This is not a comment on ‘Eklavya’s fate at the Oscars. It is a lament on the pitiful rendering of what could have been and ought to be a national consensus.
The seriously deleterious goings on to do with the selection of ‘Eklavya’ as the official entry for Oscar 2007 has left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Its not so much about the contesting the validity of ‘Eklavya’ as the film that ought to represent India, but more about the non-serious stance by the Film Federation of India in selection of jury members. Much could have been avoided had those in power accorded the procedure a thorough, foolproof, meticulous filtering of names and enough emphasis on verification of biodata and other such mandatory regulations.
In absence of the above, what has transpired is rather embarrassing for India I must say. Imagine being hauled to Court since the selection has been termed ‘biased’!
Hearing a petition filed by director of Dharm , Bhavana Talwar, challenging the selection of Eklavya the High Court has asked Film Federation of India- which selects the Indian entry- and other respondents to file reply by October 10.
Division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud notedthat prima facie the selection looked biased.
Bhavna Talwar the director of another contender ‘Dharam’ opined that since she lost out by just a vote , that the committee members had reason to be ‘biased’ by virtue of the fact that two of its members Sudhir Mishra and Jagdish sharma were close friends of Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Ranjeet Bahadur was directly involved in the ‘making’ of ‘Eklavya’.This contention seemed to have won over the judges enough to admit her petition.
What is amusing however is that the next hearing is scheduled for October 10th when VVC will be sitting pretty in Hollywood cajoling jury members of the Oscar committee to view ‘Eklavya’. What gain then this whole rigmarole of legal entanglement? Much ado..
IMHO, Bhavana Talwar ought to have raised her objections about members of the jury before the results were out. Here one is presuming that the names were known. Rebelling and beating your chest after losing does seem like a case of ‘sour grapes’, despite the possibility of veracity in her objections and legitimacy in her claims. Cynically, this has given her and her film more mileage than what she had garnered at the release.
Both films blow a bugle on ‘Dharma’, both have it as the core thought /foundation of their films..yet what seems to be occurring presently is light years away from the concept of ‘Dharma’..!! Its so much easier to pontificate!
VVC is an old hand at bollywood tamasha. One is not for a minute doubting his involved mentality film making per se. However, one cannot eschew certain factors which prove that his intention of making a subject for the Oscars was clearly evident. The highly dramatised period look, replete with maginificent palaces, the length of the film ( one and a half hour), the subject that bespoke of Indias culture etc. all goes on to clearly exposing the inherent purpose of the making of such a venture.. Remember ‘Paheli’.. previous entrant to the Oscars?
One cannot ignore the lack of box office returns from Indians the world over as much as we should not circumvent the acclaims it has received from critics abroad. His blog boasts:
Eklavya – The Royal Guard has already received accolades in Hollywood. The film got a standing ovation at the Billy Wilder Theater in UCLA, where it was recently screened as part of the India Splendour Film Festival. Robert L. Friedman, the former President of Columbia Pictures and AMC Theaters applauded it as one of the great foreign films to have graced Hollywood in recent years. He further added, “The caring and most talented direction by Vidhu Vinod Chopra is worthy of maximum praise and awards. Mr. Chopra has created a masterpiece via this film, thanks to his genuine insight and love for his film vehicle. ‘Eklavya’ is a movie that transcends all geographical boundaries – a movie for all people, everywhere, it represents the very best that India’s great filmmaking community has to offer.”
Lionel Wigram, Producer of the Harry Potter films, said “It’s a masterpiece and I can safely say that it stands an excellent chance of winning India a much awaited Oscar in the foreign film category.” Jeffery Silver, Producer of the film 300, found it to be “a thriller that elevates to the level of art.”
The critics have also been unanimous in their praise:
Something about “Eklavya: The Royal Guard” suggests a lost film by David Lean.
– LA Times
“… Gives any House of Flying Daggers set piece a run for its money.”
– Metro, UK
“Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a poet on celluloid”
– Times of India
“Far from typical. Very strong and very Shakespearean”
– The Sunday Telegraph, UK
“Robustly unassuming and entertaining”
– Guardian, UK
“This is robust storytelling, with blood and thunder pumping through its veins, and real whiskers on its face.”
– LA Weekly
“Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s propulsive ‘Eklavya – The Royal Guard’ has epic sweep.”
– LA Times
One can in response quote here the rather scalding remarks from other critics but it will lead us nowhere.. the die has been cast. Eklavya is a a film which tried to hard to create an impact but failed to tell a story with conviction. If the purpose for making your film is other than unravelling a tale then various peripheral causes take over insidiously and blur the image.
I disagree with the manner of jury selection. To expect that in Bollywood a connection will not arise somewhere is immature and puerile. After all it is a family where there are no permanent enemies and no everlasting friends. Ideally the selection of a film should be made by a cross section of respected cinephiles who are privy to the selection process and parameters of Oscar guidelines. If we are to compete with world cinema then a world class selection mechanism has to be put in place of the rather shoddy and insignificant one at present. Either by pass the Oscars as complete hogwash and continue making and acclaiming the balderdash we do, celebrating the ‘entertainment it provides and the jingles the Box office as the only credential worth reckoning.
Or, then seriously appraise films made all over India with the single minded passion to zero on a film which has been made with guts, dedication, astuteness and love, no matter its language, budget or canvas. First assemble a jury which can recognise such talent.. no mean task. I cannot but quote a shair that is so apt here:
“hazaaron saal nargis apni benoori pe roti hai
Bahut mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida”
Its not enough to make good films.. connoisseurs have to grow in numbers as well. ..or then et prepared for talent like that of Ritwik Ghataks to get overshadowed by pompous and inane blockbusters.
Either we stop cribbing about Indian films as if a wart on our culture or stop patronising trash by the dozen if it features a ‘star’. If we deserve good cinema then we have to raise the bar of our personal sense of entertainment and applaud makers who have attempted to ‘dare’. It is so simple to say ‘flop’, ‘bakwas’, to a film which might have been the toil, sweat and blood of a film maker simply because one does not want to breathe fresh air and allow uniqueness to explode in our senses.
Or then keep getting mediocre fare, make them successes at the Box office to perpetuate another hundred to be made in the same genre while the dark horse loses the race even before it gets to speed.
P.S. Last year, here on ‘Sachiniti’ I had predicted ‘Water’ over RDB..I was proven right. This year there is ‘Nameske'( not sure if it will fall under Foreign language category since it is in English..yet..)..a strong contender ..unfortunately made by an Indian and about everything Indian but not representing India.. Come to think of it ‘this happens only in India’..cannot recall another country sending out its talented to end as diaspora who have forsaken their land.. correct me if I am wrong.
Ahh..this Oscar Shoscar