A Calcuttan from Bishop Lefroy Road is in the race for an Oscar.
Yes, you read that right. Gyan Correa, whose Gujarati film The Good Road is India’s entry for the Academy Awards 2013, used to be Satyajit Ray’s neighbour.
“Satyajit Ray’s house was almost opposite my place. But I was too young to have vivid memories of that Calcutta,” said the 50-year-old who studied at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School till he left the city after Class IV.
Gyan — nephew of celebrated architect Charles Correa — got a chance to meet Ray again in the 1980s when he was “agency producer” for a Satyajit Ray Presents project. “He was a fantastic person. Tall, angular looks, extremely intelligent,” recounted Gyan, whose debut feature film pipped the likes of The Lunchbox and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag to the Oscar post.
Gyan’s last visit to Calcutta was in 2007-08, which was more of a trip down memory lane. “The city still has a great vibe. I really enjoy the city’s architecture with big, old houses. The ethos of Calcutta is great,” said the Xaverian, who remembers “my teachers, like Ms (Rose) Sweeney and Father Thomas Vetticad (headmaster, 1969-73).
The man from Mumbai has no plans to visit the city of his childhood “in the coming days” but he does “hope The Good Road comes to Calcutta”.
One road always leads to another and Gyan chose the one that hit the highway. To make his critically-acclaimed film he travelled highways for years. “That was seven-eight years ago. I hit the road to see India. I stayed with truck drivers to understand the life one leads on highways. It’s not just a piece of tarmac,” said the director, who worked on the film for two-and-a-half years.
Produced by NFDC, The Good Road captures the “many Indias” that Gyan had seen, each unique. In the film, three sets of people travelling on a highway that borders the Rann discover “something altogether different… about themselves”.
“When I wrote the script, I wanted it to do it my way,” said Gyan about the film that was chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars after much deliberation by a 16-member pan-India jury armed with 22 film submissions. The chairman of the jury too was a Calcuttan — Goutam Ghose, who Gyan called a “top film-maker”.
“As chairman of the jury, I had asked each member of the jury to pick at least two or three films with an explanation for choosing them. We discussed each and every film at length and in the final run, the two films that made it to the top of the list were The Good Road and The Lunchbox,” said Ghose.
After a week-long process, following “tabulation and several hours of discussion”, The Good Road “marginally” beat The Lunchbox.
So what made The Good Road the top pick? “The jury found an India that you don’t see very often in films. It’s a lost-and-found story of a boy who encounters very strange people, their dreams and aspirations. The many Indias within the spectrum of one film is what fascinated the jury. I personally loved The Lunchbox but eventually it’s the majority’s decision that counts,” added Ghose, underlining the problem of choosing one film from so many.
“I’ve suggested that we write to the Academy to allow at least three entries from next year as we have so many kinds of films that represent so much of diversity. While we have films like Celluloid Man, The Lunchbox and The Good Road, we also have technically-sound films like Vishwaroopam and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. How do we balance that?” he said.
One member of The Good Road team is already an Oscar winner — Resul Pookutty for sound. “He is a brilliant guy. He can do Chennai potboilers as well as this,” said Gyan about the Slumdog Millionaire ace.
So, what’s next for Gyan Correa? “I have a few scripts and my other work [making ad films] continues,” signed off India’s — and Calcutta’s — Oscar hope.
NOW: Gyan Correa, the maker of The Good Road
THEN: Gyan as a Class IV student of St. Xavier’s