On Tuesday evening, the Film Federation of India announced that Gujarati film Chello Show had been selected as India’s official entry for the Oscars. This put an end to weeks of speculation and online campaigns for SS Rajamouli’s RRR, which had long been considered the front runner for the selection. Many were disappointed, others amused at a relatively-obscure film beating this blockbuster. However, Chhello Show being sent by India to the Oscars does not mean RRR is out of the race. It is still very much in, and if industry experts are to be believed, it has more of a shot than the official entry. Also read: Not RRR or Kashmir Files, Gujarati film Chhello Show is India’s official Oscars entry
What is a country’s official entry for the Academy Awards?
First, let us understand what an official entry for the Oscars means. The Academy Awards are American film honours presented to films made in the US and largely in English. Other language-films made outside the US but released there are eligible as well. But most of them are eligible in the category called Best International Feature Film (known as Best Foreign Language Film prior to 2020). For this, every country is invited to submit their best candidate. The selection has to be done by an organization, jury or committee composed of people from the film industry. For UK, it is the British Film Institute and for India, it is the Film Federation of India.
However, this does not mean that this is the only way an Indian film can be submitted for Oscar consideration. Deepa Mehta’s 2005 film Water was famously Canada’s official entry for the Oscars. That is because the Lisa Ray and John Abraham-starrer was produced in Canada, distributed by Canadian company Mongrel Media. It was even nominated for the award, but not as an Indian film. That door is closed for RRR but others are still open.
Foreign films can be nominated outside International Film category
The Best International Feature Film is not the only category where non-American films can be nominated. Over the years, a number of foreign films have earned nominations at the Oscars in other major categories too. Many have gone on to win major awards as well. That is still possible for RRR. Film trade analyst Ramesh Bala says, “A country’s official entry is needed only for Best International/Best Foreign Film category. Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful or Parasite, RRR can be nominated for other mainstream categories except Best International Film.”
The 1997 Italian comedy drama La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) was nominated for seven Oscars, winning three. In 2001, French film Amelie got five Oscar nods. In 2019, Korean sensation Parasite went one step ahead by getting four wins from six nominations, including the all-important Best Picture. But perhaps the best parallel for RRR is the 2000 Taiwanese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The wuxia film took America by storm much in the same way that RRR has this year. It is still the highest-grossing foreign film in the US. It had 10 nominations at the Oscars and won four awards. It is also the film most analysts have compared RRR to, in terms of cultural impact in the US.
How does RRR still have a shot at the Oscars?
One might say that by that logic, all Indian films released in the US have that chance as well. What makes RRR different? Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months, you’ll know the cultural blitzkrieg the film has generated stateside. It has earned praise from Danny DeVito and MCU directors to actual Marvel comic book writers and even the guys from Honest Trailers. Its cultural foot print in the US has been bigger than any Indian film ever. And that is what gives it a shot.
As Ramesh Bala adds, “It’s not the best movie that wins an Oscar. It’s the best movie which many Americans or Academy members have heard of or seen wins an Oscar.” And Americans are already raving about RRR. Publications like Variety have even included the film in its short lists and long lists of Oscar candidates for categories like Best Picture and Best Actor (for Ram Charan and Jr NTR). Director SS Rajamouli has helped the cause by further raising its visibility at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.
The film’s US distributor–Variance Films–is now starting a full-blown campaign to get the film nominated in other categories, including Best Picture. “We have heard fans from around the world tell us that they believe this is one of the best films of the year from any nation. We agree. We proudly invite the Academy to consider RRR in all categories,” Dylan Marchetti, president, Variance Films told Variety.
As per sources, more screenings and festival appearances are lined up for the film and its cast in the US in the coming months. A full-blown plan is being chalked out to give RRR more visibility with the Academy in the coming months. The film is likely to remain in Americans’ minds for some time, giving it a realistic shot at getting nominated. Winning, after that, is a separate battle, but one that this film would be prepared to fight.