a tad unethical.
During an interview with a top editor recently, I noted that a popular award that was on display at his room was broken. Naturally, I asked him about it, and learned that on a particularly frustrating evening, he had sent the award to meet with his living room wall. His grievance was that editors are generally neglected at awards functions.
And in the conversation that ensued, we figured out why organisers generally don’t care about them. You see, actors and actresses draw in the crowds, bring the sponsors, and sell the tickets. They perform on stage too. Singers too are always asked to sing a line or two, which adds to the overall entertainment. What can these poor editors do on stage, apart from looking a bit bemused and thanking the director? How was this going to rake in the TRPs?
You can almost imagine the conversation between an awards function organiser and an actor.
Organiser: “We are pleased to invite you to…”
Actor: “Which award?”
Organiser: “Best Supporting Actor, sir. And we’ll also ensure…”
Actor: “What about Best Actor?”
Organiser: “We’ll try for next year sir.”
Actor: “Next year, definitely, okay?”
When this actor eventually receives his award on TV, you’ll be shown edited clips of the audience cheering like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll have a random fan from a middle-class household, eyes glued to the television, jumping up in excitement and proclaiming to his family, “I told you! I knew he would win!” Oh, poor little fan. If only you knew that your hero knew well before you did. That’s why he came in the first place.