Anurag Basu and his stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are justifiably elated over BARFI!'s selection as the official Indian entry for an Oscar in the Foreign Language Category that will be given away by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the year 2013. My congratulations and I generously wish and pray that Anurag Basu, who is busy savoring the 'the icing on the cake', finally gets to have a piece of the Oscar pie as well.
However, the sagacity of the jury of the Film Federation of India (FFI) responsible for picking up BARFI! as India's official entry must be questioned seriously. I am sure there will be many well-known names of the film industry in the jury who have years of experience behind them. I believe the other films in the shortlist included Milan Luthria's THE DIRTY PICTURE, Rajan Khosa's GATTU, Tigmanshu Dhulia's PAAN SINGH TOMAR, Umesh Kulkarni's DEOOL, Sujoy Ghosh's KAHAANI, Anurag Kashyap's GANGS OF WASSEYPUR PARTS I AND II, Gurvinder Singh's ANHEY GHORE DA DAAN, and Madhur Bhandarkar's HEROINE.
All these films in the list, excluding the pathetic HEROINE, would have been a better choice than BARFI! any day any time on all possible criterion and benchmarks. They are artistically superior and could have provided at least a semblance of competition to the sure shot Oscar winner in the foreign language category in 2013, the Austrian entry Michael Haneke's AMOUR. Unless the Academy voters are too quirky and out-of-their-minds to recognize an obvious winner, it's a foregone conclusion.
The FFI jury has botched up its job. To find out if it's done innocently or deliberately, some kind of criminal investigation will have to be conducted. Going by the general societal trend of 'cronyism' in every sphere of Indian life, it may have been a deliberate mistake unless of course all the esteemed and honorable members of the jury were ignoramuses and knew nothing about the trends in world cinema.
To send BARFI as an official Indian entry for Oscars is a patently wrong decision in my view when I look at the entries from other nations. The jury should have given some thought to those films if it was serious about its task. Were they aware about the non-English films, apart from AMOUR, that have been creating buzz in the film festivals across the world? I am talking about films like the Romanian entry Cristian Mungiu's BEYOND THE HILLS, the German entry Christian Petzold's BARBARA, the Danish entry A ROYAL AFFAIR by Nikolaj Arcel, the French entry THE INTOUCHABLES by Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache, the Swiss entry SISTER by Ursala Meier, the Canadian entry WAR WITCH by Kim Nguyen, the Hungarian entry JUST THE WIND by Benedek Fliegauf, etc.
When you participate in a world event like Olympics you look at the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents and your own and then pick your best athletes for the job. This is the least one should do, to know the field before marching in to play. Did the FFI jury do this elementary exercise and analysis before its selection? If it didn't, it acted incompetently and casually like a bunch of nincompoops. The jury has ignored the films that were obviously better in terms of their artistic and cinematic worth. THE DIRTY PICTURE is a better film than BARFI! in whatever way you evaluate it. It's better directed, performed, and shot. It also has a strong Indian stamp and is not fake stylized cinema. As mentioned earlier, apart from HEROINE all other films in the short list would have been a better choice than BARFI!.
(These are strictly the views of the writer of this story Rajesh Kumar Singh and not necessarily that of the portal.)
(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets or BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)