| ROLE PLAY: Heath Ledger
Poor man’s Oscars For Indians, it is painful, of course, that Paheli was not nominated for an Oscar but its rejection was not really surprising. Though we like to point out to anyone who will listen that we have the biggest film industry in the world, year in, year out, Indian films fail to make any kind of impact in Los Angeles.
When Paheli failed to be shortlisted for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), the British equivalent of the Oscars, there was very little chance it would be nominated in Los Angeles. The BAFTA nominations give a good idea of which films are in favour.
For the Oscar best foreign films shortlist, nominations submitted usually by over 50 countries (including India) are whittled down to five. This year, the nominations are: Don’t Tell from Italy; Joyeux No' from France; Paradise Now from Palestine; Sophie Scholl-The Final Days from Germany; and Tsotsi from South Africa.
Two on this shortlist ' Joyeux No' and Tsotsi ' also appear among the BAFTA nominations.
In other categories the similarities are even more striking, for BAFTA attempts to please the Americans by anticipating what they are thinking.
For Best Film, the BAFTA shortlist includes Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; and The Constant Gardener.
Cut to the Oscars: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Munich.
For Best Actor, BAFTA has shortlisted the following: David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck; Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain; Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line; Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote; and Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener. And lo and behold, the Oscar shortlist in this category has the first four.
What I find remarkable is that Capote has not even been released in the UK.
The only explanation is that BAFTA exists not so much to promote the UK film industry but to ensure that British actors, directors, writers and technicians get as much work as possible in Hollywood. This is why most years the BAFTA ceremony is a poor man’s Oscars, with the organisers in London grateful to Hollywood stars who consent to turn up.
I am not saying that Paheli was or wasn’t the appropriate Indian entry ' just that there is no room for Bollywood in the BAFTA-Oscars nexus. Meanwhile, for Indian award ceremonies to be taken seriously at an international level, we need to have only one ' and we should really stop distributing lifetime achievement awards to elderly actors merely for turning up.
| MAN OF STEEL: Laxmi Mittal
Mittal mania The bird flu scare in Europe is far from over but press reports suggest that the European Union is facing a danger altogether more menacing ' Mittal mania.
Without warning, a migratory father and son have been spotted flying into Paris, Luxembourg and Brussels. Seriously, though, Lakshmi Mittal’s bid for the rival steel firm, Arcelor, has provoked massive interest in the man. Almost every major media outlet in Europe has had a go at trying to profile the 55-year-old Indian steel tycoon.
A French journalist in London, who, like me, attended Mittal’s UK press conference (held at the headquarters of BAFTA at 195, Piccadilly), tells me his equivalent Paris performance drew more journalists than any similar event had done for years.
“The Paris press conference took place in the Pavillon Gabriel, near the famous Champs-Elys'es, a venue often used by companies when they present strategies to investors or journalists,” the journalist tells me. “The press conference was packed with journalists and photographers, as if they were at the Cannes film festival. There’s been a great deal of interest. And I know that many journalists have been impressed by the charm of Mr Mittal. His son (Aditya) has also captured the audience, because ‘he looks like a teenager, but he is as calm as an experienced leader’.”
I suspect Mittal, who is by nature a shy man, is starting to enjoy being the centre of press attention. He is also getting good at answering questions in a confident and relaxed manner. He may be mean when it comes to donating to British Indian causes but when it comes to steel, this former Calcutta boy knows his stuff.
The French management at Arcelor are depicting the possible Mittal takeover as the end of civilisation as they know it. The English wouldn’t be unhappy if Mittal did win. This is because the English are still fighting the 100 Years’ War. Of late, the British media have started claiming Mittal as a “British steel tycoon”.
|Up in arms: Nawaz Sharif launches anti-Musharraf tirade in London
Sharif ‘admi’ Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister of Pakistan, has been admitted to the UK to be with his son, Hassan, 28, who is seriously ill with an undisclosed illness.
n Saudi Arabia, where Mr Sharif has been living in exile since 2000, he is not allowed to give political interviews. In Britain, Mr Sharif, mobbed by over-enthusiastic supporters, immediately launched a tirade against General Pervez Musharraf.
The circumstances in which the plane carrying Musharraf was refused permission to land by Mr Sharif in 1999 are murky. After the prime minister was toppled in an army coup, Musharraf could have had Mr Sharif hanged, as Gen Zia did with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but instead exiled him to Saudi Arabia in 2000.
Mr Sharif’s efforts to present himself now as the acceptable face of Pakistani democracy may not be entirely convincing but one of his endearing qualities is that he does genuinely love cricket. In the past, when Pakistan did well, he claimed the credit. When he last came to the UK as prime minister, I went to see Mr Sharif. He said he had just broken off from watching Pakistan bowl at Lord’s.
These figures may not be absolutely accurate but they give a sense of what the then Pakistan prime minister said: “When I arrived at the ground England were going strong at 165 for no loss. Thanks to me, when I left, England were 202 for six.” He was joking, of course, but not 100 per cent. Such a man will go far ' perhaps all the way back to Saudi Arabia.
|WORD OF HONOUR: Hanif Kureishi
An astonishing piece of good journalism was to be found last week in The Independent, which carried a profile of “The Dirty Harry of Bombay” by Justin Huggler.
I am tempted to keep this gripping account of “Bombay’s encounter specialist” ' “Sub-inspector Daya Nayak killed 83 men in just four years” ' as an example of the best of British journalism.
Such a piece couldn’t be written in Britain. For shooting dead just one man ' the innocent Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes ' at the height of the terrorist outrages last summer, Scotland Yard officers are being hauled over burning coals.
The Arab world, angry with the Danes for publishing cartoons of the Prophet, is giving up Danish goods. The boycott may hit Danish pastries, a British wit has predicted.
When Britain had a trade row with France, the London-based writer Hanif Kureishi loyally announced the ultimate sacrifice: “I’m giving up French women.”