February 28, 2007

Finally you talkin' to me!

So Martin Scorsese finally got his Oscar. What can I say about Scorsese not winning the Oscar that you might have not read anywhere else- the odyssey began twenty-six years ago and after seven snubs, the naked golden guy makes reaches Scorsese’s mantelpiece.

I was wondering should an award be given to someone when the work in consideration is not really that good? Three years ago, when I used to write for a newspaper, on the Oscar eve I wrote an article about Scorsese. He was in the running for statuette for Gangs of New York, which according to me isn’t one of his better films; it didn’t really take off after a mind-blowing opening sequence and it was way too long. The buzz that year was that the Academy realized that they have been unfair towards Scorsese and Gangs… was the perfect opportunity to exonerate themselves. They thought they would award Scorsese’s awesome oeuvre to make-up for lost causes. Lost causes? Yeah! They chose Kevin Costner for moonlighting as a director on Dances With the Wolves over, what many consider, Scorsese’s masterpiece Goodfellas. In the past too Robert Redford’s Ordinary People got the nod over Raging Bull. Today many don’t recall Dances... or Ordinary People and some don’t even know that Kevin Costner actually directed but they still enjoy Goodfells! Remember the awesome Joe Pesci line, “Well make it to go!” I still freak out when I see the How am I funny sequence!

So, is it ok to finally get an award for what may be mediocre as compared to your previous work? Could the Academy have continued to ignore Martin Scorsese for some more time and finally given him a special Oscar to honor a lifetime of brilliance? They did that with Robert Altman, Satyajit Ray while Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock never got a directorial award. Roman Polanski got it for The Pianist and not Chinatown, Russell Crowe got the nod for Gladiator and was over-looked for The Insider as well as A Beautiful Mind; Al Pacino got it after years of being sidelined for Scent of a Woman! Consider this- The Departed is packed with some nice set pieces, good acting, excellent editing and all the markings of a genius director at work but is it really good? The film is a remake of a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. They have added and made it kick ass and though there are hardly any traces of the original but it’s still a remake. By that rationale half the Hindi films might as well be considered masterpieces provided they credit the original creators as well, which by the The Departed did!

It was a chance meeting with Martin Scorsese in the year 1996 that shaped the way I approached a career in films. He was in Delhi on his way to meet the Dalai Lama for Kundun and was mentioned in the news. That was it! I called all the hotls the next day and finally tracked him down to Taj. I called them and the girl at the desk didn’t know who the hell Scorsese was. In his custom made Armani suits he looked more like a businessman of the year. The girl put me on to him and the next thing I know I’m speaking to Mr. Scorsese. Yes he does talk faster than a F1 motorist zooming by; his bushy eyebrows make him look like the devil! So all I can think of saying is ‘Welcome to India…’ yes, that’s what I said!! Anyway I told him that I wanted an audience and guess what…he said come on over in an hour. That was that! I couldn’t believe it that Scorsese not only spoke to me but also gave me some time! I rushed to the Taj only to realize that the Taj in consideration was Taj Mansingh and not, as assumed by me, Taj Palace. Anyway twenty minutes later I was in the lobby of Mansingh and on the phone with Scorsese again (wow). He asked me to wait. A few minutes later his secretary walked up to me and inquired about the nature of my meeting. When I told her that I was just a student out off high school and would like to meet Martin Scorsese, she was surprised that young people like me knew about him! She asks if it were OK for me to wait for ten minutes as Marty’s running a little late! Of course I’d wait man! Ten minutes later Marty walks out all of 5ft nothing in his blue Armani and a bluer tie that was immaculately knotted! He shook hands, sat down and ordered some thing to drink.

With a Diet Coke easing me I asked him about the way he chooses subjects. He said that anything that is interesting and not done by him gets him going. He talked about Gangs that he had been trying to put together for almost fifteen years. He had just finished Casino and told me that they were planning a premiere in India and wanted to get Sharon Stone over. I said what about De Niro? He looked at me and smiled; probably wondering if I was OK; how could a young bloke prefer De Niro over Stone!?

