The organisers of the Oscars have offered membership to Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Alia Bhatt and documentary filmmakers Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya, among others. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has over 9,000 members, and has been pushing for diversity and wider representation over the past few years.
The 2020 invitees include documentary director Nishtha Jain (Gulabi Gang, Lakshmi and Me), costume designer Neeta Lulla (Jodhaa Akbar, Devdas), writer Sabrina Dhawan (Kaminey, Monsoon Wedding), casting directors Nandini Shrikent (Gully Boy, Life of Pi) and Tess Joseph (Lion, The Namesake), visual effects artists Vishal Anand (War, Bharat) and Sandeep Kamal (Panipat, Jal), and V Senthil Kumar, the co-founder of the digital streaming company Qube Cinema Technologies.
As members, these artists will get to vote across categories at the Academy Awards.
Following a backlash at the overwhelming amount of white nominees at the 2016 Academy Awards, which was boycotted by black artists such as Spike Lee, Ava Du Vernay, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, a goal was set to “double the number of women and underrepresented ethnic/racial communities by 2020”, the Academy said in a statement. “The 2020 class is 45% women, 36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, and 49% international from 68 countries” the Academy added.
In 2016, a record-setting 928 individuals from across the globe were invited to become members by the Academy. Shah Rukh Khan, Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Aditya Chopra, Guneet Monga, Tabu, Dolly Ahluwalia, Naseeruddin Shah, Ballu Saluja, and Anil Mehta, were among the 20 Indians picked by the Academy. This year, 819 artists and executives have been added.
The Academy has, in the recent past, made noticeable efforts to acknowledge persons of colour as well as non-English films produced outside the United States of America. At the Academy Awards this year, the Foreign Language film category was renamed as the Best International Feature Film category. South Korean entry Parasite became the first non-English film to win the Best Picture Award.
Also part of the course correction is the programme Academy Aperture 2025, through which the Academy aims to turn itself into an “anti-racist, inclusive organization that will contextualise and challenge dominant narratives around cinema, and build authentic relationships with diverse communities”.
An immediate policy change is that starting with the 94th Academy Awards of 2021, the number of nominations for Best Picture will be fixed at 10, presumably to level the playing field. Furthermore, the Academy will stream films released through the year for its members. With voting members being able to watch more films, the competition is expected to be more fair.