The entry of Tamil movie Visaaranai to the 89th Academy Awards scheduled for February has come as a surprise for those who believe Bollywood is poorly represented in the race. But director Ketan Mehta, who headed the jury to select the Oscar entry, disagrees.
“We are very happy that we chose Visaaranai. It’s raw and shows the authentic depiction of oppression and brutality faced by the poor in any unequal social structure. Though the story is rooted in Tamil Nadu, it has a universal resonance. The theme of oppression has a connect with any culture in any part of the world.”
The Vetrimaran directorial is a hard-hitting take on police brutality. The movie, based on true events shocked the audience with its raw unvarnished portrayal of violence in police lock-up. Ketan reveals that he has not seen such an excellent line-up of Oscar contenders in a very long time.
“By the time we narrowed down the list to 8-9 films, we were in a serious dilemma as to which one to pick. All of them were equally outstanding; we had a real tough time in zeroing in on one. Finally, we unanimously chose Visaaranai.” Ketan is dismissive of the laments of poor representation of Bollywood.
“I don’t understand what Bollywood means. If you are talking about the song-and-dance films, there were many such entries. Like I said, the film we selected seemed the best of all. We feel it stands a strong chance at the Oscars.”
Last year, Marathi film Court directed by Mahesh Tamhane headed to LA after being chosen by a jury headed by Amol Palekar and returned home empty-handed.
Ketan explains, “Selection is only a part of the process. Marketing the film in the US and pitching it to the Oscar jury in Los Angeles is very important.”
Here is where Indian entries get thwarted and expelled from the race. “We are hopeful that the makers of Visaaranai would be able to take the film to its logical conclusion,” says Ketan.