It was around the same time last year that Chaitanya Tamhane’s directorial first made news. Selected in the competition section at the Venice Film Festival, the multilingual Court won the Lion of the Future Award for Best First Feature and the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the 71st edition of the prestigious festival.
The film has since extensively travelled internationally, winning the director over a dozen awards, including the National Award for Best Feature Film earlier this year. However, the celebration for Tamhane hasn’t ceased even a year after it premiered. It has now been selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars.
The film is about a lok shahir or a ballad singer, who is arrested for the abatement of suicide of a sanitary worker. A commentary on the state’s attempt to crush any voice of dissent, the poor condition of sanitary workers in India and the functioning of the judiciary, Court released in over 150 screens across India on April 17.
The announcement that the film, in Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi and English, will be India’s entry to the 88th Academy Awards in the Foreign Film category came on Wednesday afternoon. Critics and the industry have unanimously applauded the decision by the Film Federation of India (FFI), headed by Amol Palekar this year. In the previous few years, FFI’s selections, such as Gyan Correa’s The Good Road and Geetu Mohandas’ Liar’s Dice (2015) have triggered much debate over the selection procedure.
Elated at Court’s selection, Tamhane, currently in Japan, said in a statement, “At every juncture of the film’s journey, we have felt that it has given us more than we could ever imagine. Once again, this has come as a genuine surprise to both Vivek (Gomber, producer and actor) and me. Ever since we started making the film, we kept our expectations low. Especially in this case, since these results tend to be so unpredictable, it just felt like a wise thing to not expect too much. Now that it has actually happened, we would like to thank the jury for their decision and everyone who has supported the film so far.”