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Analyzing <i>RDB</i>'s journey so far

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Thursday, September 28, 2006
New Delhi (UNI): Four years after Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan narrowly missed the coveted Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category to the Bosnian war film No Man's Land, another Aamir Khan-starrer, Rang De Basanti gets a chance to have a shot at the prestigious honour. Rang De Basanti was yesterday chosen by the Film Federation of India above eight other contenders to represent India at the Oscars this year. Rang De basanti pipped Rakesh Roshan's Krrish, Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Naseeruddin Shah's Yun Hota To Kya Hota, Rajkumar Hirani's Lage Raho Munnabhai, Vishal Bharadwaj's Omkara, Madhur Bhandarkar's Corporate, Marathi film Bhook and Telugu film Amma Chepindi for the honour.

Expressing elation at Rang De Basanti being chosen to represent India at the Oscars for the Best foreign film category, the film's producer Ronnie Screwvala, CEO of UTV motion pictures, talking to UNI, said ''Being chosen as India's entry for Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars is a great achievement. After all, there were several excellent films in competition.'' Rang De Basanti earned praise from the jury, headed by noted filmmaker Basu Chatterjee for the strong performances from the ensemble cast, comprising Aamir Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Soha Ali Khan, South stars Madhavan and Siddharth, who were convincing as disillusioned youngsters learning the importance of personal sacrifice.

The film, which also stars British actress Alice Patten, revolves around a young British filmmaker, Sue (Patten), who comes to India to make a film on the revolutionaries - Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru - who had left an everlasting impression on her grandfather who was a jailer. The film depicts the awakening of the young generation, inspired by the legendary freedom fighters. Expressing elation at the film being chosen for representing India at the Oscars, the film's director Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra said ''For me Rang De Basanti was my most challenging film and one of the most path-breaking films of my career. RDB is about todays generation, how they feel, what they aspire to be, their inner conflicts. In a way, its about the India today which is young, colorful, vibrant and energetic and at the same time holds a strong message. There is this small voice inside all of us. We all sit on the fence and try to say things like this should not happen, that should not happen. RDB is about crossing the fence and making things happen. It's like listening to your inner voice. If you are asleep its like your wake - up call.''

The first step may have been crossed but now comes the real challenge; attracting the attention of the prestigious jury of the Oscars Academy that will nominate the five films that will vye for the Best Foreign film category. ''We realise that being chosen to represent India is only the first step and that a lot of planning needs to be done to ensure that Rang De Basanti makes it to the final five,''Ronnie Screwwala. He said Rang De Basanti, with its universal message of 'triumph of the Human spirit'has made a place for itself in the hearts of millions of people all around the world. ''The rousing reception the film received at the Golden Globes jury screening makes us confident that the film stands a strong chance with the Academy. However, in the coming months we plan to carry out an extensive campaign to promote the film in the West which would include all possible measures, including appointing an agent in the US and, if need be, a theatrical release in the United States,'' Ronnie Screwala said.

''Fortunately for us, Aamir has already had the experience of campaigning with the Academy during 'Lagaan'. This is something which can put to good use during our campaign for Rang De Basanti. Besides, we also plan to involve the entire star cast of the film in the campaigning. In this context, the fact that we have offices in various parts of the US will come in handy to carry out an effective promotional campaign for the film,''he said. Referring to 'Lagaan' being nominated in the Best Foreign film category, the filmmaker said ''We feel that even making it to the final five nominees is a commendable achievement and is as good as winning the Oscar. In this context, Lagaan's achievement was unparalleled. So, while there would be nothing like getting an Oscar, even if we make it to the best five films list, it would be a great honour for us, he said.

Trade analysts feel that with a universal theme of Triumph of human Spirit and Standing Up to a Cause, Rang De Basanti stood a strong chance of making it in the final five at the Oscars. When someone says, "Main rang de basanti", ("paint me yellow") it means that person is ready to be sacrificed for a great cause. For, in India , the color of yellow, a predominant color in the movie, represents sacrifice. Over the past few months, the film's effect has been cast on the people which can be seen from the infamous Jessica Lal verdict to the Narmada anti-dam campaign to the latest protest marches against the proposed quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in institutes of higher learning. Protests forms in India have undergone a sea change from the usual hunger-strike, mob-violence routine. For India, a Best Foreign Film Oscar for Rang De basanti would be a commendable achievement considering its poor record over the past several decades. Infact, a look at the recent decades shows that only two of the films send by India at the Oscars in the last decade and a half managed to bag a nomination. Also, of the three films nominated so far by the Academy, none managed to bring home the coveted Oscar.

After Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay" bagged an Oscar nomination in 1988, nearly three decades after Mehboob Khan's "Mother India" had got the honour in the 50s, more than a decade elapsed(13 years) before Lagaan won a nomination in 2001. In fact, barring Lagaan, none of the films send to the Oscars in the last more than a decade, including Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parinda (1989), Anjali(1990), Raj Kapoor's Heena(1991), Thevar Magan(1992), Kalpana Lajmi's Rudaali(1993), Muhafiz(1994), Kumdhi Punal(1995), Indian(1996), Guru(1997), Jeans(1998), 1947- Earth(1999) and Hey Ram(2000), Devdas (2003) and Paheli (2005) failed to attact the attention of the academy awards.

Over the years, sending films for the Oscars seemed to have become a routine exercise which hardly evoked attention or excitement in media circles. Nor was the exercise accompanied by much hopes of the film bringing an Oscar home. However, the exercise of choosing a nominee for the Oscars evoked tremendous excitement in media and film circles in 2001 what with films like Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, Anil Sharma's Gadar, Santosh Sivan's Asoka and Aamir Khan's Lagaan, most of which critics believed were worthy of winning an Oscar, competing with each other for being sent to the academy awards. Ultimately, Lagaan, considered by many critics in India as well as abroad as "Oscar material" due to its cinematic brilliance in all aspects of film making, was chosen as India's entry from among ten contenders.

True to the hype around it, the film won an Oscars nomination in the best foreign film category along with films like Amelie(France), No man's land(Bosnia), Eling(Norway) and Son of the Bride(Argentina). Infact, analysts say that had it not been for its inordinate length(nearly four hours long) and its anti-British tilt, the film could well have fetched for India its first Oscar award. This year too, the exercise of choosing a nominee for the Oscars has evoked tremendous interest with a host of outstanding films like Omkara, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Corporate being in the fray for the honour.



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