‘And the Oscar goes to’ does not rise to the stature of Salim Ahmed’s former films, and while it would be unjust to indulge in a comparison as such, it is also inevitable. While it does suggest that there is nothing more magical than what could be conveyed by the medium of cinema, it delivers the said magic, but only in very brief spurts.
While there has been no dearth of films that chronicle the travails of an aspiring film maker in recent times, Salim Ahmed’s ‘And the Oscar goes to’, moves a step further, and presents an account of the woes of a director-producer whose film is entered at the Oscar awards as an official entry from the country.
Issak Ebrahem (Tovino Thomas) is born at a hospital near to a talkies that plays ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’, and in-keeping with the trends maintained by many a baby born under similar cinematic circumstances, grows up into a cinephile. The film starts off with an assurance that he offers to a tea vendor, that someday the man could proudly proclaim that Issak, used to have his daily cup of tea at the stall.
Issak soon realizes that directing his dream film is no easy task, and with no producer in sight, decides to produce the film himself. Pawning the land that he owns back home, and selling off whatever little he has, he finishes off the film, that goes on to win the National Award for its lead actor Aravindan (Sreenivasan), and if further selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars.
Despite the initial disclaimer that the film is purely fictitious, one cannot but notice the stark similarity of the tale to the director’s own debut film that was produced by himself. One would also remember that ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’ had also been sent across as India’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Category at the Academy Awards in 2011.
The former half of ‘And the Oscar goes to’, follows a much traversed path, and where it does make a difference is in the portrayal of the film maker’s family (Vijayaraghavan and Maala Parvathi as Issak’s parents) that is supportive to the core, quite unlike many a film that we have seen. There is also Chitra (Anu Sithara) who looks a bit more than a loyal friend, who is around to offer support when Issak needs it the most.
Around midway though, with the arrival of Maria (Nikki Rae Hallow), who runs a PR agency at Los Angeles, and who offers to take up the promotion campaign of Issak’s film at the Oscars, the film steers over to a new lane. Maria’s arrival isn’t all that smooth, in that here is a woman who claims to be a professional and who comments on Issak’s dapper looks the first time they meet, and not much later, curiously asks who the girl who picked up his phone was, while back in India.
Ahmed’s film sails along with not much of a trouble and without much excitement either, and without the essential goose bumps that should have rendered it an affecting experience. A starving Issak with a burning stomach and a screeching Maria constantly after him for the pending payments, reaches out to strike an emotional chord, and while he does succeed at times, for the most part his battle wages on without leaving much of an impact on the viewers.
And yet, ‘And the Oscar goes to’ is worth a watch for a stupendous performance that Tovino comes up with; a heartfelt attempt that brings in all the vulnerability that Issak goes through with aplomb. Nikki Rae Hallow scores as well, and so do Vijayaraghavan, Maala Parvathi, Siddique, Salim Kumar and Sreenivasan, and Zarina Wahab in a cameo.