Reactions to the selection of Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show as India’s official International Feature Film submission for the Oscars ranged from the incredulous to the delirious. Nalin’s Gujarati coming-of-age drama, about a boy’s love for the big-screen experience, was picked over submissions that included SS Rajamouli’s RRR, Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, Sajimon Prabhakar’s Malayankunju and Rahul Sankrityan’s Shyam Singha Roy.
Chhello Show (Last Film 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 “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”.
The Oscars, formally known as the Academy Awards and handed out every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will be held on March 12, 2023.
Chhello Show will be released in Indian cinemas on October 14 by Roy Kapur Films. In a press statement, Pan Nalin, whose previous films include Samsara and Angry Indian Goddesses, said, “I could have never imagined such a day would come and bring light and celebration of light. Chhello Show has been enjoying love from around the world but there was an ache in my heart that how do I make India discover it? Now I can breathe again and believe in cinema that entertains, inspires and enlightens! Thank you FFI, Thank you jury.”
Sidharth Roy Kapur, founder of Roy Kapur Films, said in his press statement, “There could not be a more apt time for a film like this one, that celebrates the magic and wonder of cinema and the theatrical experience. When cinema-going around the world has been disrupted by a pandemic, it reminds audiences anew of the first time they fell in love with the experience of watching a movie in a darkened cinema hall. It is a matter of great pride for us to represent our country with this film, and with the backing of our partners Samuel Goldwyn Films and Orange Studio, we will make sure that we give it our best shot at the Academy Awards!”
RRR would have been a smarter choice, some Twitter users observed. SS Rajamouli’s period epic, made originally in Telugu and dubbed into a host of languages, has earned unprecedented recognition in Hollywood trade circles and the American press after being streamed on Netflix in May. The visual effects-heavy film, set in colonial-era India, boasts of Marvel-level action sequences.
“A global smash with huge box office receipts, the film found a pathway to the American cultural zeitgeist with consumers discovering it on Netflix,” a Variety writer exulted. RRR was also released theatrically in the United States, and is back in cinemas through special screenings as part of its Oscar campaign.
Indian films struggle to be recognised from amidst the clutter of Oscar hopefuls. Some Twitter commentators suggested that the Film Federation of India committee had underestimated the existing buzz around RRR.
That said, the International Feature Film category tends to lean towards arthouse films from around the world. The makers of RRR could try their luck in the general categories, which are nearly always dominated by Hollywood productions.
Some Twitter users compared the Chhello Show selection to 2013, when The Lunchbox was ignored over the lesser-known The Good Road. Ironically, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox marked the ninth anniversary of its release today.
While supporters of Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files were upset about the film being passed over, the director himself came out in support of Chhello Show.