The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ghost goes to Oscars

Calcutta/Mumbai, Sept. 26: Will Shah Rukh Khan do in 2006 what Aamir Khan couldn’t in 2002' Will a ghost in love do with a snap of his fingers what a patriotic villager couldn’t with a bat in hand'

These are some of the pahelis waiting to be solved with the Shah Rukh Khan-produced and Amol Palekar-directed Paheli having pipped bigger Bollywood blockbusters to the Oscar entry post late this evening.

“It was a unanimous decision and for the first time we have given a written recommendation as a citation for Paheli,” film-maker Vinod Pande, who chaired the selection panel, told The Telegraph. “We found the film steeped in Indian ethos and cinematic excellence. Also, the music, costumes, location and art designing collectively make the film truly reflective of India.”

The country’s tourism tag of “Incredible India” could have influenced the 10-member jury, appointed by the Film Federation of India, that voted the colourful period piece above the likes of Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zaara, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey ' The Rising, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal and Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. A Marathi film, Uttarayan, and five South Indian films were also in the fray.

Based on Rajasthani writer Vijaydan Detha’s legendary tale Duvidha, Palekar’s Paheli is the story of a “village girl’s dilemma to choose between a ghost’s eternal love and her husband’s insensitive monotone”.

Produced under Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies banner, the film, set in the golden deserts of Rajasthan, stars Khan as both the husband and the ghost opposite Rani Mukherjee, with cameos by Amitabh Bachchan, Suniel Shetty, Anupam Kher and Juhi Chawla.

Pune-based Palekar told The Telegraph: “I really don’t know how to react to this. I am, of course, very happy to hear this. I am reminded of Javed Akhtar’s prophetic words at the film’s premiere. He told me, ‘Amol, this is the film which should get the Oscar for Indian cinema’.”

That’s something that hasn’t happened in the 77 years of the Academy Awards with Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Gowariker’s Lagaan (2002) coming closest by making it to the final five nominations in the Foreign Film category.

After Bhansali’s Devdas failed to create a mark in 2003, no film was considered fit to be India’s Oscar entry for 2004, and Marathi movie Shwaas couldn’t do much despite home support from Sachin Tendulkar and Bal Thackeray at Oscars 2005.

For Paheli to get close to the golden statuette, the film has to campaign hard to generate a buzz among the 5,700-strong members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

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