India has been nominated for Oscar’s international-film award three times — impressive, until you consider that the country makes about 1,600 movies a year. Aside from scattered nominations and wins (e.g., the Honorary Award to Satyajit Ray), the country has largely been ignored by Academy voters. But that may change this year.
India is banking on two excellent narrative films, “Last Film Show” and “RRR,” plus Shaunak Sen’s “All That Breathes,” an eco-conscious docu about two Delhi brothers rescuing birds (released in the U.S. respectively by Samuel Goldwyn, Variance Films and HBO with Sideshow and Submarine Deluxe). S.S. Rajamouli was tapped as the year’s top director by the N.Y. Film Critics for “RRR” and the film scored two Golden Globe noms. “Last Film” earned a best picture prize at the Asian World Film Festival. And “Breathes” recently led the awards at the Intl. Documentary Assn. handouts, with four wins.
“Last Film Show” is about 9-year-old Samay in a small Indian village who falls in love with movies and befriends projectionist Fazal.
Writer-director Pan Nalin says it’s partly inspired by his own projectionist friend, whose job became obsolete when digital movies took over.
Nalin is amazed by worldwide reaction to the film. In addition to talking about the film, “Audiences start telling me their own story about their relationship with movies,” he says. “For me this is new, a lot of interaction with industry workers and how people relate to it.”
Some online fans have tried to set up a rivalry between the two films, which is silly because they’re so different. S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR” is an epic, set in the 1920s, as colonial India battled British rule. It features action scenes, gunfire, romance, bromance, musical numbers and wild animals. (The title means Rise. Roar. Revolt.)
Rajamouli observes that many Western films “try to give one flavor for the entire movie. As an Indian filmmaker, we put multiple flavors into a story. But they’re not all dumped together, it’s a kind of choreography — one flavor floats into another. And at the end, you are overwhelmed with lots of flavors.”
This is the 12th film for Rajamouli and all of them have been profitable. Did he know this one was special?
“Every time a film is about to go to audiences, I think all filmmakers are completely dazed, they lose all perception. We lose all sense of judgment and we’re looking for audience to tell us how good or bad it is. And it’s nice that people are responding so well.”