As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gears up to announce the recipients of its honours this year at the 95th edition of the Academy Awards on March 12, Indian cinema enthusiasts look forward in anticipation of an elusive Oscar coming home. The year 2009 saw the ‘Mozart of Madras’, A R Rahman, bag an Oscar for Best Original Score for the Danny Boyle directorial ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, which won eight Academy Awards.
‘Slumdog Millionaire’ also got Resul Pookutty the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing, while lyricist Gulzar and A R Rahman jointly won the award for the Best Original Song (‘Jai Ho’), taking India’s count for the movie to three.
The year 2023 brought with it some happy tidings as India basked in the spotlight with three Academy Award nominations – S S Rajamouli’s RRR (for Best Song – ‘Naatu Naatu’) which has in nomination M M Keeravani for music and Chandrabose for lyrics; Aman Mann and Shaunak Sen’s ‘All That Breathes’ for Best Documentary Feature Film, and Guneet Monga and Kartiki Gonsalves’s ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ for Best Documentary Short Film.
India’s official Oscar entry, ‘Chhello Show’ or ‘Last Picture Show’ could not make it to the final slate in the Best International Feature Film category.
Bhanu Athaiya was the first Indian to win an Academy Award in 1983 for Best Costume Design for Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film ‘Gandhi’. Subsequently, in 1992, iconic filmmaker Satyajit Ray was conferred with an honorary Academy Award.
Presenting the award to Ray, who received it on his hospital bed in Kolkata, legendary actress Audrey Hepburn had described his work as a “rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and his profound humanism which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world.” Ray remains the only Indian till date to win an honorary Academy Award.
However, India’s association with the Academy Awards goes as far back as 1958, when Mehboob Khan’s ‘Mother India’ became the first ever Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Awards in its 30th edition, under the Best Foreign Language Film category.
The iconic film is a depiction of crushing poverty braved by a widow while she struggles to raise her sons respectably. It features Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, and Raaj Kumar in lead roles.
Since then, India has had a handful of nominations for the prestigious laurel.
1961: Ismail Merchant’s ‘The Creation of Woman’ was nominated for Best Short Subject (Live Action)
1969: Fali Bilimoria’s ‘The House That Ananda Built’ was nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject)
1978: Ishu Patel’s ‘Bead Games’ was nominated for Best Animated Short Film.
1979: K K Kapil’s ‘An Encounter with Faces’ bagged a nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject)
1983: Pandit Ravi Shankar was nominated for Best Original Score for ‘Gandhi’
1987: Ismail Merchant’s ‘A Room With a View’ was nominated for Best Picture
1989: Mira Nair’s ‘Salaam Bombay!’ was nominated for Best Foreign Film
1993: Ismail Merchant’s ‘Howards End’ was nominated for Best Picture
1994: Ismail Merchant’s ‘The Remains of the Day’ was nominated for Best Picture
2002: Amir Khan-starrer ‘Lagaan’ was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film
2005: Ashvin Kumar’s ‘Little Terrorist’ was nominated for Best Short Subject (Live Action)
2009: A R Rahman’s ‘O… Saya’ from the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was nominated for Best Original Song
2011: A R Rahman’s ‘If I Rise’ from the film ‘127 Hours’ was nominated for Best Original Song
2013: Bombay Jayashri’ ‘Pi’s Lullaby’ from the film ‘Life of Pi’ was nominated for Best Original Song
2022: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s ‘Writing with Fire’ was nominated for Best Documentary Feature
It remains important to bear in mind that while awards and grand-scale recognitions reflect the quality work that the entries are known for, good filmmaking in all its aspects, irrespective of its limited reach, also make it to international platforms of repute.
While the fairness of the Oscars remains a matter of debate, it is argued that the Academy Awards do not always accurately reflect the best films of the year, as many critically acclaimed films miss this award.
But certainly, the imposing recognition by the Academy Awards will add another feather to the hats of Indian filmmakers for their stellar works.
–By Kavya Dubey