Published in the Hindu Metroplus in February 2012.
This year will mark the first time I won’t be watching a telecast of two of the biggest nights in music and film – the Grammys, which took place on February 12 and the Oscars, which will happen on February 26.
It made me realise perhaps they don’t influence my tastes in film and music any more. I also realised it probably doesn’t dictate others’ sway on which artists they should be listening to or which films they should be watching.
The Grammys command a different kind of respect compared to the Academy awards. The former is all-engrossed in promoting those artists who are already popular, ruling the global top 40 charts, including India. Whereas the Oscars honour films and the creative minds behind them, nominating films that get commercial popularity only after the coveted “Oscar nod”.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences picks Grammy nominees and winners; this year saw most awards going to the already widely-acknowledged competence of Adele, the Foo Fighters and Kanye West. Another rising star that the Grammys surprisingly honoured was dubstep artist Sonny Moore, who performs under the title Skrillex. Moore won three Grammys for Best Dance/Electronica album, best Dance recording, and Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical.
I use the word ‘surprisingly’ because the Grammys are known to be quite predictable, and have never taken too many chances with new, edgy genres. For example, the nominees for best Hard Rock/Metal performance included the likes of Sum 41, Dream Theater, Mastodon and Megadeth. Any metal fan will tell you most of these bands aren’t on their playlists.
To return to Skrillex, who’s mashed up electronica and dance music has gained approval from the Grammys, it seems to say that even dubstep has gained a nod from the mainstream. Aditya Ashok, who composes drum and bass – a genre that has risen in popularity along with dubstep – says, “I feel the Grammys are about Popularity & Chart Toppers, and we all know how big dubstep is becoming in the mainstream music scene. I’m just glad that a really talented & passionate producer such as Sonny won it.”
“If winning the Grammys gave him a feeling of accomplishment then great, because he definitely deserves to feel that way, even though I’m pretty sure he already feels that times ten after every show he plays,” he adds.
Aditya, who performs and creates music under the name ‘Ox7gen’, justifies his attitude towards the Grammys with his distance from the mainstream: “I stopped watching and caring about the Grammys in 2006. There was no particular event, just started to listen to a lot more non-mainstream music so it became a little irrelevant for me personally.”
Indian audiences, however, don’t necessarily tend to have the same reaction when it comes to the Oscars. Gautham Menon, who has been directing and producing Tamil, Hindi and Telugu films, follows the nominated films closely every year. Menon believes the average Indian film-goer will only take a keen interest in the Oscars when an Indian film, subject or director is involved. He points to AR Rahman’s victory with Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.
As far as relevance goes, Menon says: “There’s nothing at all. It’s just a show we like to watch.”
Some of the Oscar-nominated films have a knack of being released in India much later than the world over – anywhere between a month and half a year later than its original release date – while others are never released in the country. Menon points to ‘The Artist’, a film billed to have the highest chances of Oscar glory: “No distributor would pick up and choose to show a film like The Artist in Indian theatres. It wouldn’t work here at all.”
One way Indian film buffs find their way around late releases is by simply downloading and watching the films. Indeed, most Indian film buffs would own up to this habit, regardless of whether they are watching films nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTAs or the Oscars.
There is some clarity to the pattern, though – Grammys make commercial artists even more commercial, with the exception of niche genre categories. “I’ve never listened to an artist and felt like they should get a Grammy,” Aditya says.
He adds: “The Grammys have always recognized what is already pretty big at that time. It definitely boosts a trend, but a lot of times that is not necessarily a good thing. A lot of music thrives in the shadows & has a certain appeal because it lives in the underground. It is almost a little selfish but a lot of people – including me to some extent – would be pretty happy if the Grammys stick to what they are doing now and leave the fringe alone.”
The Oscars, however, push global audiences to watch films that they think deserve a good amount of commercial success – mostly because of their aesthetic value – with a few exceptions, of course. After all, that is what the Golden statuette actually signifies: the best of both worlds in cinema.