Dharm producer issues notice to Oscar jury

MUMBAI: Eklavya’s unanticipated entry to the Oscars has certainly given way to many a controversy. Though the film swiftly went ahead of Chak De! India and Guru, the scuffle was with Dharm and the former transgressed its challenger.

Dharm producer Sheetal Talwar has lashed out at the jury and has slapped a legal notice on the jury. While the jury maintains that it was a democratic decision.

According to sources close to the development, the final battle was between Eklavya and Dharm. While Eklavya was favoured by jury members namely directors Anil Sharma and Sudhir Mishra, designer Shaahid Amir, film editor Ranjit Bahadur, producer Ravi Kottakara, producer – director Jagdhish Sharma, music director Ravi Sharma; Dharm was the hot favourite of veteran filmmaker Vinod Pandey, dialogue writer and lyricist Jalees Sherwani and cameraman Nadeen Khan.

There were 11 movies (seven Hindi and four Tamil) in the running for India’s official entry to the Oscars namely – Eklavya – The Royal Guard, Dharm, Chak De! India, Swami, Gandhi My Father, Guru, Vivaah, Paruthi Veeran, Mozhi, Inimey Nangathan and Veyil.

However Dharm’s Sheetal Talwar is agitated with the decision taken. He says, "My only point is why is the jury fixed and rigged? When director Sudhir Mishra announced the Oscar nominee, he said that Vidhu Vinod Chopra is like his brother. What kind of principles are these? The jury members have said that they were under pressure. And who is this Ranjit in the jury; he’s not even a Google search personality. There has to be some justice."

He feels there is no comparison between Eklavya and his film Dharm as the latter has been nominated at many film festivals while Eklavya was thrown out of the Cannes film festival.

According to sources, what favoured Eklavya over Dharm was that the former was aesthetically and thematically brilliant.

"Dharm was pure India and was morally correct and there was enlightenment in the end. But what some members in the jury felt was that "morally correct" is the "generally correct" movie to send to the Oscars. However, aesthetically and thematically Eklavya stands a chance because foreign viewers would love an unusual story. Why should we show India in the same poverty stricken light? No wonder the others think of us as a third world country because we only promote that. For once, let something with grandeur, international standards, superior cinematography and sharp colour palettes go for the Oscars," says a jury member on condition of anonymity.

Another jury member added, "I was watching Eklavya for the third time and the movie just flew. None of the other movies managed to do that. We were bearing up with the others except Chak De! India and Eklavya. Guru, on the other hand is a brilliant film but it is too personal a film for foreign viewers to be engrossed in it."

Talwar, on the other hand, believes that talking to the jury will not be his next step. "What should I tell Mr Mishra? That he was dishonest. I want people to take this grave issue very seriously and not laugh it off."

The Talwars will now issue a legal notice against the official body. He adds, "There’s no point talking to the contenders, the jury has made a decision. My concern is that the jury is right but it can’t afford to be biased. And who is this Sudhir Mishra, he is a frustrated filmmaker."

The jury committee chairman Vinod Pandey is of the opinion that the jury is entitled to what the majority has to say. "The decision was taken unanimously and I have bowed to the majesty of democracy. Everyone has their own justified opinion. Vivaah was a beautiful movie too but no one voted for it and instead opted for Guru," admits Pandey. But personally he favours Dharm. "It’s undoubtedly a deserving film, but that’s my personal opinion, going beyond the jury.

Film Federation of India secretary Supran Sen echoes the same sentiment, "I have no clue about the pressure on the jury but yes the decision taken was by validated constituted members of the jury." About the legal action he says, "Everyone has the right to do what they feel is right. It’s their prerogative."

The 80th Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on 24 February, 2008, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland Center, Los Angeles.