Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy has been selected as India’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. Akhtar’s fourth feature is set in Mumbai and follows the dreams of Murad (Ranveer Singh), a rapper from Dharavi.
The cast includes Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Amruta Subhash, Vijay Varma, Kalki Koechlin and Vijay Raaz. Written by Akhar and Reema Kagti and produced by her company Tiger Baby and Excel Entertainment, Gully Boy was released on February 14. The hip-hop-heavy soundtrack was produced by Ankur Tewari.
The Academy Awards will be held on February 9, 2020.
Akhtar’s acclaimed film was inspired by the journeys of Mumbai rappers Naezy and Divine. In an interview after the movie’s release, she told Scroll.in about her lead character, “I wanted Murad to be the kind of man I want to see in the world... You don’t have to represent the masculinity that you are always told about. It is brave to be sensitive. I like creating male characters whom I would like to see in the world.”
The jury was headed by Aparna Sen, and the decision was unanimous, said Supran Sen, the Secretary General of the Film Federation of India that steers the selection process every year. At a press conference, Aparna Sen said, “The energy of the film was something that was very infectious, and we thought that it would speak to the audiences, to the people at the Oscars.”
Among the 28 films that were submitted to FFI as entries were Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15, Anant Mahadevan’s Mai Ghat, Vetrimaaran’s Vada Chennai, Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike, Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe and Bharat Kamma’s Dear Comrade.
Rima Das’s Village Rockstars was picked in 2018, while Newton was chosen to represent India in 2017. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma won the award for 2018.
India has never won an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language category. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chooses the winner from a shortlist of five entries. Only three Indian films have reached the shortlist: Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan (2001).
Congratulations poured in for Zoya Akhtar, who was named a member of the Academy this year.
An Indian movie’s Oscar journey begins right after its selection, as this previous report on Scroll.in pointed out. Producers need to hire publicists and lobbyists who specialise in foreign language films to appeal to the Academy’s diverse membership. Speaking about Newton in 2017, producer Guneet Monga had said, “…you need to book well-situated screening rooms in Los Angeles and then make sure that the voting committee comes. There are a handful of people who vote for the foreign language category and that list is a secret. So, you have to do your outreach, advertising and marketing to make sure your screenings are full of voters.”
Special shows have to be organised for the leading trade magazines such as Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline Hollywood. ‘For your consideration’ advertisements have to be placed in relevant publications. The costs of mounting an Oscar campaign can range between Rs three and five crore.