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Everything you need to know about Pan Nalin and India’s official Oscar entry Chhello Show

The coming-of-age story will be released in India on October 14.

Everything you need to know about Pan Nalin and India’s official Oscar entry Chhello Show
Pan Nalin/Twitter
  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 03.51 AM, Sep 29, 2022

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The Indian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2023 Oscars will be Pan Nalin's, Chhello Show. The Gujarati coming-of-age film was chosen by a committee, established by the Film Federation of India out of films like RRR, Brahmastra, The Kashmir Files, Badhaai Do, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, Aparajito, and others.

In Pan Nalin's Chhello Show, a young Gujarati boy discovers his love for movies. He wants to spend his entire day just doing that. He naturally gets into issues with his father and even the local police because of who he is and what he does. He and some of his buddies are labelled thieves, but he cannot resist his fascination for movies.

Here is everything you need to know about the film and its director Pan Nalin:

Nalin stated in interviews that he was aware of his storytelling abilities even before getting into films. A self-taught director, who started out making non-fiction documentaries, Nalin, made his fiction film debut in 2001 with Samsara. He later went on to direct and co-wrote Valley of Flowers (2006), a film starring Milind Soman, Naseeruddin Shah, and Mylène Jampano; for which dialogues were written by Anurag Kashyap. Both movies have all-consuming passion as a central theme and beautiful mountain settings.

The following full-length film by Nalin, Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), was centred on seven women and dealt with patriarchy, queerness, and questions of justice. The movie received a lot of appreciation for its representation of contemporary Indian womanhood; thanks in large part to its outstanding ensemble cast, which included Sarah-Jane Dias, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajshri Deshpande, and others.

Pan Nalin/Twitter
Pan Nalin/Twitter

The semi-autobiographical plot of Nalin's most recent fiction feature film is inspired by the director's upbringing in the Gujarati region of Saurashtra and his enduring passion for movies.

When Nalin returned to his hometown, his parents requested that he pay a visit to Mohammad bhai, a projection operator he had known when he was small.

“We used to exchange lunch boxes, and I first became interested in movies at the theatre where he worked. Since he did not understand modern technology and cinema was transitioning to digital, he was in despair. These anecdotes served as the inspiration for the Chhello Show,” said Nalin.

Released on October 14, the narrative centres on a boy (Bhavin Rabari) and his improbable bond with a single-screen theatre projection operator. The film also stars Vikas Bata, Richa Meena, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval, and Rahul Koli.

Nalin added he made a film that is rooted in Kathiawar, featuring some actors from the region.

On the railroad track is where the Chhello Show starts and concludes. It's appropriate because the locomotive rolling into a station can be linked to the beginning of the film. Even the experience of going to the movies is replicated on the train by sitting in a liminal area and using the window as our mobile screen.

In a similar vein, the train in this instance symbolises various things, including the protagonist's coming-of-age and the mode of transportation that takes him from Chalala to the nearby town that has the closest movie theatre.

Nalin makes numerous references to his influences in the movie. He writes a well-timed elegy to film, the most democratic of life's great things, drawing on his childhood obsession with movies. So, this celebration of cinema as collective dreaming has an aching wistfulness to it. Such movies inevitably have some emotion, but Last Film Show doesn't suffer as a result. Because it is an openly honest film that examines the personal life of a filmmaker.

The 2023 Oscars will be held on March 12. However, how does a film become India's submission for prestigious awards? India chooses a film for the Oscars' Best International Feature Film category each year. When the Awards were initially presented in 1929, there were 12 categories total, but this one was not one of them.

The inaugural Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award was given out in 1956. (Federico Fellini’s La Strada beat out four others.) It has been a mainstay of the event ever since, with only minor changes. Except for 2003, India has sent a film to the Oscars every year, however in each of those years, only three films have made the shortlist for the award.

The Film Federation of India (FFI), a 17-member panel with various voices from the film industry, selects India's entry for the Oscars. The governing authority for all Indian cinema associations is this collective. A selection of roughly 25-30 films provided by their respective trade bodies is presented to the members of various cinema-related trades who represent different regions of India. Each member selects one film.

