‘Chhello Show’ director at Oscars: Our movie culture is star-driven, don’t blame people
Indian film culture is star-driven, so he can understand the “panic” over his film “Chhello Show” being chosen as India’s official Oscar nomination, says director Pan Nalin. What he cannot understand are the accusations that it is a copy of “Cinema Paradiso”.
”What is troubling is the false allegation which could seriously hamper our chances of moving forward. People commented without watching the movie,’ Nalin told PTI.
The Gujarati language film is a coming of age drama about a young boy’s romance with cinema in a village in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat. The film’s suitability as a nominee for best foreign film at the 95th Academy Awards was questioned by several social media users who supported ”RRR” or ”The Kashmir Files”.
Furthermore, Nalin has also been accused by the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) of plagiarism — that ”Chhello Show” is a copy of the Oscar-winning film by 1988 Italo-French film ”Cinema Paradiso”.
“It must have been shocking news for people who love certain stars,” the director said in response to the extreme reaction to the film’s official selection by the Film Federation of India (FFI) last month.
Titled “Last Film Show” in English, the film, starring rookie child actor Bhavin Rabari as Samay, premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York, which features the veteran Hollywood Robert De Niro as one of its founders.
”Our country is passionate about cinema so I don’t blame people since many have not seen the film. At that time, they didn’t know anything about it. Also, our film culture is star-driven, so there was panic,” Nalin said.
”If it was a copy, why would so many major studios around the world have acquired it? Why would the Robert De Niro festival invite us to the opening of the red carpet?” he asked.
In June, he was invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to join its director branch as a member. In addition, major studios such as Shochiku (Japan) and Samuel Goldwyn Films (US) have purchased the film’s distribution rights.
With ”Chhello Show” set to be released in India next Friday by Roy Kapur Films, the director says he wants the film to speak for itself.
“On October 14, people will know,” he said.
“Chhello Show” isn’t just Nalin’s love letter to movies, it also serves as a reminder of analog projectors amid cinema’s growing reliance on digital technology.
Born Nalin Kumar Pandya in the village of Adtala in Gujarat, the director modeled the character of Samay on his younger self as a boy. Samay helps her father run a tea stand near a train platform and spends a summer watching movies by bribing projectionist Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali).
Nalin, who watched his first movie ‘Jai Mahakali’ at the age of nine, based the role of Fazal on his childhood friend Mohammad.
”Around 2010-11, when I visited my parents, my father asked me to meet Mohammad bhai because he had lost his job. So many simple screens went digital or were destroyed.
”Mohammad bhai also didn’t have the necessary skills required for digital projection. We started talking about films, prints, projectors and 35mm celluloid. It stuck with me,” said the filmmaker, who divides his time between Mumbai, Goa and Paris.
Known for the acclaimed films ”Samsara” and ”Angry Indian Goddesses”, the filmmaker says he realized a few years later that ”Chhello Show” could be a reflection on ”10 years of celluloid demise” ‘ .
”Films are going digital. There are too many pixels… manufactured entertainment. I thought it would be nice to go back and talk about pure movie magic,” he added.
When Nalin shared his thoughts with Jugaad Motion Pictures’ producer Dheer Momaya (“Teen Aur Aadha,” “Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence”), he was more than willing. Monsoon Films, Chhello Show LLP and Marc Duale are other producers of the film.
”It’s something that spoke to me as a producer. Nalin is a designer who was on my wish list. At Jugaad, we follow stories of hope. It was an amazing story because even more than the story of a filmmaker or a movie buff, it is the story of human perseverance,” Momaya said.
In 2022, India sent 55 films to the Oscars. ”Chhello Show” is only the second Gujarati film after ”The Good Road” (2013) to represent the country.
Keeping Gujarati as the language of the film was a conscious decision for Nalin.
”Kathaiwar in Gujarat has such a distinct culture, so it was important to have the film in Gujarati. It was a difficult decision because I was told that if I made the film in Hindi it would be easy to finance or cast. But I realized that it probably wouldn’t work for the story.” The casting for the protagonist Samay on whose shoulders the whole film rests was also a “time-consuming process”.
“The first round of auditions were held in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, but we were far from finding Samay. Our casting team with Dilip Shankar and three others changed the strategy and started looking deep into Kathiawar. We found Bhavin, a tribal from Kathiawar, after auditioning nearly 3,000 child actors. It was like finding little Mowgli in ‘The Jungle Book,’” the filmmaker said.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)