Chhello Show director Pan Nalin: When other countries were preparing their filmmakers for the Oscar race, we were dealing with backlash

BySugandha Rawal
Oct 07, 2022 12:34 PM IST

Filmmaker Pan Nalin opens up about his film Chhello Show becoming India’s official Oscar entry this year, and the backlash that followed

Ever since Pan Nalin’s Gujarati film Chhello Show, The Last Film Show in English, has been named India’s official choice for Best International Feature at the upcoming 95th Academy Awards, a lot has been said, from some accusing it to be a copy of Cinema Paradiso to some saying it is not an Indian film.

Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show has been picked as India’s official entry for the Oscars this year
Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show has been picked as India’s official entry for the Oscars this year

The film is set against the backdrop of cinemas in India that saw the transition from celluloid to digital. Now, the filmmaker has confessed that he is disappointed by the lack of support his colleagues from the industry showed for the film. He says when fellow filmmakers from other countries were celebrating, they were dealing with the backlash.

Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations. I’d like to begin by asking what was your first reaction when you heard the news of your films being selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars? Did you see this coming?

I was speechless and surprised. There was so much hype about a lot of other films like every year when there’s the Oscar season. I was focussing on holding screenings and previews, with just one wish, to make maximum people see the movie. We were trying to figure out a way to translate the success and popularity that the film got internationally in India, and get the attention, when this announcement was made, and it changed everything for us.

Along with congratulatory messages, the news also met backlash, with people getting upset over the film getting picked over RRR. How did you deal with all that?

I was disappointed and disheartened that people were jumping to conclusions without watching it. I can’t even blame people, they have not seen the movie. We have done zero lobbying. We have sold the movie in the same way, to a studio in Japan. But for people it has to make commercial sense. Many of the people think whatever is most popular is going to get an Oscar. If they Google, they would know what the trend is going in terms of international feature films. I was a little disappointed. I knew other fellow filmmakers from other countries where they were being celebrated, and prepared to go for Oscars, and meanwhile, we were dealing with happy news and backlash.

Does it also show how people are enamoured by glamour or big stars?

Yes, we are. People should educate themselves about the laws and the American awards. In the last 10-15 years, they have diversified, inviting a lot of foreign members to be in the race. Most people just think if you have made a popular movie, then you will be competing with Tom Cruise. That’s wrong. Also, if there is so much confidence about the other projects, there are ways they can reach the Oscar race.

There are claims that the film is a copy of Cinema Paradiso. What do you have to say about that?

It was the sad part about it all. We live in an information age, everything is at fingertips, before such accusations and allegations, one should watch the movie. The film was screened at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Festival, and has won multiple awards internationally… If there was even a shade of copy, do you think any of these people would touch the movie? No way. It’s my personal story showing how I fell in love with cinema while growing up. I guess if any filmmaker decides to make a film about their love for cinema, it might look like Cinema Paradiso on the surface, but there will be many other things as well. I just want to say, please watch the film, and see why so many people are buying it.

What do you have to say to people who say it is not an Indian film?

It was the most ridiculous and baseless one. I was with my crew when it came out, and we were joking that I am a foreigner. My cinematographer is from Maharashtra, chief assistant director is from Himachal Pradesh, someone is from Kerala, Mumbai and Gujarat among other places. I was just wondering, how did that come about? It was misinterpreted because we have a foreign sales agent, but we need that person for international sales. I am still wondering, where does that come from?

How’s the prep for the Oscar campaign going?

To crack the campaign is a big challenge. We have started all the work last week, and are working with Us-based Samuel Goldwyn Films. They have an experience in that front and in fact, several films which they backed won the trophy. So, we are using their expertise for the campaign. Some of the Academy members have watched the film, and now are planning to make more members watch the film. Our aim is to try and show the film because our film speaks for itself.

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