The nominations for the upcoming BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) Awards is out and RRR has lost its chance of bagging a nomination in the Best Film Not in the English Language category, even though the BAFTAs have been more generous to India than the Oscars have.
After a Critics Choice win for Best Foreign Film and a nomination in the same category at the Golden Globes, RRR was one of the expected populist choices to make the BAFTA list given how the British film awards have had a better reputation at nominating Indian films than other ceremonies like the Oscars.
How BAFTAs have been better for India than Oscars and Globes: While only three Indian films have managed to secure a nomination for the Oscars’ Best International Feature (Mother India, Salaam Bombay, Lagaan), the BAFTAs have managed to offer at least a nomination to six Indian productions so far.
With two of Mira Nair’s films (Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay) and RRR, even the Globes cannot match BAFTAs' record. Interestingly, even Richard Attenborough’s 1982 majorly English-language biopic Gandhi was submitted at the Globes for Best Foreign Language Film as India’s official submission. With all the acclaim it generated, Gandhi even won in that category!
Mira Nair’s two BAFTA nominees: The previous Indian nominees at the BAFTAs have been Hindi and English productions. Salaam Bombay was the first Indian nominee for Best Film Not in the English Language, Mira Nair’s debut being an expected choice given the buzz it was generating in the film festival circuit.
Nair returned to the BAFTAs in 2001 with her comedy-drama Monsoon Wedding bagging a nomination. Premiering at Cannes, Monsoon Wedding was another expected film festival favourite, especially after it won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival.
Even mainstream Bollywood has been represented: The BAFTAs have also managed to draw in some surprises such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) and Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti (2006). Both of these films were mainstream hits starring popular actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan respectively. And yet, it is interesting to note how with little film festival buzz and hardly any recognition in any other US/UK-based awards, the two Bollywood dramas made it to the final list.
Irffan’s representation at the BAFTAs: 2002 was, in fact, a great year for Indian representation at the BAFTAs as not only did Devdas get in but also British Indian-origin filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s Hindi-language arthouse drama The Warrior (which was nominated as a joint production by Britain and India). Starring the late Irrfan in the titular role, the BAFTA nominee is largely credited with encouraging Irrfan to continue his acting career despite belting out financial failures at that time.
Both Devdas and The Warrior lost out to Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk To Her even though Kapadia’s feature film still managed to pick up Best British Film. Kapadia went on to have a stellar career, directing heavily acclaimed biographical documentaries like the Oscar-winning Amy, Senna, and Diego Maradona.
Meanwhile, Irrfan was to return to the BAFTAs with his critical darling The Lunchbox making it to the final list in 2014. Despite earning raves at Cannes, Ritesh Batra's Hindi-English drama missed out at the Globes and Oscars. In fact, the very fact that Film Federation of India submitted Liar’s Dice as India’s official submission to the Oscars instead of The Lunchbox created quite a stir among the filmmaking community and Indian audiences. The backlash is comparable to RRR fans getting disappointed over Chhello Show being submitted to the Academy jury last year!
While none of the six BAFTA nominated films from India ever managed to win the top prize, the recognition from the British Academy is worth noting.
SS Rajamouli’s RRR might not have got in the competition but its Golden Globe-winning song Naatu Naatu still holds a strong chance at repeating its victory at the Oscars.
Meanwhile, the BAFTAs will be out with their final results on February 20, 2023. Other acclaimed non-English favourites like Argentina, 1985 (Argentina), All Quiet On The Western Front (Germany), and Decision To Leave (South Korea) have got in for Best Film Not in the English Language even though Austria’s Corsage has managed to pull off a surprise nomination.