The Academy award for best foreign language film was incorporated in the year 1956 and a year later, in 1957, India submitted its first film to the oscars in this coveted category. The first Indian submission to the Oscars was Mother India. This Mehboob Khan masterpiece became the first ever Indian film to gain a nomination in the best foreign language film category but ultimately lost to Italy’s Nights of Cabiria directed by the legendary Federico Fellini. Since then, a total of 48 films have been sent to the Oscars as India’s official entries. The latest being Vetrimaaran’s Visaranai, a tamil film.
The first Tamil film to be selected as India’s official entry was A.C. Thirulokachander’s Deivamagan, in which Sivaji Ganesan starred in a triple role. The film also featured a stellar supporting cast which included Jayalalitha, Major Sunderrajan and Pandari Bai. In 1987, Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan became the second Tamil film to be selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars. Despite Kamal hassan’s terrific performance and the film’s own widely enjoyed popularity, it failed to make it to the shortlist.
This was followed again by Mani Ratnam’s Anjali in 1990. Set in an urban apartment complex, the plot of this film revolves around a mentally disabled girl child who is dying and her relationship with her siblings. This film was incidentally Ilayaraja’s 500th film as a music composer. The fourth Tamil film to be selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars was Thevar Magan directed by Bharatan. This was also the film which finally got Sivaji Ganesan his much delayed and deserved national award. However he declined to receive the award since it came to him a tad too late.
In the year 1995, Kuruthipunal was selected as India’s submission. This is a remake of the Hindi film Dhrokal and is incidentally the first and only official remake to be selected as India’s entry to the Oscars. The very next year Shankar’s Indian was selected as India’s submission. This Kamal Hassan starrer also held the record for the highest grossing Tamil film of its time till it was surpassed by 1999’s Padayappa.
The next tamil film to be selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars was Jeans. Noted for its many technical achievements one of the rarest feats this film pulled off was to capture all the seven wonders of the world in a single song. In the year 2000, Hey Ram was chosen as India’s official entry. Contrary to popular belief, Hey Ram was not Kamal hassan’s first film as a director. He had previously directed a Hindi film, Chachi 420 which was a remake of the tamil blockbuster Avvai Shanmugi. Many will be happy to know that it is indeed Kamal Hassan (in various capacities as actor, director and producer) who holds the record for the highest number of film submissions to the oscars – a total of seven.
After sixteen long years, Visaranai became the 9th Tamil film to be selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars. Here’s wishing Vetrimaaran a nomination.
– Avinash Moyidi