In 2011, music director Ismail Darbar created controversy when he claimed that fellow composer AR Rahman had ‘bought’ the Oscars he won for his work in the film Slumdog Millionaire. Eventually Rahman had to come out and deny the allegation, stating that it was not possible to buy an Oscar.
Rahman had won two Academy Awards in 2009 for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. He won the award for both Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the single Jai Ho. However, two years, later Ismail Darbar claimed that the awards were bought.
He had said, “I just don’t understand how the music for that movie won the prestigious award. What was Oscar-worthy about it? Nothing.” He added that the work on Slumdog Millionaire was much below Rahman’s other films. “I would have been happy had he won it for films like Roja or Bombay but not for Slumdog. He did not deserve it. Aur, mujhe pata hai ki ise kharida gaya hai (And, I know that it has been bought),” he added. Ismail refused to elaborate how he knew the award was bought.
An irate Rahman responded to the allegation, saying “Oscars cannot be bought.” He then emphasised that the voting structure of the Academy made it impossible for awards to be bought by anybody. “It’s 3000 people… how can it be possible,” he added.
The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars, also reacted to these allegations. There were reports in the media that the Academy was going to sue Ismail Darbar for $50 million for defaming them but the Academy denied that. They did defend the credibility of their awards though. “The Academy does not plan any action relative to Mr. Darbar’s comments. It is simply not possible to ‘buy’ an Academy Award. While some individuals might disagree with the results of our voting processes, the Academy stands behind the integrity of the voting,” the Academy’s publicist had told Masala Magazine.