When a Gujarati film named The Good Road was selected as India’s official entry to Academy Awards, quite a lot were surprised. Goutam Ghose wasn’t one of them. After all, he headed the selection committee that decided to go with the aforementioned film instead of popular frontrunners. Presently in the eye of a raging storm on social networking sites, the acclaimed filmmaker is unruffled by the controversy though. In a freewheeling chat, the 63-year-old explains why.
Don’t you think the Film Federation of India (FFI) should be a bit more transparent?
No, not at all. According to a High Court regulation, I can’t reveal the names of fellow committee members. No wonder I alone am suffering for the past three days now (laughs). I feel the federation should be the way it is so as to maintain impartiality. The problem lies somewhere else. India makes more than 1,500 films per year, which is a huge number. I recently wrote a strong-worded letter to the FFI suggesting how we should explain our position to the Academy. One film is simply not enough. In a year, Sri Lanka makes 35-40 films while Bangladesh makes 60 and Poland comes up with 70, if not less. Tamil Nadu alone churns out more films than these countries. It’s unfair.
And why The Good Road of all the 22 entries?
It’s pretty obvious that The Good Road comes across a dark horse. In fact, the film started making a buzz only on the third day of the proceedings. To answer your question, the reason why I think the film appealed to the jury is because of its ability to showcase an India we aren’t aware of. Though it looks like a lost-and-found story about a little kid, there are several strange characters who stay with you because they are so skillfully underplayed throughout.
Was it an easy decision?
When you have a jury constituting 16 members, there’s always going to be two choices: personal and collective. That’s how a democratic system works. Very frankly, The Lunchbox was my personal favourite. I can’t tell you about the proceedings because it’s meant to be discreet and behind closed doors. Before entering that room, all we’re given is a synopsis. That’s it. We don’t get a balance sheet stating which film has what kind of backing.
As a filmmaker, how critical do you think is the need to push regional cinema?
I don’t really understand what is meant by regional cinema. When exactly did Hindi films become national cinema and vernacular films got relegated to ‘regional’? To me, every single film - be it from any part of the country represents national cinema.
Lastly, what’s your take on the ongoing controversy?
As the chairman of the selection committee, I stand by our decision. What gets to me is the fact that people who haven’t seen The Good Road - let alone heard of it earlier - making wrongful accusations. I feel this sort of arrogance is uncalled for. What we require is a little compassion.
According to the blog moifightclub, following were the members of the jury headed by Goutam Ghose.
Rupa Ganguly (actor)
Agni Mitra Paul (fashion/costume designer)
Sujoy Ghosh (filmmaker)
N Shankar (filmmaker)
KP Kumaran (filmmaker)
Mahesh Kothare (actor/director)
Suhasini Mani Ratnam (director/writer)
Kamlesh Pandey (screenwriter)
Kavita Lankesh (director/writer)
Vijay Patkar (actor)
Vidya Sagar (music director)
CV Reddy (filmmaker)
Sanjay Verma (editor)
P Bharathiraja (filmmaker)