Joined: 18 September 2004
BOMBAY - This year's Oscar winners may still be uncorking champagne, but critics and the makers of Bollywood film "Black" are already betting the movie could earn India its first Academy Award next year.
Indian media have hailed "Black", inspired by the life of legendary deaf and blind writer Helen Keller, as the country's best ever bet for a foreign film Oscar.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said the rave reviews and commercial success of the film, released last month, represented a good start to a long campaign for Hollywood recognition.
"I have successfully crossed the first hurdle, winning over the domestic audience," Bhansali told Reuters in an interview. "Now it's important to showcase it to the rest of the world."
No Indian film has ever won an Oscar, although the Bombay-based industry turns out about 1,000 films in 12 languages every year.
"'Black' is far superior to any normal Bollywood movie. But what could go against it is that the theme is not new, as movies have been made on Keller's life in the past," film critic Anupama Gehlot told Reuters.
Loosely based on Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, the movie portrays the life of a deaf and blind girl's struggle to overcome her handicap with the help of her alcoholic teacher.
Leading Indian actress Rani Mukherjee plays the protagonist, while veteran Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan plays the teacher.
"He is one kind of an actor about whom India can be proud," Bhansali said.
Despite nearly 80 percent of the dialogue being in English, "Black" has drawn filmgoers who speak many different languages.
"Learn how to say Oscar in sign language because Bhansali's 'Black' could be India's winning ticket at next year's Academy Awards," film critic Ron Alhuwalia wrote on planetbollywood.com.
"Rarely is a film of such sensitivity, precision and elegance made in India."
In 2002, "Lagaan", a Hindi language film, made the last round of competition in the best foreign film category and "Little Terrorist", a documentary about life in a village straddling the tense border of Pakistan, was a short film finalist this year.
Like most Bollywood directors, Bhansali is known for all-singing, all-dancing movies with lavish sets and colourful costumes. But this time he knows an Oscar nomination would represent his best chance at reaching a wider audience.
"I am keen the film is showcased to the world and more people watch it and appreciate it. But it's a long way to go," he said.
The Indian Film Federation will nominate its Oscar entry later this year. Bhansali's "Devdas" ("Courtesan") was nominated in 2003, but failed to make the final round.
Joined: 12 August 2004
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