Film Federation of India asked to answer charge of “bias” in selection
MUMBAI: Hearing a petition challenging the selection of Eklavya-the Royal Guard as India’s official entry for Oscars, the Bombay High Court on Saturday said the selection would be subject to its order.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud while asking the Film Federation of India, which selected the film for the Oscars competition, to file a reply within 10 days, observed that “prima facie there seems to be a merit in the argument (that selection process was biased)”.
The Court, hearing a petition filed by the director of film Dharm, Bhavana Talwar, challenging the film’s selection, posted the matter to October 10 for further hearing.
Dharm, which has Pankaj Kapur as the protagonist, lost out to Eklavya when the FFI decided to send that film, directed and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, for the Hollywood awards in September.
Mr. Talwar’s main contention is that some members of the selection committee, namely film director Sudhir Mishra, Jagdish Sharma and Ranjit Bahadur, were “very close” to the film’s producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Mr. Bahadur was the editor of Making of Eklavya, a promotional film on Eklavya, say the petitioners, alleging that the whole selection process was “vitiated by bias”.
The judges made it clear that the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear such a case, for “any process of selection which appears to be the result of general or specific bias or arbitrariness can invite judicial review”.
Further, to the argument that the film had already been despatched to the U.S. on Friday, the Court said any consequences of selection would be subject to its orders.
The Court also granted liberty to Mr. Sudhir Mishra, Mr. Bahadur and Mr. Sharma -- who have been singled out for allegedly being close to Vidhu Vinod Chopra -- to file affidavits in reply.
The Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Eklavya, selected by the FFI as the Indian entry for the Oscars on September 24, had not done well at the box office. Saif Ali Khan and Sharmila Tagore have also acted in the film.
The chairperson of the selection committee, Vinod Pande, and Eklavya’s producer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra have also been made party to the case. — PTI