Chhello Show (‘Last Film Show’), a small-budget Gujarati drama, was chosen as India’s official entry to the Academy Awards for the international film category on Tuesday, putting all rumours to rest and defeating prominent Hindi and southern language films. A big screen release for the Pan Nalin-directed movie, which stars Bhavin Rabari, Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, and Paresh Mehta in the lead roles, is planned for late 2022. It managed to beat SS Rajamouli’s historical drama RRR and political drama The Kashmir Files.
The film Chhello Show, about a young child in a Gujarati village who pays a projectionist to watch movies at his theatre, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. The movie comes after the Malayalam thriller Jallikattu and the Tamil drama Koozhangal, both of which were chosen to represent India at the Oscars the previous two years but failed to receive any nominations. The year before, the winning entry was the musical drama Gully Boy by Zoya Akhtar. After Gyan Correa’s The Good Road in 2013, Chhello Show is the second Gujarati movie in the last ten years to be chosen for the award.
However, only three Indian movies—Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988), and Lagaan (2001)—have ever been nominated for an Academy Award. The 95th Academy Awards will take place in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 12, 2023.
Filmmaker Nalin has received recognition for a number of critically acclaimed works. His Hindi and Japanese-language motion picture Valley of Flowers won the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles’ best picture award in 2006, while Faith Connections, an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival in 2013 and winner of the festival’s audience choice prize in 2014, was also produced by him. In addition to being nominated for the 2016 All Lights India International Film Festival, Nalin’s feminist story Angry Indian Goddesses, which received the crowd award at the Rome Film Festival and the audience choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, is well-known to Hindi-speaking viewers.
The United States Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestows its annual award for best international film feature on a full-length movie made outside of the US and with a majority of dialogue in languages other than English. The Film Federation of India, the country’s top organisation of producers, distributors, exhibitors, and studio owners, makes the final decision regarding the official selection.
Critics and movie enthusiasts were hoping for either SS Rajamouli’s RRR or Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files to be submitted as the official entry, therefore Chhello Show’s selection came as a surprise. The former, a high-budget action spectacular, has already conducted a significant promotional campaign in the US and tells the story of two fictional Indian revolutionaries. The latter, which has gained considerable support and admiration from the political machinery, is focused on the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the state.