This week saw Pan Nalin’s Gujarati film Chello Show (Last Film Show) become India’s ‘Best International Feature’ pick for the 2023 Academy Awards — a move that hasn’t gone well with the creators and fans of SS Rajamouli’s blockbuster period action film, RRR.
RRR became something of a runaway hit this year, drawing millions of newcomers to Telugu cinema, entering the box office record books, and rekindling an international interest in regional Indian films. The film’s massive popularity didn’t draw attention from the Film Federation of India (FFI), whose jury was thanked by Pan in a recent Twitter post:
OMG! What a night this going to be! Gratitude to Film Federation of India and thank you FFI jury members. Thank you for believing in Chhello Show. Now I can breathe again and believe in cinema that entertains, inspires and enlightens! @LastFilmShow1 #ChhelloShow #Oscars
— Nalin Pan (@PanNalin) September 20, 2022
Pan’s triumph, however, was marred by an onslaught of posts critical of the FFI’s decision, which also drew comparisons to ‘snubbed’ films during previous Oscars.
Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined Film Federation of India ignoring #RRR for India’s official entry to the Oscars. One year when we stood a good chance with it. Moreover, wasn’t #ChhelloShow in contention last year? Didn’t one of the members rip it apart?
— Namrata Joshi (@Namrata_Joshi) September 20, 2022
Gujarati film #ChhelloShow is India’s official entry for Oscars 2023 and as always India has ZERO chance of getting nominated forget about winning. #RRR was our BEST BET in last 2 decades to win an oscar for India. Really Sad to see Film federation of India ignored this fact 👎🏻.
— Sumit Kadel (@SumitkadeI) September 20, 2022
Fortunately for fans of the film, this isn’t the end of the line for RRR’s Oscar dreams.
A Campaign On All Fronts
According to Variety, RRR’s US distributor Variance Films is launching a massive campaign calling all 10, 000 Academy members to vote for the film in multiple categories including Best Film, Best Director for SS Rajamouli, and surprisingly Best Supporting Actor for Ajay Devgn & Best Supporting Actress for Alia Bhatt.
“Over the last six months, we have seen the joy that S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR has brought to global audiences,” stated Variance Films president Dylan Marchetti. “We have seen the film gross over $140 million worldwide to become one of India’s highest-grossing films of all time and become the first film in history to trend globally on Netflix for over 14 weeks. We have seen the film fill up theatres with cheering audiences months after its initial release, including the historic TCL Chinese IMAX theatre in Hollywood, where it will play next Friday to an audience that sold out of one of the largest theatres in the country in just 15 minutes.
Most importantly, 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.” All categories indeed — apart from the aforementioned awards, RRR will be gunning for the Best Original Screenplay for SS Rajamouli and V. Vijayendra Prasad, Best Original Song (Naatu Naatu), Best Original Score (M.M. Keeravaani), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
Does Chhelo Show Really Deserve The Best International Feature Oscar?
Despite the thousands of voices in favor of RRR’s Oscar push, there remains a fair subset of viewers who believe that the FFI’s decision to skip the film wasn’t a bad one.
It’s a masala film with over dramatic scenes. Not at all Oscar worthy.
— Raj (@justwondered1) September 20, 2022
It seems that the FFI’s 17 jurists, all of whom are film industry experts, agreed with the above sentiment, with Nalin’s film emerging as a ‘unanimous’ choice with RRR not receiving a single vote. Other films that were considered and scrapped were the recently-released Brahmastra, R Madhavan’s Rocketry – The Nambi Effect, Nagraj Manjule’s Jhund, Rajkummar Rao-Bhumi Pednekar starrer Badhaai Do, and Ayushmann Khurrana-led Anek.
“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.
So, the question remains — why Chhelo Show?
The coming-of-age semi-biographical film charts the life of Samay, a child from Nalin’s native village Saurashtra. After bribing a cinema projector technician, Samay falls in love with cinema and explores the dying culture of single-screen cinema, and India’s long history with 35mm celluloid — both of which were sourced and used during the film’s production.
Starring Bhavin Rabari, Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, and Paresh Mehta, the film had an extremely successful run with film festivals and crucially, film critics. It premiered as the first-ever Gujarati film at the Tribeca Film Festival back in June 2021, was nominated at the Tiantan Awards at the 11th Beijing International Film Festival, and won the ‘Golden Spike’ for Best Film at the 66th Valladolid Film Festival in Spain. Indian critics loved the film, with Prahlad Srihari of Firstpost calling the film “an ode to movie-going, as movie-making”, while Mashable India’s Tanzeem Pardiwalla rated it 5 out of 5.
Meanwhile, SS Rajamouli and his team have continued to make appearances and push for further screenings and festival appearances for the film in US markets — giving it the best chance possible of retaining cultural relevance with American audiences. (None of which has to do with good filmmaking of course, but that’s the Oscars for you.)
The 95th Academy Awards will take place on March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The nominations for the same will be announced on January 24 next year.
Lead Image: DVV Entertainment