Sep 23, 2013

Filmmaker Goutam Ghose Interview

Telugu films are just not good enough for Oscar selection

 Maabhoomi in Telugu (1979) It was the first feature film of acclaimed Indian director Goutam Ghose. Maabhoomi based on the Telengana Rebellion in Hyderabad State.The film was screened at Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Cairo and Sidney Film Festivals. The film is listed among CNN-IBN's list of hundred land mark Indian films of all time. Nandi Award for Best Feature Film

Goutam Ghose
Filmmaker Goutam Ghose, who served as chairman of the selection committee to choose India's official entry to the Academy Awards, talks about the surprise choice of The Good Road, criticism of the jury and why Telugu films aren't good enough for the Oscars

The selection of The Good Road as India's official entry for the Academy Awards has drawn criticism from a lot of quarters.
Let me say this at the onset itself — the decision to select The Good Road as India's official entry to the Oscars was a unanimous one. Each member of the jury is a highly respected professional in his/her own field — be it acting, directing or composing. The members made a shortlist of films and two movies found their way to each list — The Good Road (TGR) and the recent Irrfan- Nawazuddin starrer. But ultimately, the members felt that the former was a better choice as it explores unknown India. The movie is a lost and found saga, set in the Rann of Kutch and we thought it would come as a pleasant surprise to the Academy.

Surprise, yes, but not a pleasant one for many in India, as they expected the Irrfan-Nawaz starrer to be selected.
You know, it's is extremely presumptuous of people. How many have seen The Good Road or other participating films to decide which one is a better choice for the Academy Awards? There were a lot of good films in the race. Personally, I really liked the Irrfan starrer, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Ship of Theseus, Celluloid, Shabdo, Viswaroopam and other regional films. But ultimately, it came down to choosing one and the collective decision was to go with TGR.

Considering we haven't been able to secure even a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in recent years, do you think producers of TGR will manage to create buzz at the Oscar level, minus any big studio backing?
I hope so. But then,we didn't really choose the film based on whether it has Oscar-friendly elements to knock the socks off the all-American jury. The criteria is simple — we had to select a film that represents the country perfectly. Who the producers are and what sort of a buzz they could create for the film is not something we take into consideration. Neither was there pressure from any quarter. As for TGR, it has been produced by National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and I hope they promote the movie well. Even small Iranian films do a good job at grabbing eyeballs internationally, and for a developing country like India, I hope this won't be a problem. And if they still can't pull it off, then they should go to Narendra Modi for help. It is wealthy state and the chief minister along with others can put their clout behind the movie, as it's based in Gujarat. Plus, he is quite popular these days, isn't he?

What about the Telugu movies in the selection race?
 Well, we did see the Telugu nominations and I liked the theme of some. But honestly, the movies didn't stand a chance when they compete with films from Mumbai, Tamil Nadu or even Kerala. Even though the Telugu film industry churns out so many movies a year, they lack poignant films and are not good enough for Oscar selection. The content, quality and presentation of Telugu films are dismal. A small country like Iran churns out better movies than Tollywood.

You are quite scathing towards Telugu cinema...
Don't get me wrong,my comments are based solely on the current quality of films. Telugu cinema is my first love. And I say this because I made my directorial debut in 1979 with the Telugu film, Maa Bhoomi. It was based on the Telangana rebellion and was quite acclaimed, having travelled to many international film festivals. So, I would like to see the industry that gave me a break, come up with good quality cinema.

Must be a tough job being in the jury to select Indian's official Oscar entry?
Well, at the end of the day, it's a thankless job. I've served in many a prestigious jury and there is always criticism coming our way. But on the brighter side,we get to see movies by young, talented filmmakers and learn new things from them. The one good thing today is that there is no demarcation like mainstream, art, etc. Technically, we are very sound. But we need to have more content, style and cultural ethos in our movies.

Goutam Ghose Profile

Born 24 July 1950 (age 63)
Calcutta, India
Occupation Film director, Actor, Producer, Music Director, Cinematographer
Years active 1974 - present
Spouse(s) Neelanjana Ghose (1978 - present)
Anandi Ghose
Ishaan Ghose