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India at the Oscars ~ our exclusive poster!

Join the Oscar fever with our exclusive poster on the topic “India at the Oscars”.

Join the Oscar fever with our exclusive poster on the topic “India at the Oscars”.  

Many of us who watch movies from around the world tune into the Oscars this time of the year. Sometimes, we even forget that the Oscars, as reputed as they may be, are just an award show – staged by Hollywood, specifically by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for films largely produced in the United States of America.

A thumbnail of the poster as it appeared on print.

A thumbnail of the poster as it appeared on print.  

Click here to see the poster as it appeared on print.

Out of the 24 categories of awards given away, only one is open to films from the rest of the world – the Best Foreign Language film category.

This category has only five nominations and the best films from different countries compete for these slots, every year. Which is why we don’t see many Indian films at the Oscars. However, India has always had some sort of a presence on the world’s biggest stage.

Official Nominations

India has had only three films that have made it to these slots in the Best Foreign Language Film category over the years.

(The years mentioned after the films below are the years of the Oscar they were nominated for and not the year of production)

The first ever Indian film to be nominated was “Mother India” (1958) directed by Mehboob Khan. “Mother India” was the story of an Indian mother, the epitome of sacrifice, who even kills her own son to protect her people.

“Salaam Bombay!” (1989) made by Mira Nair captured the lives of street children in Bombay and went on to win many big awards around the world.

You might remember Ashutosh Gowarikar’s cricket drama “Lagaan” (2003) about a bunch of villagers beating the British at their own game.

Yet, none of these films went on to win. But to be nominated at an international level is a huge victory in itself.

Pi’s Lullaby

Indians have also got nominated under categories for films produced by American studios.

Like Bombay Jayashri, who was nominated for Best Original Song (she wrote and sang Pi’s Lullaby from “Life of Pi”, 2013) lost out only to Adele (the “Skyfall” title song) for the big prize.

Indians have not been as unlucky every time. In fact, we have produced quite a few winners over the years.

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Official winners of the Oscars from India.

Official winners of the Oscars from India.  

The Official Winners

Bhanu Athaiya won an Oscar for Costume Design for Richard Attenborough’s most-watched epic biopic on “Gandhi” (1983), an honour she shared with Oscar winner John Mollo who had previously won one for his costumes in “Star Wars” (1978).

Pandit Ravi Shankar was nominated for Best Original Music Score for the same film, an Oscar he lost only to John Williams for “E.T.”.

The image of Satyajit Ray holding his honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement from his hospital bed (he spoke through video that was played at the ceremony) can make any Indian emotional. Ray called the Oscar the best achievement of his movie-making career and said “I have learnt everything I have learnt about the craft of cinema from the making of American films” after recalling letters he wrote to American greats when he was young including a 12 page letter to Billy Wilder after watching “Double Indemnity” (1945), a film that had got seven Oscar nominations.

More recently, in 2009, A. R. Rahman won two Oscars for Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”. For Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song “Jai Ho” (he beat his own other Oscar nomination for the year “O Saaya” also from the same movie.)

The song “Jai Ho” also won an Oscar for lyricist Gulzar.

It was a great year for India because sound designer Resul Pookutty won too. He shared an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing along with Richard Pryke and Iann Tapp for the same film (“Slumdog Millionaire”, 2009)

Rahman has been nominated two more times since. For Best Original Music Score (“127 Hours”, 2011) and Best Original Song “If I Rise,” also from the same movie (“If I Rise”, 2011)

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” did get seven Oscar nominations and the sequel “Elizabeth: Golden Age” got two nominations. Kapur himself did not get nominated in any category. But while the first won an Oscar for Best Make Up, the sequel won for Best Costume Design.

Indians Abroad

Hollywood-based Indian producer-director Ismail Merchant was nominated four times, starting from his first “The Creation of Woman” (1961) under the Best Live Action Short category and got three Best Picture Nominations for “A Room With A View” (1987), “Howards End” (1993) and “Remains Of The Day” (1994).

Amritsar-born Canada-based Deepa Mehta was nominated for “Water” (2007) in the Best Foreign Film category as an entry from Canada after she wasn’t allowed to shoot the controversial film in India. She filmed it in Sri Lanka.

Last year, London-born India raised Rahul C Thakkar won an Oscar for his Scientific and Technical Achievements for his design of the DreamWorks Animation Media Review System.

Also last year, Tamil Nadu born techie Cottalango Leon shared a technical award with Sam Richards and J. Robert Ray for the design and development of a 3D film review software for Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Short success stories

Producer K.K. Kapil got a nomination in the Best Documentary Short Subject category for producing Vidhu Vinod Chopra-directed “An Encounter with Faces” (1979) and National-award winner Ashvin Kumar had earned a nomination in the Best Live Action Short Subject category for the heart-warming short “Little Terrorist” (2005), a film about an Indian family sheltering a Pakistani boy who had crossed the border to get his cricket ball back.

India-based films

While you might be familiar with “Slumgdog Millionaire” and “Life of Pi”, films set in India that received multiple nominations, you may have not heard of a few others that brought India into the limelight at the Oscars.

“Lion”, this year, that has fetched Dev Patel a Best Supporting Actor nomination, has received five other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay. The film, that features many Indian actors (including the little Sunny Pawar who we might see at the Oscars), is based on a true life story of author Saroo Brierley, a lost boy who finds his way back home to an Indian village, 20 years after he’s adopted and raised by an Australian couple, thanks to Google Earth.

“A Passage to India” (1985), David Lean’s last film, got 11 nominations and won two: Peggy Ashcroft for Best Supporting Actress and Maurice Jarre for Best Original Score.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 11:39:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/india-at-the-oscars/article17359801.ece1

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