Oscar Wild: the story of India's runaway jury
After the controversy over the selection of Eklavya as the country's Oscar entry, the Film Federation Of India - the apex body representing 34 film bodies of Indian showbiz – will now change the selection process. Amitabh Parashar reports.
G S Mayawala, president of the Film Federation of India ( FFI), says firmly, “I am upset with the controversy. I don't want the name of our organization to be tarnished. Our next meeting was scheduled in November in Goa at the time of the International Film Festival.. but I am trying to organise a meeting as soon as possible..within a week."
Mayawala feels that it is high time that, “There is a complete rehaul of the selection process. As the world’s largest film producing country, we can hardly present an undignified profile. We have to become more transparent and responsible.”
The most pertinent criticism of the selection process every year revolves around the fact that India makes over 900 feature films every year but ignores regional cinema. There is almost nil representation from sectors like Bengal and South India.
Some of the most internationally feted directors like Kerala's Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji Karun and Bengal's Mrinal Sen and Buddhadeb Das Gupta have been cavalierly omitted. Mayawala ripostes that such allegations are partly true, but also cites various practical problems. He states that this year among the 13-14 films short-listed by the jury, three were from South India. But when the screenings were set up for the jury, the films' prints did not arrive.
On being asked about the proposed changes in the selection process for the Indian film to be sent to the Oscars , the FFI president believes that the federation needs to be "pro–active" in its search for films.
"We don't have the infrastructure to do this. But my view is that many more films need to be represented. We should find out which are the best films from the various states of India. And there is no doubt that we should get the viewpoints of film lovers, intellectuals, journalists and critics. In fact, I would appeal to all media personalities to give us suggestions on the issue," says Mayawala grandly .
Isn't there too much politicking in the selection process? To that Mayawala states, "See every jury invites controversies.. like the National Film Award jury . But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't clean up our act. There are all sorts of pulls and pressures.. one must not succumb to them. This year I had proposed the name of (director) Anil Sharma on the selection jury but then he wanted his .. own film Apne to be short-listed. I clearly told him that was not possible."
In a tell-all mode, the federation's president narrates, "The name of Mr Tilak Raj (former actor-producer) was recommended by the Film Producers' Guild for the jury . But I refused because he is the son-in-law of B R Chopra (brother of Yash Chopra whose Chak De! India had been short-listed)."
What does Mayawala have to say about the statement by the jury chairman, Vinod Pande, that Dharm would have been the better choice?
He replies, "If Mr Pande has said that, it is extremely unfortunate. It is shameful that a jury chairman should give vent to his personal feelings after the selection process is complete. If he has said that, I will go on record to say that Mr Pande was not fit to be the chairman of the jury ."
He adds that as the FFI president, he may have been in favour of Gandhi My Father as the official entry from India to the Oscars. "But that doesn't amount to anything in a system where the decision is taken after a democratic voting process."
Indian movies released
2006:1091, 2005: 1041, 2004: 934, 2003: 877, 2002: 1943