India Makes Surprise Oscar Choice

Non-selection of "Lunchbox" leaves bitter taste

LONDON – Little known Gujarati-language film “The Good Road” has been selected as India’s entry in the Academy Awards’ foreign-language film race. It displaced firm favorite and one of the highest profile Indian films of the year, Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox.”

The selection was made by the Film Federation of India and a committee headed by veteran filmmaker Gautam Ghose.

“The Good Road” (pictured) is the debut feature of director Gyan Correa. Structured as a road movie, it follows three groups of people whose lives intersect as they travel along a bleak stretch of highway in western India. India’s National Film Development Corporation produced the film, which premiered in July at the London Indian Film Festival. It subsequently won the National Film Award for a Gujurati film.

“It’s staggering. I never thought this would happen. I never thought about the Oscars. I just made the film that was in my mind. I’m humbled,” Correa told Variety.

The Lunchbox” was received warmly at the Cannes and Telluride fests and is set for North American release through Sony Pictures Classics.

The Federation’s choice has sparked off a barrage of bitter comments in the Indian press and in social media.

Batra tweeted: “Heartbroken. We could have gone the distance we were told by our U.S. distributors, by the Hollywood press…”

Director Anurag Kashyap, whose “Ugly” was a Cannes selection this year and who is one of the producers of “The Lunchbox,” tweeted: “I don’t know who the federation is. But it goes to show, why we completely lack the understanding to make films that can travel across borders.”

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