The Academy Awards live telecast has always been a mixed bag, but of late it’s been either depressing or outright disastrous. The 2021 ceremony was an unavoidably tentative affair due to the Covid lockdown, and not even the producing tandem of Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins, who evinced a welcome bit of cleverness by moving the show to Los Angeles’ Union Station, could breathe life into the dour proceedings (which were also weighed down by the unexpected passing of Best Actor nominee Chadwick Boseman).
As for 2022, Will Packer’s network-kowtowing broadcast — which featured such ignominies as below-the-line nominees receiving their Oscars prior to the official start of the show (as people were still being seated), a trio of ill-matched hosts and Will Smith slapping presenter Chris Rock for making a joke about his Jada Pinkett-Smith’s alopecia — went down as the most ineptly produced ceremony since Rob Lowe belted out “Proud Mary” with Cinderella.
With Jimmy Kimmel returning as host, the 2023 show should be more traditionally banal, which will be a vast improvement on last year’s debacle. This means a load of wincingly unfunny presentations, baffling clip montages, and an unforgivably bloated runtime. But the tedium will be worth it if only because, as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today via its Twitter account, Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava will perform the gloriously effusive “Naatu Naatu” from S. S. Rajamouli’s surprise hit, “RRR”.
A long-overdue celebration of Bollywood
Aside from the guaranteed entertainment value of watching this crowd-pleasing number performed live, introducing this film to a hopefully broader audience that knows little-to-nothing about Bollywood could help open the floodgates for the Indian film industry in the United States. It’s also a long-overdue showcase for two remarkably talented Indian playback singers.
Perhaps exposing Americans to a rollicking epic action movie that isn’t based on a comic book or a series of YA books will compel mainstream moviegoers to demand more originality from the studios and streamers. Unless they completely botch the performance, I can’t imagine anyone watching something so utterly exuberant and not wanting more. If Bollywood’s time has finally come in the U.S., it’ll be because of this movie and the recognition it will receive on Oscar Sunday.