Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show will represent India in the Best International Feature Film category at the 2023 Oscars. The Gujarati coming-of-age drama was chosen by a selection committee set up by Film Federation of India.
The committee, headed by Kannada director TS Nagabharana, met in Chennai a few days ago to deliberate on the submissions. According to reports, the contenders included SS Rajamouli’s RRR, Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, Sajimon Prabhakar’s Malayankunju and Rahul Sankrityan’s Shyam Singha Roy. The committee’s decision was unanimous, FFI Secretary-General Supran Sen told Scroll.in.
The Oscars, formally known as the Academy Awards and handed out every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will take place on March 12, 2023. In 2022, India sent PS Vinothraj’s Tamil-language Koozhangal (Pebbles) as the official entry.
Chhello Show was premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021, and will be released in Indian theatres on October 14. According to a press note, the film has been inspired by Nalin’s childhood in rural Gujarat. Chhello Show (Last Film Show) “is set at the cusp of the digital revolution and follows a nine-year-old boy ensnared by the magic and science of light and shadow that lies behind celluloid film projection”.
RRR was being touted as the hot favourite, especially since it has been gathering unprecedented steam in Hollywood trade circles and among the American press. Unlike most Indian films that are unfamiliar in America, RRR’s visual pyrotechnics and Rajamouli’s skill at staging action sequences impressed such Hollywood heavyweights as Baby Driver director Edgar Wright (“What an absolute blast. So entertaining. The only film I have ever seen where the intermission card itself got a round of applause.”), Doctor Strange screenwriter C Robert Cargill (“This is the craziest, most sincere, weirdest blockbuster I’ve ever seen.”) and The People Vs. Larry Flynt co-writer Larry Karasewski (“Most exhilarating experience in a movie theater in a gazillion years.)
Pan Nalin’s previous films include Samsara, Valley of Flowers, and Angry Indian Goddesses. He is also a member of the Directors Branch at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
The Best International Feature Film, previously known as the Foreign Language Oscar, offers the best possible route for non-Hollywood productions to be noticed at the Oscars. The Indians who have won Academy Awards have worked in international projects. These include Bhanu Athaiya for the costume design of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982), AR Rahman for Best Original Score and Best Song by Rahman (Jai Ho) and Resul Pookutty for Sound Mixing for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
Only three Indian films have made it to the International Feature Film shortlist: Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan (2001). No Indian production has ever made it to the general category.
Several countries have already submitted their nominations. South Korea has picked Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s Cannes-decorated mystery thriller Decision to Leave. Belgium has named Lukas Dhont’s Close. Austria has nominated Maria Kreutzer’s Corsage, a biopic of Austrian Empress Elisabeth. Germany will be represented by Edward Berger’s World War II epic All Quiet on the Western Front.