Filmmakers demand transparency for India's official entry to Oscars
Last year, the choice of Gyan Correa’s The Good Road over Ritesh Batra’s more popular film, The Lunchbox, had created a furore. Looks like the history is repeating itself again.
(from left) Manya Gupta and Geetanjali Thapa in Liar’s Dice
Yesterday, the Film Federation of India (FFI) announced Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer, Liar’s Dice as the official Indian entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category. Aaindya Dasgupta, deputy secretary of FFI, said, “A 12-member jury watched around 30 films from multiple languages.” Sources say that close contenders included Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry, Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom and Ritiesh Deshmukh’s Yellow.
The selection of Liar’s Dice as the official entry has not gone down too well with some filmmakers, who expected their film to make the cut.
Soon after the announcement, filmmaker Hansal Mehta launched an online tirade against the FFI and its selection process. “Apparently, Liar’s Dice was released last week in Kerala and Pune. About time this whole Oscar entry business is taken away from FFI, and a more transparent process is followed by a more qualified body. Disillusioned with the FFI but consoled that at least a good film has been chosen to represent India at the Oscars. All the best. The bitterness is not about the selection. It could have been any film. The selection is on the basis of a mere technicality. It makes you question the process and the individuals involved. Why is there a ‘secret jury’? Why are the jury names never revealed?” he tweeted.
When contacted, he said, “I want to trust the process and the body initiating the process for selecting India’s official entry to the Oscars. Unfortunately, recent history makes me doubtful. Shahid had a good chance, so did Fandry. And if Liar’s Dice had a legitimate, wide release, then I congratulate their team and wish them success since it is a wonderful film made by some terrific people.”
Omung Kumar who directed Mary Kom, which has just crossed the R50 crore mark, says, “I haven’t seen Liar’s Dice. But Mary Kom had that universal appeal. It is an inspiring, true story that would have worked very well in the west.” Pradeep Sarkar, director of Mardaani, too had said earlier that his film should be chosen because it deals with a world subject.
Out of the 30 films in competition, there were around 8 Marathi films in the fray, including Fandry and Yellow. Some industry insiders say that that Fandry deserved this recognition. But Nagraj Manjule, the film’s director, didn’t appear to be very upset. He said, “I think the selection committee comprises learned people and I am sure they have chosen a film that will represent India well.” However, Nilesh Navlakha, the producer of the film, was more outspoken. His Facebook post read, “The question remains as to how the film, which was not commercially released, was selected as an Oscar entry. I heard that it was released in just 2-3 centres in Kerala and somewhere else. Was it staged? A more transparent selection process is required because this film will represent India and not any film body. Anyway, we have a history of sending films which have not been recognised at the national level. No complaints, but need to check the credibility of organisation sending films for Oscars.”
Actor-producer Ritiesh Deshmukh’s Yellow too was in the race. The actor wished the makers of Liar’s Dice all the luck. He simply said, “I hope it does well.” He added that the state should take the responsibility of funding the selected film. With the government’s involvement, the film can be showcased well,” he said.
But an industry insider emphasised that the makers will need monetary support to generate publicity for the film. “Only films with studio backing can organise many screenings. Liars Dice is an indie film, so we hope it gets support from all quarters.”
This year, Geetanjali Thapa bagged the National Award for Best Actress for her role in Liar’s Dice and yesterday’s announcement that her film has been chosen as India’s entry to the Oscars has only added to her happiness.
“Geetu Mohandas (the film’s director) informed me about it. The first call that I made was to my family in Gangtok, Sikkim. I was keen to tell my dad about it,” says the actress who plans to celebrate the news along with her sister.
In the film, Geetanjali, who consciously chooses to keep a low profile, plays a woman who, along with her daughter, goes in search of her missing husband.
Geetu Mohandas, director of Liar’s Dice, said, “I am excited and overwhelmed. It was a struggle to find finances for the film initially. I had approached many production houses in Mumbai but it didn’t work out. Jar Pictures stepped in and supported me in this vision. I want to thank the film’s cast and crew and as far as the selection process is concerned, all I can say is that other filmmakers, whose films were also in the fray, are undoubtedly distinguished names. I don’t want to comment on any controversy as there is a lot of energy and strength in silence.”
—Shaheen Parkar and Asira Tarannum