The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Munnabhai eyes Oscar

Mumbai/Calcutta, Sept. 29: Undeterred by the selection of Rang De Basanti as the official entry from India for the Best Foreign Film Category at the Oscars, Lage Raho Munnabhai producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra has decided to route his blockbuster to the 79th Annual Academy Awards as an independent entry.

Earlier this week, Rang De was chosen over Lage Raho by the Film Federation of India, Indian film industry’s apex body, to represent the country at the Oscars five years after Lagaan made it to the final five.

But now the Sanjay Dutt-Arshad Warsi-starrer, which talks about the victory of Gandhigiri over gundagiri and is still running to packed houses a month after its release, will vie for the general categories.

“Our website was jammed with queries from people from all over the world who wanted Lage Raho to go to the Oscars,” Chopra told The Telegraph over phone from Mumbai. “We felt if the film federation jury was so divided between Rang De and Lage Raho, why not send the film independently.

“In the past, foreign films like Life Is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have won Oscars in categories like Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Also, our international distributor Eros was very keen that we go for the general category.”

The basic entry criterion of the commercial release of the film in Los Angeles county “has been taken care of” and the forms have been filled. So, technically, while Lage Raho can win all the other Oscars, it is not eligible for the Best Foreign Film trophy as Rang De represents India in that category.

The announcement for Lage Raho’s Oscar entry came a day after the Maharashtra government announced entertainment tax exemption for the film. The state-wide tax exemption will continue for six months.

A special screening of Lage Raho at the University of Southern California (USC) in the US on October 27, feels Chopra, will help him gauge the reaction and possible response at the Oscars.

“I will be meeting the Hollywood press there and will get a feel of their nature of response to the film,” he said. “It is a great honour to be invited by the USC, with filmmakers like George Lucas and Ron Howard having graduated from that college.”

Last year, Mahesh Dattani’s Morning Raga, starring Shabana Azmi and Perizaad Zorabian, had taken the same route to obtain a backdoor entry to the Oscars after Amol Palekar’s Paheli starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee was sent as the official Indian entry. Both films failed to garner any Oscar glory.

This year, though, the chances seem brighter.

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