The shortlist for 10 categories at the upcoming 95th Oscars is out and 4 Indian films have made the cut. Even though each category includes 15 contenders, these lists will get trimmed down to a final set of five when the final nominations are announced on Jan 24, 2023.
The shortlist includes the Gujarat-language coming-of-age drama Chello Show (campaigned in the West as Last Film Show) for Best International Feature while RRR's viral hit Naatu Naatu has made it to Best Original Song category. The documentary category is also stacked with All That Breathes joining the race for Documentary Feature while The Elephant Whisperers got a slot for Documentary Short Film.
1. Chello Show for Best International Feature
Pan Nalin's Gujarati take on Cinema Paradiso angered several Indians when it was chosen over the expected frontrunner RRR for India's official submission for Best International Feature. Now, the coming-of-age drama has made it to the shortlist alongside expected favourites like Germany's anti-war drama All Quiet on the Western Front, South Korea's twisted romantic thriller Decision to Leave, and Pakistan's universally-acclaimed Joyland. Garnering controversy in its native country, Joyland is being praised for its exploration of patriarchy, transgender identity, among other themes.
Revolving around a young boy yearning to make it out of his village after he gets infatuated with cinema, Chello Show has drawn positive critical reactions but there are also chances that the Academy jury chose it for being too "Oscar-baity". This is, of course, just a speculation but Chello Show would have to battle major competitors like Joyland (which if it wins finally will create history for Pakistan) and Decision to Leave which is directed by Park Chan-Wook, a mainstay in global cinema with hits like Oldboy and The Handmaiden. All Quiet on the Western Front has similarly higher chances given that it has also been shortlisted for Music, Sound, Visual Effects, and Makeup.
After the Oscars shortlist was announced, Chello Show producers Siddharth Roy Kapur and Dheer Momaya, and director Pan Nalin jointly said, "We are humbled and overjoyed that our heartfelt ode to the cinematic medium Last Film Show (Chhello Show) has been recognised by the world's pre-eminent awards body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since our selection by the Film Federation of India as India's Official Entry to the 95th Oscars, we knew in our hearts that the film was bound for something special. We would like to thank the FFI, the millions of people who watched and admired the Chhello Show, as well as our international distributors who gave the film a well-deserved push. This is a historic moment for India and we hope to bring the Oscar home very soon."
2. Naatu Naatu (RRR) for Best Original Song
Indians were in for a surprise when Naatu Naatu made it to the final cut of Golden Globes nominations for Best Original Song joining the likes of Rihanna's Lift Me Up (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), and Lady Gaga's Hold My Hand (Top Gun: Maverick). Now, all three are yet again in the Oscars shortlist along with new additions like The Weeknd's recently-released Nothing is Lost from Avatar: The Way of Water.
Initially, when Naatu Naatu dropped early this year, Indians were more in awe of the complicated choreography essayed by Ram Charan and Jr NTR which soon turned into an Insta reels mainstay. No one would have anticipated that the seemingly "masala" song composed and produced by MM Keeravani would be a major awards contender. Given its Globe nomination, there are high chances that Naatu Naatu might make the final cut, a historical Oscar nod for a homegrown Indian song (AR Rahman's Jai Ho was still for a global production). Anyway, with every passing day, we are getting closer to see Ram Charan and NTR to perform their Naatu Naatu steps on the Oscar stage next year!
3. All That Breathes for Best Documentary Feature
The first film to win Best Documentary at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival, All That Breathes is India's strongest chance for Documentary Feature in years. Directed by Shaunak Sen, the documentary deals with the efforts of two brothers in saving the bird known as Black Kite amidst increasing levels of pollution in Delhi, the same city that witnessed the disappearance of its very own house sparrow.
A critical darling among global awards, the documentary touches upon the efforts of "kite brothers" while also exploring the escalating violence and chaos of the national capital. Its mention in Top Five Documentaries by the National Board of Review, USA, and a nomination at the Producer Guild Awards will strengthen its chances to get a spot in the final list.
4. The Elephant Whisperers for Best Documentary Short
The 41-minute documentary was picked up by Netflix for streaming earlier this month. The title refers to an old couple in South India who adopt an orphaned elephant named Raghu with the documentary delving into their efforts to ensure Raghu's survival.
It is difficult to estimate The Elephant Whisperer's winning chances as of now but if it does make the cut, it would be a major boost for Indian documentary filmmakers given that it is directed and funded by an Indian Kartik Gonsalves. Earlier, Documentary Short winners like Smile Pinki and Period: End of Sentence have focused on Indian settings but have been directed by Americans.
Where can you watch these films? Chello Show, and The Elephant Whisperers, are available to stream on Netflix. As for RRR, the original Telegu version can be streamed on Disney+ Hotstar as Netflix offers only a Hindi dub. All That Breathes is yet to come out on streaming platforms.