The criticism of India’s choice of its official entry for the Oscars escalated to a new level after the maker of a film that lost out in the race served a legal notice on the Film Federation of India (FFI) and I&B Ministry, alleging politicization and favoritism in the selection process.
On Monday, an 11-member FFI jury chose Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s flop Eklavya: The Royal Guard as the official Indian entry for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. On Thursday, Bhavna Talwar, director and co-producer of the critically acclaimed Dharm, challenged the selection.
“The entire selection process was biased and vitiated on account of the strong affiliation between certain members of the selection committee and Mr Chopra,” says the notice served on Talwar’s behalf. It names director Sudhir Mishra, a prominent member of the jury, as being “very close” to Chopra.
The jury was headed by filmmaker Vinod Pande and included, besides Mishra, director Anil Sharma and cinematographer Nadeem Khan. They saw eight of the 10 shortlisted films, including Chak De… India, Gandhi, My Father and Dharm. In the final battle, Eklavya edged out Dharm by 6 votes to 5.
“For how long can we take the politicization of our Oscar entries,” Talwar told HT.
“Sudhir Mishra was lobbying for the film before the screenings had started. Everyone knows both directors (Mishra and Chopra) share a deep camaraderie. Not just that, Sudhir often addresses Vidhu Vinod Chopra as his elder bother.”
Dharm’s co-producer Sheetal Talwar said, “We were the closing film of the Tous Jes Cinemas Du Monde at the Cannes film festival, while Eklavya was rejected at the same festival.”
Pande admitted the race was close. “People’s hearts went out to Dharm. But there were other factors too. It might not be the unanimous decision, but we adhere to the norms of democracy and Eklavya emerged the chosen one,” he told HT.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra was not available for a comment.
The choice of India’s official Oscar entry had kicked up a controversy in 2005 as well, when Paheli was chosen over Veer Zara, Swades and Parineeta.