The director of The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra, and the Film Federation of India have got into an ugly spat over the selection of The Good Road as the official Indian entry to the Oscars. Ritesh Batra, apparently unhappy that his film was overlooked, raised questions about the selection process and allegedly claimed that his film stood a better chance at winning an Oscar.
The Secretary General of the Film Federation of India, Supran Sen, took offence to this, and sent a letter to Ritesh Batra, Anurag Kashyap and UTV Software Communications Ltd.
This is the text of the letter:
September 28, 2013
Mr. Ritesh Batra,
B-2, Jolly High Rise Apartment,
Pali road, Bandra (West),
Mumbai - 400050
Dear Ritesh Batra,
We have been hearing and reading about your various unsavoury comments either through the film industry grapevine or through your Twitter / Facebook posts about the selection of The Good Road for Oscar. As a citizen of democratic country, you have every right to express yourself but when a certain boundary is crossed time and again; one cannot take it lying down.
Film Federation of India takes great umbrage at the was you have gone about demeaning a film when an eminent jury has selected it as India’s entry. You might not agree with the selection, that’s your prerogative. But to continuously and recklessly make comments and innuendoes about it is really not done…..
Are you (and your producers…presenter etc.) suggesting that you seriously believe that no one in India is capable of making a better film? (better film mind you, not a better marketed film)
There is no criteria in the Academy rules that suggested that the jury should keep the marketing angle in mind while selecting, their mandate is selecting the best film which they have done according to their convictions and judgement.
You and the team have been stating time and again in various interactions in the media that once (note not ‘if’ but once!) Lunchbox is selected from India, you have been assured by Sony Classics that it will have a spectacular run in the Oscar! You in fact have even termed this selection of The Lunchbox from India as a mere technicality! Excuse me !!!!
What we are very interested in knowing is how are you making such claims? How can Sony Classics assure you of any such thing? Are you suggesting that the Oscar is rigged? We are taking this matter up separately with the Academy… we are lead to believe that you have a letter from Sony Classics which is the reason for your confidence… can you share it with us?
We were maintaining a dignified silence till now amidst your constant ranting as we believed them to be the result of acute disappointment of a young boy with his debut film. Your presumptuous and dismissive comments without even seeing ‘The Good Road’ was highly objectionable but we let that pass. You will note that some member of the jury are icons in their own right with umpteen National Awards and some were felicitated to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema. Yet you with just one film under your belt have openly scorned their choice and attribute it as ‘lack of vision’!!!
But what you have recently posted in you Facebook account about ‘there being a corruption’ in the process is a serious allegation. As you are aware, The Good Road is produced by NFDC, a Government of India undertaking! Are you then suggesting that the I & B Ministry ie The Government of India has made a successful attempt in bribing the jurors???... Very serious allegations indeed… we are taking up this matter with the I & B Ministry.
Since you and some of your team members have expressed bafflement as to who the federation are, please allow me to explain. Film Federation of India is the apex film chamber of our country and we are celebrating our Diamond Jubilee this year. We have 42 film chamber from all over India as our constituents and are officially recognized by the I & B Ministry as the definitive film trade body. FFI is also internationally recognized and a member of FIAPF (Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films), the regulatory body of all important film festivals of the world including Cannes.
To conclude, we are expecting an unconditional apology from you all your derogatory remarks about the Federation and the Oscar jury.
Film Federation of India
C.C. 1) M/s. UTV Software Communications Ltd.
1181/1182, Solitaire Corporate Park, Guru Hargovindji Marg,
Chakala, Andheri (East), Mumbai – 400093
2) Dharma Productions
Shop No. 29, Jains Arcade, 2nd Floor, 14th Road, Khar(West), Mumbai-400052.
3.) Mr. Anurag Kashyap
M/S. Phantom Films
121, Aaramnagar Part 2, J.P.Road, Versova, Andheri (West), Mumbai -400061
Ritesh Batra replied to the letter:
I just received your letter. Many industry stalwarts have made comments similar to mine but you sent the letter to me, a debutant filmmaker, but I am honoured and proud to speak for my film and team. If an apology is what you demand, you have it. Both you and the jury have my wholehearted apology.
There was no intent to hurt anyone, but rather to participate in the vigorous debate that this decision ignited in the public domain.
I sincerely hope that the annual reactions to our Academy selections from the national press, and this year from even the international press, prompt a new policy for the selection. Sir, please use your good offices to give us a transparent, objective process with a public and not a secret jury. It is a direct and humble request, not a criticism.
I have moved on from this debate to focus on more productive pursuits and I would encourage everyone to do the same. With much respect for your tough job.
There seems to be valid points on both sides. Quality matters more than marketing ability. If it was only marketing that mattered, then we could have very well sent a big budget film like Chennai Express, with enough funds to lobby for itself.
On the other hand, Mr. Batra makes a good point about the lack transparency in the selection process by the Film Federation of India. This was an issue raised by the website The Big Indian Picture where they pointed out that countries like France, Italy and Germany have very open selection processes.
For now though, The Good Road is the official entry. Let's see how it fares at the Oscars.