He asked me about some good book shops that would stock books on the Dalai Lama, something that he hadn’t read. So I rattled off and before I knew I was with for almost two hours. I interacted with him over a course of three days. I was amazed that such a person could be so humble and down to earth. I used to admire his films but I fell in love with the man. He knows almost everything that is know about films, he’s a walking encyclopedia. I the course of my meeting I asked him if it were really important to go to a film school, I was toying with the idea. He said that there’s a time for it and if you don’t go during that period it’s better that you don’t go. He, of course, passed out of Tisch and also taught at NYU. Oliver Stone was one of his students.

It’s been almost eleven years since that day and I can still recall every detail. It was almost surreal and it really shaped the way I looked at things, I mean cinematic things!

Scorsese not getting an award became cool after some time and when Goodfellas didn’t get him the award, I actually started praying that he shouldn’t get it for mediocrity. The fact that you need to sell out and do things that you don’t like in order to be accepted and this guy here did what he pleased and actually went on to make films that he wanted, made it all worthwhile. My friends would always cite his example that it can all be cool even if you don’t get recognition. There’s still some spark left in him. The zeal was visible in Gangs, got some shape in The Aviator and shined in The Departed; so there’s still a good film left and more importantly he’s still standing while Lucas still believes in the force, Coppola prefers wine to films and Spielberg continues to make millions by setting the box office on fire with ‘commercial’ films! Scorsese said that in his acceptance speech too- had he gotten the Award earlier maybe that’d have altered the way he made films. I now believe that Spielberg really is the golden boy- great commercial successa, criticized for making mushy stuff, all that talk about the young boy in him, etc but gets the Oscar for two of his glorious outings- Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List

At the end of the day I am happy that Mr. Scorsese won but it ain’t right that he got it for what he got. I mean how predictable- the moment they announced that Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg would do the honors I knew that Scorsese would finally get it. But in some way it’s a true celebration- usually the Oscars celebrated Scorsese; everyone who won thanked him, people he gave the lifetime achievement awards thanked him in return, everyone wished he won- and this time around Marty celebrates the Oscars.

sketch courtesy- surender singh/ showboatentertainment.com

6 Responses to “Finally you talkin' to me!”

  • True writing, in my opinion is all about portrayal, of events and people and reading about Martin Scorcesse’s dynamic game of hide and seek with the Oscar statuette makes me sit up and think. Every genius, no matter who it may be, from a painter like Van Gough to a musician, they have all had to suffer from the most excruciating torment of non-recognition before they achieve what they truly deserve.
  • Not much of a 'chance' meeting if you called all the hotels to track him down but Wow. I did not know you met the man.
  • This is how it played-

    I was watching the news at night and I saw a story announcing Scorsese's visit to India. So I thought why not trace him down and find out if he's really in Delhi. So I guess taking that 'chance' ended up in a 'meeting'.

    Just that the words rang well.

    Is there someone you'd like to meet...imagine a chance meeting with Hemingway!
  • about Scorsese winning for departed...almost makes me believe that maybe the judges pick and choose so that it reflects well on them (sometimes not so). In this case the pressure on the academy has been building for a while…so they decided they better give it to him this year. You are right, whom is the academy fooling…what they recognizing is that they were wrong and that their judgment although final may not be right!
    Talking about awards, saw a tape of filmfare awards yesterday. They gave an award for the “most powerful man in hindi cinema”. how cheesy is that? And they gave the best actor award to hritik for his work in dhoom 2…that movie had almost no scope for anybody to show their acting talent. Awards such as these just go to show me how the industry works. In my opinion they shud hav given it to amir khan for rang de.
    And shah rukh was the most annoying host ever. …better get back to work before they fire me
    Keep blogging!
  • I think the Hindi film industry should go on a diet and avoid cheese in any form. Most films are cheesy and most people have become almost like cottage cheese! The deal with Indian awards is that, like most Indians sadly believe, one has to justify everything that one does or intends to do. There are so many awards and on top of that they are a televised event so you need celebrity presence, hence promise them an award and they will show up.
  • My comments on teh Filmfare...almost prophetic! Some time ago I wrote an article explaining the need to clean up our clogged system and start with the film awards section, especially Hindi films. You can’t blame me I love films! But the editor said that there’s no need for such a stupid article and I fought hard but eventually he won. But that’s OK that has been the norm idiots sit on top of you and usually win.

    Will pen some more thoughts about it.
  • Post a Comment