September 23, 2013

Miracles happen - "The LunchBox is out of Oscar entry"

A tasteful dabba is already made and ready to serve where as for the other one there is still a doubt how it will turn up with new ingredients. Guess about what I am talking. I am talking about two movies “The Good Road” which is selected for Oscar entry and another one “The Lunch Box” which was hugely expected to be in the entry. 

Astonishingly Gujarati film “The Good Road” was picked on Saturday as India's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards next year, the selection obviously raised the eyebrows. Hardly anybody be familiar with this movie “The Good Road” and learned that it opened for only a week. Well this doesn’t bring down as a contender for most prestigious entry. But shockingly there is no review of the movie,  which already won a national award. 

Set in the harsh terrain of Kutch, the film, a road movie by debutant feature film director Gyan Correa, revolves around a truck driver and a couple whose child is on the run. The film was adjudged the Best Feature Film (Gujarati) at the 60th National Awards, with a limited viewing.

I watched the trailer. It seems to me a good film, very rustic with easy go performances. It grabs the Kutch flavor well. I haven't seen The Lunch Box but with reviews and with others opinions it supposed to be a simple and very well acted film. So I am not going to compare which one is really worth for going Oscar entry. 

One point is obviously observed that if we go by International response to The Lunch Box, it had a good chance to make the final 5 (as match up to to The Good Road) because of good corporate backing ( Sony) , comprising winning the critic’s applauds on the international film festivals (The film was screened at International Critics' Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d'Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival ) plus good reviews. So that’s why I mentioned in first line the “dabba” was already ready to serve. Most importantly by now “The Lunchbox” recognized internationally.

While the chairman of the selection committee, filmmaker Gautam Ghose, said the Film Federation of India unanimously picked The Good Road, the Oscar choice immediately sparked off a controversy.

The first voices of protest were raised by the director and producer of The Lunchbox. The Ritesh Batra-directed film has been received well in the festival circuit and had been talked of as India's best shot at the Oscars. I read in the papers that the director of Lunch Box says that he will hold the film federation 'responsible' if The Good Road does not make it to top 5. Did he acquire a guarantee from Oscar committee that The Lunch Box will make the Top 5?

Anurag Kashyap, who co-produced The Lunchbox, tweeted: "First time and I really mean it, I was excited because first time we knew we had a chance... I don't know who the federation is but it goes to show, why we completely lack the understanding to make films that can travel across borders." Batra also accused the FFI of "lacking vision".

Director-producer Karan Johar, who turned presenter for The Lunchbox, tweeted: "The Lunchbox had every factor working in its favour, we may have lost our golden chance."

According to sources, the film's international distributor, Sony Pictures, was so confident that they had plans of similar lobbying campaigns as Amour, the French film that won the Oscar last year.

Defending the choice, Ghose said: "The film, produced by National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and Amitabha Singh, edged past others because it had a new experience to offer. It is about unknown people and tells a story from the remote Kutch."

Director Goutam Ghose was on the 16-member jury, constituted by the Film Federation of India, which selected India's official entry to the Academy Awards in Hyderabad on Saturday.

“We were asked to select a surprise for the foreign audience, a film which is really about our country. And ‘The Good Road’ is a simple, non-glamorous film that shows an India not many know about. I am not talking about Indianness literally, but the ethos, cultures and different people we have here. I believe India has many Indias under its fold,” he said.

Ghose also hoped that the chosen film would be a `new surprise' for the audience in the West. Also, that the first-time filmmaker Gyan Correa will show them an India they have never seen or heard of before.

Many viewers as well as people from the industry were rooting for Ritesh Batra's heart-warming love story ‘The Lunchbox’. What tipped the scales in favour of ‘The Good Road’, then? “It was very tough to decide between ‘The Good Road’ and ‘The Lunchbox’. Even ‘Vishwaroopam’ is technically better than any Hollywood better than any Hollywood production. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ is a very spirited and well-acted film, and the Malayalam film ‘Celluloid’ is also extraordinary. But the jury chose ‘The Good Road’,” Ghose said, admitting that he personally would never be able to choose between ‘The Lunchbox’ and ‘The Good Road’.

The Good Road might be an unseen jewel but it’s going to need a lot of polishing to shine. The film didn’t make any waves in Gujarat among audiences or critics. More over it lasted barely a week in theaters in Gujarat. The Lunchbox just because it has “every factor working in its favor” could be a safe playing for Oscar when the opportunity for an Oscar is so rare. Without taking anything away from The Good Road, right now the chances of stars will support up this are in distant. 

As Vicky Donor` director Shoojit Sircar says that the film fraternity should show support to India`s official entry into the Oscars, `The Good Road`. It is important that the Gujarati film is marketed well.

Let’s hope for the best. Coz sometimes miracles happen.

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