RRR, The Elephant Whisperers, All That Breathes: India’s global success should be celebrated not criticized | Hindi movie news

RRR’s Naatu Naatu, The Elephant Whisperers and All That Breathes made history at this year’s Oscars. All three films were nominated in three distinct categories. Composer MM Keeravani-lyricist Chandrabose won for Naatu Naatu in Original Song, while director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga won for The Elephant Whisperers in the Documentary Short Film category. They have brought glory and pride for Indian cinema to the world stage. Despite not winning the Feature Documentary Award, director Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes also proved that India is telling compelling stories and the world is listening with rapt attention.
When Guneet Monga arrived at the Mumbai airport displaying her golden Oscar statue, she was given a hero’s welcome. She was garlanded, showered with rose petals, and bombarded with continuous flashes from cameras and video cameras. A producer was learning about the life of an A-list actor. This is exactly what India feels and does for its Oscar winners. But the rule of yin and yang cannot be ignored. For every hurray there’s also a fist fight as people argue that All That Breathes was let down by the Academy Awards judging panel. Elsewhere, politicians punched each other making jokes that the country’s ruling party didn’t RRR. To hell with the controversy. No need to cloud the celebration and feeling of euphoria.

In this week’s Big Story, ETimes chronicles the hard work it takes to make an impact on a global platform like the Oscars. We also take a look at how winners and runners-up should react to unwarranted criticism and controversy. Read on…
“Going global is not easy”
Aamir Khan’s Lagaan was nominated in the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards in 2002. This year three films entered the competitive categories of the Oscars. It took him more than 2 decades to get back on the big stage and it just goes to show how challenging the feat really is. Meenakshi Shedde, who is an independent curator for a number of film festivals around the world and is a key person in bringing Indian cinema and talent to the Berlin Film Festival, explains the kind of commitment needed to represent India on a global scale. He says, “RRR’s Oscar win for Naatu Naatu for Best Original Song is a hard-won global win, which signifies a majority vote of faith by Oscar members, trumping Rihanna’s high-profile competition, Lady Gaga and others, as well as a very expensive prize, lobbying and media campaign, as well as recognition in the United States”.


A senior Telugu industry director reveals to ETimes that RRR’s Oscar campaign was worth millions of rupees. He says, “Every major Hollywood film must hire an agency to help build awareness of the film in the United States so that the 10,000 Academy members are able to identify films as worthy contenders. Similarly, the RRR team worked under the vision of SS Rajamouli’s son SS Karthikeya and created an elaborate campaign to promote and create awareness for the film. I was told that the entire exercise, which lasted more than 6 months, may have cost more than $6 million. It takes a lot of hard work to get noticed in the right circles.

Producer L Suresh, who has made Telugu hits such as Billa (2007) and Ooruku Nooruper (2001), explains that any producer aspiring to make an impact in the west must show dedication and commitment. He says, “Being selected and sent to the Oscars as India’s official candidate is just the beginning. RRR was not the final selection from India but made a big impact. The producer of the film must work with dedication to make his film known. It takes not only financial strength, but also mental strength, to go into unfamiliar markets and create a space for your film. Conquering a jury or an international audience is never an easy task”.

There was also speculation last year questioning India’s official entry to the Oscars, Gujarati drama Chello Show’s selection. TP Aggarwal, producer and president of IMPPA explains: “What was wrong with sending Chello Show to the Oscars? No politician has the right to comment on the film industry. The industry works like a family and in this case the jury asked to submit a film based on consent. And the important thing to note is that the judging panel consisted of members from every region of India. We had jurors from Mumbai, Kannada and other southern states as well. Voices from all over the country were represented, and everyone made an informed decision.”

That is why it is absolutely equivalent that these artists and their creations receive their due. They have put Indian cinema at the top of global charts and be it RRR, The Elephant Whisperers or All That Breathes, all three projects took years to plan, deliver and showcase to the world.

“Not winning is no big deal”
Director Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes didn’t win an Oscar, and a section of Indian social media erupted in protest. Actor-comedian Vir Das shared his opinion of Shaunak’s film in a tweet saying, “Heartbroken over #AllThatBreathes I thought it was the best documentary hands down. A beautiful beautiful film.” And just like that, Indian tweeters launched a vicious attack on the Academy Awards judging panel by insinuating that they would snub the documentary.

