Sweet and Sour
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Plagiarism, favouritism, lobbyism — the debate around Barfi! being India's official entry to the Oscars continues
The Dalits of Punjab, gang wars in the heartland of India, a rebel's true run, a bee's revenge, a woman's wrath, effect of globalisation on India's small towns, an old man on an isolated island — these are some of the exceptional stories, characters and situations that represent India in films such as Anhey Ghorey Da Daan, Gangs of Wasseypur, Paan Singh Tomar, Eega, The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Deool, Vazhakku Enn 18/9 and Akasathinte Niram.
This year, the Oscars Selection Committee under the Film Federation of India (FFI) had the task of choosing one of the above as India's official entry to the 85th Academy Awards 'Best Foreign Language Film' category. They chose Barfi! instead, interestingly taking its producer, UTV's tally to four films selected for Oscars in just seven years. Others were Rang De Basanti (2006), Harishchandrachi Factory (2009) and Peepli Live (2010).
"Barfi! was endearing and joyful. It collectively had all the elements," reasons Assamese filmmaker Manju Borah, who headed the committee. Apparently, "too dark, stark or real subjects didn't touch the jury's heart". But Barfi! — with its differently abled characters, love story and Chaplin-esque humour — did. But can it match up to the charm of Roberto Benigni's Oscar winning film, Life is Beautiful? There are doubts, because ever since FFI made the announcement, the entire country is caught up in a debate. Also, why was Barfi! chosen when the list had critically acclaimed films to choose from, and when reports of the film being copied abound? The website Tanqeed.com uploaded scenes from The Notebook, The Goonies, Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, Buster Keaton's Cops and Jackie Chan's Project A to prove the point.
Director Anurag Basu waved it off as 'inspiration'. "But plagiarism is not inspiration," corrects award-winning filmmaker Bhavna Talwar, whose film Dharm was overshadowed by the selection of Eklavya to the Oscars in 2007. Just like other films such as Udaan, Chak De! India, Mangal Pandey:The Rising, Black, Iqbal, Agnivarsha, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi were given a miss over the years by FFI.
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