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City Lights
Race for regional reel rights

From Apur Sansar to Sanjhbatir Roopkathara, his acting parameters know no boundaries. But now, Soumitro Chatterjee is opening an entirely new chapter of his career. He will be governing the Other Indian Languages chapter of the Rajkamal Academy of Cinematic Excellence (Race) for the eastern sector.

“Since Race will work towards the development of the Indian film industry, I will be looking after the activities of the eastern chapter,” says Chatterjee. Race is a first-of-its-kind film academy that promises a true representation of the Indian film industry. The first step taken by the academy is the institution of the Race National Awards (formerly known as V. Shantaram award instituted by the Shantaram Foundation in 1993).

“Things are still at a nascent stage. We do not even have a proper office but once the infrastructure is in place, we will start activities from the eastern chapter. Shantaram was a doyen of Indian cinema and so I feel honoured to be associated with a project that underlines his genre of films,” adds Chatterjee, the unanimous choice of the Shantarams to head the eastern chapter.

“His fame as an actor of many facets has travelled far and wide. Naturally, he was our first choice to head the academy. Moreover, he looks a very able administrator,” says Rahul Shantaram, president of Race and grandson of the legendary filmmaker.

Race, founded by the Shantarams, will consist of seven chapters and 56 academy members (eight from each chapter) comprising veterans of the industry. On the board of governors are Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Bobby Bedi, D. Rama Naidu, Javed Akhtar, K.S.L. Swame, Kiran Shantaram and Rahul Shantaram, besides Chatterjee. A.K. Bir, Barun Mukherjee, Dara Singh, Gautam Rajadhyaksha, Jabbar Patel and Jahnu Barua will comprise the eight-member team for film chapters.

The need for Race arose primarily to combat “the monopoly of Bollywood”. Of the seven chapters, five are dedicated to films in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Kannada. The English language chapter will be called ODA (other distinguished achievers) and will be looked after by Bedi.

The academy plans to organise film festivals in major Indian cities, conduct workshops and run various programmes to expose technicians to newer tools in sound, picture and special effects entering the world of cinema. “In about three weeks, we will start a competition of regional films that will culminate with a national viewing on November 18. The best film will be awarded a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, besides a trophy,” says Rahul Shantaram.

With a crop of promising films from Bengal (Sanjhbatir Rupkathara, Mr & Mrs Iyer, Hemanter Pakhi, Abaar Aranye, Shubho Mahurat) and an equal number from the Assam-Orissa sector ready for release in the coming months, the race of regional films towards a wider national platform could not have been better-timed.

— Samarjit Guha


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