Soon enough Shaunak took to his Instagram to downplay all speculation as he wrote, “So many messages of encouragement/support since yesterday. We lay low for about an hour, but were soon distracted by equanimity amidst the swirl of shiny people and things. Brain has yet to conclude that this is the end of this chapter. Next we’ll be working hard to figure out distribution in India (HBO has done its India deal with Hotstar it seems, and we’re trying to figure out what platform it will release on now). For now, very very nice to share this bizarre and bloated day with the brothers and so many of our crew. Biggest congratulations to all the winning films from India! It was just the right message the trolls needed to shut up.


Meenakshi appreciates Shaunak’s determination and says, ‘Shaunak Sen and team have been incredibly kind even though their well deserved film All That Breathes lost the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Film analyst and expert Sreedhar Pillai chimes in: “Setbacks are an integral part of the awards process. A director faces setbacks on multiple levels. The film will be nominated but not always win locally, nationally and even internationally. Facing setback is normal, there is nothing you can do about it.

Producer, author and cinema expert Nasreen Munni Kabir believes that overcoming a setback is the essence of art. She explains: “There are many artists who were never fully recognized in their lifetime, take Van Gogh, he died without being celebrated. But it is work that must have a long life. And only time judges these things.

‘Confronting unwarranted controversy’

Shortly after The Elephant Whisperers won the Oscar, people surfaced online to claim that the subjects of the documentary, Bomman and Bellie, a South Indian couple, hadn’t even seen the film nor were they aware of the Oscar nomination. Movie Oscars. Director Karthiki Gonsalves had to come forward and assure everyone that Bellie and Bomman had indeed seen the 41-minute film, loved it and even approved of it.

Similarly, during a heated discussion of the budget session in Parliament, an opposition leader brought up the RRR in the debate and asked the Honorable Prime Minister of the country not to take credit for making the film. Both cases were out of place, a reminder that more often than not Indian films and filmmakers become easy targets for political and social gains.

Meenakshi reasons, “Justified criticism is fine, but social media has also opened up opportunities for disgruntled, attention-seeking individuals and groups to let off steam freely and feel important by taking down people and movies, without justification or reason. So sadly, a lot of good work comes down in the face of aggressive online trolling and abuse.

Director Faraz Arif Ansari, who made the acclaimed LGBT love story Sheer Qorma, says: “I think anyone with an individualistic and creative voice is an easy target these days. It has become one of those unspoken curses in the times we live in. Bad comes with good. The best comes with the worst. You just have to have the courage to embrace it all and put your heart into the process of creation. The rest is just noise.”

Director Vasan Bala agrees when he says, “Movies and cinema personalities are always easy targets all over the world. They do click bait views now and used to sell tabloids. Any space that offers that much potential to gain wealth and fame will be competitive, and criticism will be at those extremes as well.

‘Should artists speak out against trolling?’

Kartiki Gonsalves has come forward and clarified the allegations against The Elephant Whisperers. Shaunak has dealt with the issue of being ignored in a subtle way. Rajamouli and his team refrained from commenting on any unfair comparisons or misdirected salvos in which “RRR” was referred to. The process of dealing with trolls is up to the individual, but there is a prevailing thought that silence has its benefits.

Nasreen explains, “Each creation will be seen from very individual and subjective eyes, so it’s open to millions of interpretations. You see a scene from a movie one way and I see it another. So artists can’t please everyone. This is a fact. The performance field is competitive, but every profession is today, like selling a car for example! A dignified silence is best. Meenakshi supports the thinking stating, “Even silence or ignoring criticism can be a potent and repressed weapon, and social media users typically have a very short-term memory.”


Vasan Bala subscribes to the ‘to each his own’ theory and says, “No one owes anyone an explanation about these things. Jisko jo karna hai kare, apni apni personality ke hisab se. Faraz offers a more personal assessment as he says, “It’s so easy to sit down and type hate on phone screens, but I’ve also seen that in real life, things are a little different than that. Early in my career, trolling was a problem for me, but now, with time and experience, I’ve learned that it’s okay to embrace it all and move forward. In a sense, no victory or defeat is ever final.”

Faraz sums it all up when he says: “Awards and accolades are amazing. But we must remember the real reason why cinema and art exist: it is to bring about change. Entertainment is of course cinema’s DNA, but what has embraced that DNA with a beating heart is the desire to create a better and more inclusive world than the one we currently live in. This is an award-winning speech, alright.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl