By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, Sep 30 (IANS) Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is not entirely surprised by "Rang De Basanti" (RDB) being selected as India's entry to the Oscars.
"Somewhere deep down in my heart I thought in totality as a cinematic experience RDB deserved the chance to represent our country," Mehra told IANS.
Mehra, whose film was appreciated at the Golden Globe awards, said they have to make sure jury members view the film.
"Oscars are a different experience. You enter the film into the event and then pass it on to the jury members who might or might not see your film. And when they see, it's a film from this part of the world they might not even open the envelope.
So, he feels the first concrete step towards getting into the foreign-film short-list is to change the mindset of the jury.
Q: How have people responded to "Range De Basanti" being sent to the Oscars?
A: You know Lata bai (Mangeshkar) called up to congratulate me. It was such a glorious moment for me. She cannily pointed out that our films are still not taken seriously out West and how much we need to change that. She hopes RDB will do it. I hope so too.
Q: RDB's selection was only expected?
A: Not entirely unexpected. The Oscar has been acknowledged by the film fraternity all over the world as one of the premier recognitions. From our childhood we've seen the Oscar ceremonies as the ultimate glamour celebration of cinema.
Q: RDB was almost the unanimous choice for the Oscars.
A: Yes, it's as though the film belongs to everybody. People from the media, film fraternity and the audience now own the film.
Q: What do you think our chances are?
A: If my experience with the Golden Globe jury is anything to go by, then we've a lot to look forward to. But the Oscars are a different experience. You enter the film into the event and then pass it on to the jury members who might or might not see your film. And when they see, it's a film from this part of the world they might not even open the envelope.
Q: So, how do we go about it?
A: The first step towards getting into the foreign-film short-list is to change their mindset. We cannot go and say, 'Listen we are dying to get your award. So give it to us.' It has to be, 'It's time you sat up and took notice of what we're doing.'
Any cultural or artistic relationship depends on mutual respect and admiration. We cannot go on being these poor country cousins.
Q: The song-and-dance image must go.
A: I guess it has become kind of fashionable out there to look at us like that. I feel this kind of international platform is very important for Indian films - I can't bring myself to call it Bollywood.
It gives you an extended space for your film to do business. If in the West they've created international cinematic platforms like BAFTA, Golden Globe and the Oscars it's somewhere because it has an economic spin-off. The stronger we get financially, the more we'd be able to make the kind of movies we want to and we should.
Q: Aamir Khan pushed and pushed "Lagaan". It didn't win the Oscar. Will you leave the Oscar-marketing to the producer?
A: I'm half the producer of RDB. We've been discussing the marketing strategy. Now that we've the nomination we'll park ourselves in LA. We've already done some groundwork and we'll take it from there.
I'm very confident because my producer Ronnie Screwvala has considerable experience in LA. His company has tied up with film companies out there. And he's already doing films with them. On the other end we've Aamir and his uphill experience with the Oscar during "Lagaan". We've their joint experiences to tap from.
Q: What's the immediate next step?
A: Talking and forming a precise strategy on paper and following it. The US is such a huge country. We here may feel a lot of people have already seen RDB. But a lot more people need to see it, regardless of whether it makes it to the final five list or not.
Q: What did you think of the other films in the Oscar reckoning like "Omkara" and "Lage Raho Munna Bhai"?
A: I was in very good company. We had some good movies this year. But somewhere deep down in my heart I thought in totality as a cinematic experience RDB deserved the chance to represent our country.
We've all worked very hard on it. We've the best wishes of the country. We'll do our best. But India needs to let the West know how much RDB deserves to be noticed. Right now I'm off to the Bollywood awards in Melbourne, which RDB opens. Then there is Hawaii Film Festival - that's where our film goes in the next month. But we'll be planning our Oscar strategy. We've already zeroed in on which PR agency to hire.
Q: What do you think of Deepa Mehta's "Water" getting selected as Canada's official entry to the Oscars?
A: It's so interesting. A Hindi film from Canada! I think it is really heartening. It's a huge pointer to what's happening to Hindi cinema.