Keeping it real, keeping it regional, filmmakers and actors agree that locally-made cinema gets a fair representation at international film festivals, including the Oscars. These acclaimed insiders, who have made a mark in both regional cinema as well as Bollywood, believe that with a little bit of love from the audience and some financial aid to help create a buzz, regional cinema also has the power to have a greater showcase.
Dismissing misconception that lobbies are at play, actor Adil Hussain, says, “It totally depends on the board that chooses these films. It is about their taste, calibre and idea, or lack of idea of cinema. It is not a strategy that only Bollywood films are represented. The film should merit it.” He does believe that “Oscars do give a sense of validation to films” because they are most respected and most popular in the world.
Actor Tannishtha Chatterjee, says, “I don’t think Oscars should be the ultimate validation for our films, because culturally, they look at things in a very clichéd way when it comes to India. But having said that, regional cinema has a very good international representation. International forums are far more equal. But regional cinema also has to be of that level, and the audience also has to evolve. This is true for every form of art.”
With big money involved, regional filmmakers often struggle with financers to back their films at international film festivals, including the Oscars. Hussain explains: “Unfortunately, Indian government doesn’t support the films as much as it should. So if the producers are unable to fund the screenings, then hiring venues, creating a buzz, treating the jury members to a preview becomes difficult.”
Filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, who directed Pink (2016) and has won many accolades for his Bengali-language films, agrees. “When a film is sent to the Oscars, it has to be promoted well and that requires money. Regional cinema – not Malayalam, Tamil or Telugu – doesn’t have that kind of money,” he says.
Economics, glamour and star power are also some of the factors involved in giving a boost to the film when it is being considered for nomination, feels filmmaker Rajesh Mapuskar, who directed Ventilator (2016). “They are big stars, and have so many fans. There is more PR hype and media gives more coverage to them. So there will always be that noise around such films,” he says, adding, “It also depends on the muscle the producer has.”
With OTT platforms opening up newer opportunities for releases, things might begin to change for regional cinema. “Nothing is inaccessible anymore. This will get people to notice these films more. Earlier, we used to travel so much just to watch a film at a festival, but now everything is at your fingertips,” says Chowdhury. But there is a catch, again with the buzz that is generated around such releases. Chatterjee says, “Even with this kind of reach, regional content is not pumped like American or English shows. Regional becomes mainstream only when it has that appeal – a mainstream star, or the scale and marketing budgets.”
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