It is finally official. 'Court', Chaitanya Tamhane's multilingual arthouse drama which struggled long for a theatrical release, has been chosen as India's contender in the foreign language film category at the 2016 Oscars. Earlier this year, it had bagged the Best Feature Film honour at the 62nd National Film Awards apart from 20-odd international awards, including the Lion Of The Future and Best Film in the Orrizonti category at last year's Venice International Film Festival.
Vivek Gomber in a still from Chaitanya Tamhane's Court
For the official entry to the 88th Academy Awards, the low-budget movie sans big names edged past strong contenders like 'Baahubali', 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', 'pk' and 'Piku'. In fact, until yesterday, Tamil movie 'Kaakka Muttai' was said to be leading the race to the Oscar competition. But now 'Court', which highlighted the working of India's bureaucracy-ridden judicial system, is being labelled as a worthy choice for Oscar consideration. This is also the first time in years that the selection has not generated difference of opinion or dissent among industry folk.
Also read: 'Court' - Movie Review
Geetanjali Kulkarni, who played a public prosecutor in 'Court', says the film's entry into the 2016 Oscars has come as a 'genuine surprise' and that celebrations will follow soon
Filmmaker Amole Gupte says, "'Court' is a good choice. My pick, however, was 'Killa'." His contemporary, Sudhir Mishra welcomes the decision of the Film Federation of India jury headed by Amol Palekar and states: "'Court' is a wonderful choice. I congratulate Amol and his team for the fantastic selection. The way the story has been told is great. It has a unique voice, an ability which is rare and shows the direction that new Indian cinema is headed in."
Sudhir Mishra, filmmaker
Elated over the news, 'Court' director Chaitanya Tamhane, who is currently in Japan, issued a statement that reads: "At every juncture of the film's journey, we have felt that it has given us more than we could ever imagine. Once again, this has come as a genuine surprise to both Vivek (Gomber, actor-producer) and me. Ever since we started working on the film, we kept our expectations low. Especially in this case (Oscar selection), since these results tend to be so unpredictable. It just felt like a wise thing to not expect too much. Now that it has actually happened, we would like to thank the jury for its decision and everyone who has supported the film so far."
Amole Gupte, filmmaker
Well known theatre actress Geetanjali Kulkarni, who played a public prosecutor in the film, recalls how Vivek took the responsibility of producing the film, which was struggling to get a financer on board. "I must say he did a good job and fulfilled his responsibilty. He never got into mathematics of production, otherwise the film would not have reached the audience. It was Chaitanya's debut film and whenever he approached people, they told him it should be his fifth film and not the first one. However, he was ready to take a risk and went ahead with his conviction. He was not scared of failure or rejection. The team dedicated its time to work on post production and patiently waited for its release," she adds.
With so many big films in the race for the Oscar selection, the 'Court' team hardly had any expectations of making it through, admits Geetanjali and adds: "This is the first time that a film which won a National Award is going to the Oscars. Incidentally, that announcement (about National Award win) also came when our film was about to release, which helped us immensely."
The celebrations, however, have to wait since Chaitanya and Vivek are both currently in Japan. "I have spoken to them over text messages and rest of the cast members are also in different cities now, so we could not celebrate the big news. Once they come back, we will have a party," she says.
Geetanjali, however, refuses to tag 'Court' as a 'regional' film. "It has Gujarati, Hindi and English content as well. It is, in fact, an advantage that we have so much diversity which gives us the opportunity and energy to present diff-erent subjects in different languages. We should feel blessed that we can represent ourselves in various ways," adds the actress.
Shortly after news trickled in about 'Court' being named as India's entry to the Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category, veteran filmmaker Rahul Rawail resigned from the jury. Speaking to hitlist, Rawail said, "I had no disagreement over the selection of 'Court'. I am proud of the choice, in fact. So, my resignation had nothing to do with it."
Rahul Rawail and (below) Amol Palekar
"We had a lot of great films in the reckoning and were proud that those films were made in India. We had a great jury and all the people have great knowledge of cinema. I only had a problem with the way the whole process was conducted."
"Two films were in a neck-and-neck race, and the film, which I had voted for, was being manipulated for more votes to come to it. I resigned because of the manipulation of the whole system which did not suit me. From day one, it had been such. I don't want to take names right now. But I can tell you that my whole grouse was with the chairman, Amol Palekar, not with Court's selection."
Rawail later tweeted: "Jst wanna clarify tht am proud of Court n fully support its selection I resigned from th Oscar jury bcoz of Mr Palekars obnoxious behaviour (sic)."