By Yash Thakur. Posted on September 23, 2015
This is not an open letter. And not getting shortlisted or winning at the Oscar's doesn't mean the end of the world (although this reaction of the director & producer of Force Majeure seems to suggest otherwise). What a selection in top 5 at the Oscars does, is raise the profile of the filmmaker & the cinema of that country.
Sadly despite being the country that produces the largest number of films, Indian film's haven't really had a very good history at the Oscars. In fact, only four Indian films have been nominated as in the top five in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars thus far- Mother India, Salaam Bombay, Lagaan and Water. The previous two official entries, The Good Road and Liar's Dice, got nowhere & there was quite a furor when the The Good Road was selected over The Lunchbox.
We've written this article in the hope that we send what is our best shot at competing in the Foreign Language category this year. There's hope this year. For one, Amol Palekar is the head of the selection committee. The National Award winning actor-director whose film Paheli was India’s official entry for the Academy Awards in 2005, will be heading the 17-member jury. Secondly, Indian films have been making a tremendous impact in the world cinema circuit over the last 12 months, by either clinching awards at top festivals or releasing in foreign countries to rave reviews.
There is a growing global recognition for the new wave of Indian films. This year there's an amazing list of interesting films that could, with some luck, go all the way at the Oscars.
FFI was supposed to announce one film out of eight shortlisted as India's Official Oscar entry by mid-September, but that is yet to happen since the deadline was extended to 14 September, 2015. There is no official word on what films are being viewed (reports suggest that PK, Haider, Umrika, Baahubali are among the list of 45 films being seen).
Here are the 5 films that we think, have a great chance of making it, if the FFI selects them as India's entry.
A film that stunned audiences and critics alike, Court is a masterpiece & it tops our list. Court is possibly India's best shot at a top 5 slot & even winning at the Oscars. It takes years and multiple films before filmmakers can achieve what Chaitanya Tamhane managed to achieve in just his first film. The surety with which he's handled the film, the measured, sometimes deliberately slow yet almost rhythmic pace at which the story unfolds, has captivated audiences globally and made Court one of the most acclaimed and awarded Indian films in recent times.
Court follows an aging folk singer who is arrested and charged for inciting the suicide of a sewage worker in Mumbai. What follows is a kafkaesque portrayal of the Indian justice system with a third person observation of characters that are closest to the trial of the folk singer. Featuring a cast of newcomers (including the producer and the director) the film has won over 20 international awards at top festivals including Venice (where it premiered and bagged 2 awards).
The intelligent and understated script, the soulful stirring music and a powerful direction also helped Court win the National Award for the Best Film this year. The film tops the list of films that many believe should be India's entry to the Oscars this year and we cannot help but agree.
Jointly produced by actor Dhanush and director Vetrimaaran, Kaaka Muttai is the story of two slum dwelling brothers who have a desire to taste pizza. Directed by M Manikandan, who was previously a wedding photographer, the film with no star cast had a premiere at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. The film released in India earlier this year and garnered rave reviews. The film also picked up 2 National Awards (Best Children's Film & Best Child Artist). A Hollywood Reporter reviewer called the film an allegory for the vast class differences in India, while closer home The Hindu noted "Kaaka Muttai is a highly entertaining film, with a spotlight on poverty".
A heart-warming film that stays away from the cliches and remains as honest as it can to its characters, Kaaka Muttai is a film that, if sent, could do the trick.
Sure it's a studio film, sure it's got all the dance and song sequences, but Dum Laga Ke Haisha broke conventions in more than one way. The simple story of a forced arranged marriage between a slim guy and an over-weight girl, backed by true-to-life performances, struck a chord with audiences everywhere. Dum Laga Ke Haisha also released internationally (My Big Fat Bride was it's title) and was selected to close the New York Indian Film Festival.
While its selection might be counter-intuitive, Dum Laga Ke Haisha is a film that shows India as it is.
Aditya Vikram Sengupta's award winning debut feature Labour of Love which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, won the European Critics Award for the best debut film, and since then has bagged 10 international awards worldwide and also won the National Awards for Best Debut Feature Film and Best Sound Design. The beautifully shot film follows two ordinary lives in Kolkata caught in the middle of a terrible recession highlighting the silence, emptiness and solitude in a city with subtle political undertones that sets the mood for the movie. A favorite amongst the critics and having been universally acclaimed for it's breathtaking visuals, we believe this Bengali film could go a long way if selected.
Screened at the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where it won the Netpac Award for World or International Asian Film, Qissa is a gritty portrayal of a Sikh man who obsessively wishes for a male heir after losing everything during the separation of India in 1947. Starring actors Irrfan Khan and Tisca Chopra, the film was lauded for it's uninhibited take on gender and partition. Tillotama Shome's gender-transcending portrayal of a complex and conflicted 'Kanwar' and Irrfan's hard and scary Umber Singh wowed film buffs. Dubbed as a 'masterpiece' by Mira Nair, Qissa is a film that, we hope is one of the serious contenders for India's Oscars nomination this year.
While these are the films that we think should be (definitely) considered for the Oscars, there are others that should be considered as well. Masaan & Killa are two such films. We hope the selection committee is listening.
World cinema this year has some powerful films in the pool: Austrian horror Goodnight Mommy, Hungarian drama Son of Saul, Swedish existential piece A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, Portugal epic Arabian Nights, Icelandic dramedy Rams and Chinese historical action film The Assassin. Whatever film we send, we hope to see it among the list of the final 5 on 14 January 2016.