According to the Film Federation of India website, a film must be longer than 40 minutes to be eligible for selection. Additionally, the movie had to debut in India no later than 30 November 2022, but no earlier than 1 January 2022.

After being chosen by India, the film must contend with others from throughout the nation to be nominated for the top honours. Members of the Academy's 'phase I' committee watch the films and cast their votes in secret. The committee's top seven pictures are then joined by three more films selected by the Academy's International Feature Film Award Executive Committee to create a shortlist of ten movies.

The 10 films that made the shortlist are next watched and voted on by a 'phase II' committee, which narrows the field to five nominees. Finally, the winner is decided by a vote from only Academy members who have viewed all five films nominated.

But, this year, Nalin’s Chhello Show was the unanimous choice.

Chhello Show poster
Chhello Show poster

According to FFI producer TP Aggarwal, “Out of the 17, all of them agreed we need this film. They claimed that it was an Indian movie that ought to win an Oscar.”

An uproar broke out as soon as it was revealed that FFI had selected the Gujarati drama over the more well-liked options of SS Rajamouli's RRR.

The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) members objected to Chhello Show's selection on three different grounds. First, the film was financed by overseas studios. Second, the majority of the crew is not from India. Only lately did several Indian businesses reach a deal to release this movie here. The third point is that despite having debuted in June 2021, it is an entry for 2022.

India's selections for the International Film category have, nevertheless, come under scrutiny before. The Disciple by Chaitanya Tamhane was included in the Oscar choices lists by The New York Times film critics before the 2021 Academy Awards.

The Marathi movie won the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay awards from film critic Manohla Dargis, and Aditya Modak won the Best Actor award from AO Scott.

But, neither The Disciple nor Jai Bhim, which some critics supported, were India's official submission. In the end, the Tamil movie Koozhangal (Pebbles) was chosen as India's official submission for the category.

A still from The Lunchbox
A still from The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox, a highly acclaimed and loved film, was not selected as India's entry to compete for the best foreign film Oscar in 2013, shocking the industry and others. The Good Road, a Gujarati film by Gyan Correa about a youngster and truckers in the Rann of Kutch that tells a lost-and-found tale, was chosen as the FFI's official selection at that point.

But many social media users claimed that Chhello Show (The Last Cinema Show), which featured a little kid gazing in admiration at a film reel on both of its posters, was a replica of the 1988 Italian film Cinema Paradiso. In addition to winning five BAFTA Awards that year, Cinema Paradiso won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Nalin took to Twitter and wrote, “Copy? Homage? Inspiration? Original? Find out yourself on 14.10.2022 in cinemas near you. Power to the people, let them decide.”

“I have intentionally and unintentionally paid homage to Cinema Paradiso, which is my favourite, and other movies. Some of the Easter eggs in the story would be obvious to any die-hard movie buff,” Nalin said.

Chhello Show poster
Chhello Show poster

In Chhello Show, the filmmaker discusses the 35mm experience and refrains from proclaiming that digitalization put an end to the cinema. At one point, Nalin allows a scene to unfold in which reels are melted and made into bracelets and the projector is disassembled and used to make spoons. It's a drawn-out scene, but it has a great impact because it opposes the Nolan school of thought, which has transformed democracy into an elitist experience.

The Nalin school of thought, in contrast, emphasises the folly of enhancing what are fundamentally phytochemicals. Because stories will always be told, regardless of how the medium changes.

Chhello Show, which was produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur, had its international premiere in June 2021 at Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Film Festival. It received numerous accolades from several other festivals, including the Golden Spike at the 66th Valladolid Film Festival in Spain, where it had commercial success while playing in theatres.

In a press note, FFI said, “Chhello Show is powerful, with beautifully shot cinematic moments, riveting acting, stunning visuals, and powerful audio effects. It delicately and honestly highlights the intricacies and legacy of India, which will open the eyes of any foreign viewers. It starts creatively and concludes on a hopeful note.”

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