Every other year when the Film Federation of India nominates a certain movie for the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film, a host of the Indian populace awaits with bated silence.

We await not to see if an Indian film will bag the award but to see if the movie will finally be nominated for the segment. At least that has been the case for the better half of the past decade, and more.

The jinx of not being nominated for the Academy is nothing new, to be fair to Indian filmmakers. And, it is no myth either to state that the Academy Awards aren’t exactly the custodians of filmmaking at large, that title belongs solely to the Cannes Film Festival.

However, being the forebears of filmmaking as a competitive and creative abode, the Academy Awards is commended as the be-all and end-all of the international filmmaking (although it mostly caters to Western filmmaking).

One would expect the FFI to be a bit more serious about the movies it sends to the Academy for the nomination, but as history stands witness, it isn’t necessarily the case. 

Lagaan: A Beautiful Tale Of Cricket And India’s Last Oscar Nomination

To start this tale we must go back to 2001. A most happening year that has been encapsulated in our generational history.

The felling of the Twin Towers to the infamous Parliament attack, and also, it was my birth year, suffice to say it wasn’t the most pleasant of years. However, amidst all the din arrived Lagaan in the sultry month of June, as Indians sought respite from the terrifying heat.

Gowariker’s magnum opus has stood the test of time, minus the overbearingly long runtime

And, within the space of a few weeks, all one would do is pack the theatres only to catch the sight of Bhuvan telling Kachra to throw the ball in the most dramatic of moments.

Suffice to say this movie was generational, not because of its grandeur but because of how much it said with such subtlety, that was absent in mainstream Bollywood at that time. 

Rave reviews and raking 659.7 million INR (adjusted after inflation), it had already become the talk of B-town, as well as overseas. In no time, the Film Federation of India nominated Lagaan as India’s selection for the Oscars. 

Aamir Khan and director, Ashutosh Gowariker, before the massive upset of the Oscars

Fast forward to 2002, Lagaan had been nominated to be the frontrunner in the International Feature Film category and our joy knew no bounds. Although the award finally went to the Bosnian feature No Man’s Land, we were ecstatic about receiving the nomination. 

Finally, after a decade of wait, after receiving a nomination for Mira Nair’s classic Salaam Bombay, the Hollywood giants had finally looked upon Bollywood.

Everyone witnessed it as the second coming of Christ (or third coming of Christ, depending on how much you believe in the Bible) and an indication for better days to come. Unfortunately, it was not to be so. 

FFI And Its Strange Selection Of Movies

After the debacle suffered by Gowariker’s feature film, one would think that the next year would be the year Indian cinema shines on the grand stage. However, 2002 was the last time Indian cinema came close to the golden knight.

In the 2002 selection of the Academy Awards, the FFI gathered that the American audience was in dire need of the dramatic. Thus, they sent Devdas as their official selection for the Oscars.

Although not a mediocre movie by any means, Devdas’ strengths lie in the grandiose. The dramatic act of the movie coupled with a few over-the-top performances isn’t exactly the best formula to warrant a tip of the hat from the primarily American audience. 

To remind ourselves, we must remember that Ram Gopal Verma’s epic Company was released in the same year as Devdas, which could have been a more suited movie for the selection.

But, to be fair, I am no connoisseur of cinema. The strange selection of movies barely ends there as it is further illustrated throughout its tenure.

Also Read: In Pics: You Won’t Believe These Movies Were Sent For Oscars From India

Coming to an era that is more suited to be discussed goes as recent as 2019 when Gully Boy tripped Jallikattu to bag the official selection to the Oscars by the FFI. It still remains a mystery as to why Jallikattu failed to make the cut as FFI’s official selection rather than Gully Boy for the Oscars.

To take nothing away from Gully Boy, I absolutely loved the movie, however, it is no masterpiece. 

Gully Boy, the frontrunner at the Oscars and FFI darling, for absolutely no reason

As a rag to riches story, it does wonders although it doesn’t do anything that has never been seen before and a banger soundtrack doesn’t exactly warrant an Oscar. They should have made the movie a tad more different from the critically acclaimed 8 Mile to at least warrant a top 15 pick. 

The story of making strange selections is no story of today for in 2012, they made the mistake of selecting Barfi! as the official entry to the Oscars, the same year when Irrfan Khan’s powerhouse, Paan Singh Tomar was released.

Barfi!, which had been accused of shamelessly copying an array of movies, starting from Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights to the more recent Notebook starring Ryan Gosling.

Having copied scenes from Chaplin’s movies to the T, Anurag Basu stated that these were ‘homages’ he was paying to the greats of the silent era such as Chaplin and Buster Keaton. 

As beautiful as Barfi! is, it failed to create the same magic through the original screenplay

However, that excuse doesn’t exactly work the best when you are sending a movie to be the official selection for the Oscars. 

Numerous other movies during this decade failed to make a mark owing to improper handling of publicity clout, and sometimes just plain bad luck. Honestly, the Academies should go a bit easy on the monetary side of things and not expect every other film to spend 3 million dollars on publicity solely.

For it was the publicity, or the lack of it, that killed the hopes of Newton grabbing the nomination nod from the Academy, missing it by two spots.

With Jallikattu out of the title race as well, it probably is high time for the FFI to reconsider the methods it uses to select their cinema. There exists an entire world of cinema in India, if only they look hard enough.

Image Source: Google Images

Sources: International Business Times, Firstpost, Daily O

Connect with the blogger: @kushan257

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