India’s Absence from the Oscars: A Reflection on Film Selection

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The Oscars, also known as the Academy Awards, are the pinnacle of recognition in the global film industry. Winning an Oscar is a dream for filmmakers, actors, and everyone associated with cinema. However, India’s journey at the Oscars has been a rollercoaster ride, marked by both triumphs and disappointments.

The Snub and the Shortlist

In the 2024 Oscars, India faced a complete absence in the Best International Feature Film category. While films like Io capitano (Italy), Perfect Days (Japan), Society of the Snow (Spain), and The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany) made it to the shortlist, India was conspicuously missing1. The Malayalam film 2018 Everyone Is A Hero, directed by Jude Anthany Joseph, was India’s hopeful contender. Unfortunately, it didn’t even progress beyond the initial round of selection.

The Dilemma of Film Selection

Why does India repeatedly get snubbed at international awards, especially the Oscars? The answer lies in our film selection process. Often, we find ourselves torn between two extremes:

  1. Pandering to Foreign Perceptions: In an attempt to cater to foreign sensibilities, we sometimes choose films that align with Western expectations. These films may lack authenticity or cultural depth, resulting in a disconnect with Indian audiences.
  2. Vainly Indigenous Films: On the other hand, we occasionally send films that are overly indigenous, hoping they will resonate globally. However, these films may not always translate well beyond our borders.

Case Studies: Jallikattu and Village Rockstars

Let’s examine two notable instances:

  1. Jallikattu (2020): This Malayalam film was expected to break barriers. Its chaotic storytelling and anarchic characters seemed like a perfect fit for international acclaim. However, it lacked the massive marketing campaign that propelled Parasite (the Korean film that won Best Picture) to global recognition. The Jallikattu team struggled even to afford tickets to Los Angeles for the Oscars.
  2. Village Rockstars (2018): Rima Das’ Assamese film missed the Oscars despite its portrayal of Indian poverty. The film’s inert silences resonated with Western audiences, but it fell into the trap of reinforcing stereotypes. Like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Village Rockstars depicted poverty, but it failed to break through the Oscar barrier.

The Way Forward

India needs a balanced approach. We must select films that authentically represent our culture and resonate with global audiences. Instead of chasing trends or conforming to stereotypes, let’s celebrate our unique narratives. A well-crafted film, backed by strategic marketing, can make all the difference.

As we await the next Oscars, let’s hope that India’s cinematic brilliance finds its rightful place on the global stage. After all, our stories deserve to be heard, appreciated, and celebrated—whether or not they come adorned with golden statuettes.

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