India’s 2023 Oscar entry Chhello Show (Last Film Show) might have been called a surprise selection by majority in the audience, but Film Federation of India President producer TP Aggarwal says inside the jury room, the Pan Nalin directed Gujarati film was a “unanimous” choice, with popular films like RRR and The Kashmir Files holding no competition against it.
The coming-of-age drama is set against the backdrop of cinemas in India that saw the transition from celluloid to digital, where hundreds of single-screen cinemas stand dilapidated or have disappeared altogether. The film stars Bhavin Rabari, Vikas Bata, Richa Meena, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval and Rahul Koli.
TP Aggarwal told indianexpress.com that Chhello Show was selected by a jury of 17 diverse voices from the film industry. The Gujarati movie competed with several big films of the year, including the recently released Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt fronted Brahmastra, SS Rajamouli’s RRR, R Madhavan’s directorial Rocketry – The Nambi Effect, Nagraj Manjule’s Jhund starring Amitabh Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao-Bhumi Pednekar starrer Badhaai Do and Ayushmann Khurrana-led Anek.
“Chhello Show was a unanimous decision by the jury. Out of the 17, all of them said we need this film. We are never inside so this was completely the jury’s decision. They said it is an Indian film that should go (for Oscar),” the president said.
The two movies that were being speculated to be India’s entry for the Best International Feature Film category were The Kashmir Files and RRR, with the latter gaining the most traction in the West. The SS Rajamouli epic, ever since it released on Netflix, found a wider audience base with the international media, filmmakers and fans taking note of the filmmaker’s wildly imaginative storytelling.
SS Rajamouli had in fact even attended multiple screenings in the US and addressed the audience as part of his efforts to boost the chances of RRR at the Oscars. But according to Aggarwal, the jury was not divided.
“The Kashmir Files and RRR were nowhere in front of this. The jury wanted this film only. They said there was no second or third film,” TP Aggarwal added.
Other films in contention were Tamil thriller Iravin Nizhal (non-linear single-shot film), Mahesh Narayanan’s Malayalam drama Ariyippu and Anik Dutta’s Bengali biographical drama Aparajito among others.
The jury included filmmaker TS Nagabharana (chairman), filmmaker Sangeeth Sivan, music composer Jatin Pandit, costume designer Nikhat Mariyam Neerushaa, producer Anjan Bose, sound recordist Mandar Kamalapurkar, editor Prateek Gupta among others.
Chhello Show had its world premiere at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Festival. The film will release in theatres in Gujarat and on select screens across India on October 14. The film is produced by Roy Kapur Films, Jugaad Motion Pictures, Monsoon Films, Chhello Show LLP, and Marc Duale.
So far, no Indian film has ever won an Oscar. The last Indian movie that made it to the final five in the best international feature category was Ashutosh Gowariker’s Aamir Khan-starrer Lagaan in 2001. The other two Indian movies to have made it to the top five are Mother India (1958) and Salaam Bombay (1989).