The selection of EKLAVYA: The Royal Guard as the official entry for the Oscars has caused an unprecedented filmi commotion.
In a storyline straight out of Hindi cinema, filmmaker Bhawana Talwar has loudly criticized the Film Federation of India; alleging that the jury was corrupt and that her film DHARAM should have been selected instead.
Preparing to depart for a US promotional tour that starts with a panel discussion for the Asia Society in New York, Chopra appears un-phased by his detractors. From his Mumbai office, Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra states, "Ms. Talwar is creating a controversy which can only damage the Indian film industry's reputation internationally. I am very sorry that this had happened."
Talwar's first scene saw her accuse Sudhir Mishra of corruption. But that did not stick. As the in-front-of-the-scenes dust-up continues, her current accusation is that Ranjit Bahadur was the editor on the making of EKLAVYA, and therefore should not have been on the jury. Although a film maker herself, Talwar seems unaware that it is trade practice that making of films are outsourced to independent production houses that are at liberty to hire any technicians they choose. Ranjit Bahadur has no direct association with Vinod Chopra Films.
Here the plot thickens, while Ms. Talwar is accusing Ranjit of prejudice, she is overlooking the connection of Mr. Nadeem Khan and Vinod Chopra. Classmates from the Film and Television Institute of India, where they were close friends, Nadeem Khan was the cameraman on Vinod Chopra's first film, MURDER AT MONKEY HILL. Khan later did additional camerawork on 1942: A LOVE STORY. And why, you may ask, is Ms. Talwar overlooking this connection?
Because Nadeem Khan voted for her film.
Chopra signs off, "The Hindi film industry is a close-knit space and most people, at some point, have crossed professional paths. If Ms. Talwar had objections to this jury, she should have raised them before submitting her film so the jury could have been changed and new members found. But she went to the media only when her own film was not chosen."
(Steven Baker is a UK writer who divides his time between London, Delhi, and Mumbai. Best known for his writing on the Hindi film industry, his work regularly appears in a range of Indian, NRI, and international publications. Steven Baker is presently the Co-ordinator of the British Council's Creative Writing course in New Delhi. He has also appeared in 15 Bollywood films.)