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Diversity push gives an Indian tinge to Oscars

delhipaper Updated: Jul 01, 2016, 10:41 IST

LOS ANGELES: Legendary actress Sharmila Tagore, Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto and director Deepa Mehta are among the 683 members invited to join the organisation that gives out the Oscar awards as part of a worldwide diversity push.

The new invitees are 46% female and 41% people of colour, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said, adding the roster boasts 28 Oscar winners and 98 nominees.

The youngest invitee is 24 and the oldest 91. 283 are identified as international members representing 59 countries.

British filmmaker of Indian origin Asif Kapadia -- who bagged the Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “Amy” based on the life of late singer Amy Winehouse -- also features in this year’s class of new members.

The new list follows scathing criticism about a lack of diversity in the 6,000-strong Academy’s ranks and among Oscar winners.

All 20 nominees in the main acting categories at this year’s Oscars were white for the second year running, prompting calls to boycott the glitzy event and an angry social media backlash under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

“This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement.

“We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”

The record number of invitees also includes rising young stars John Boyega of “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” actress Emma Watson, Swedish Oscar winner Alicia Vikander and musician Mary J. Blige.

If most of those invited agree to join, the Academy’s membership demographic will begin to change from mainly white, male and for the most part over the age of 60.

Male membership, currently at 75 percent, would slip to 73 percent. White members, who make up 92 percent, would thin to 89 percent.

The Academy’s board of governors has vowed to double the number of female and ethnic minority members by 2020.

A two-time National Award winner and a Padma Bhushan awardee, Tag ore began her career as an actress in Satyajit Ray’ s 1959 Bengali film “Apur Sansar” (“The World of Apu”) and acted in several films in Hindi cinema.

She also served as the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) from 2004 to 2011.

Pinto rose to prominence after the 2008 British drama film Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars. She has appeared in several American and British productions, often playing supporting roles.

A noted Indo-Canadian director and screenwriter, Mehta began her career with the controversial film Fire in 1996, later working on her trilogy of the elements :“Fire ”, “Earth”, and “Water”.

Mehta was born in India and has a degree in philosophy from the University of Delhi. After immigrating to Canada in 1973, she embarked on her professional cinematic career asa script writer for children’s films.

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