‘Koozhangal’ Is India’s Official Entry For The Oscars

On Saturday afternoon, Film Federation of India announced that Tamil film Koozhangal (Pebbles) directed by PS Vinothraj, is India’s official entry for the Oscars. The film, about the journey of an alcoholic wife-beater and his young son to bring back his wife who had been chased away, has been praised for its unique cinematic language.

Upon receiving the news, an elated Vinothraj said, “It is the greatest honour for our film and cast and crew. We have no words to express our happiness and gratitude.”

The 14 films had been screened at Bijoli Cinema where a panel of 15 judges eventually shortlisted Koozhangal to represent India at the 94th Academy Awards. Eminent filmmaker and the chairman of the jury committee Shaji N Karun said, “In the centenary year of Satyajit Ray, it is rather poetic that we had the screening in Kolkata. Ray was the torchbearer of Indian content to the world and we strived to select a film that epitomizes Indianness and its varied culture.”

The panel also included Ananya Chatterjee, Ravindra Jadhav, Kumamaheswar Rao, Vipul Mehta, Navaniat Singh, Indraadip Das Gupta, Arghakamal Mitra, Ruma Sengupta, Pam Pally, G Bhageeradha, Naganna, P Sukumar, AVM K Shanmugam, and Sumit Basu. The 14 films that were competing for the entry at the Oscars were Shershaah (Hindi), Mandela (Tamil), Sherni (Hindi), Aata Vel Zaali (Marathi), Koozhangal (Tamil), Kaagaz (Hindi), Bridge (Assamese), Toofan (Hindi), Chhello Show (Gujrati), Godavari (Marathi), Sardar Udham (Hindi), Karkhanisanchi Waari (Marathi), Nayattu (Malayalam) and Laila Aur Satt Geet (Gojri).

What gave Koozhangal an edge over the others was its minimalism. “The silence of the film is just brilliant. There is hardly any dialogue but still, there is a lot that is conveyed. It is simple, honest, with a ray of hope in the end. The beauty of the film lies in its cinematic language and storytelling which makes it apt for the international platform,” said Ananya.

Indraadip said, “Laila Aur Satt Geet, Chhello Show, and Sardar Udham also got many votes but ultimately Koozhangal won all our hearts as it is the most balanced film of the lot, and unpretentious. It has the highest cinematic experience of all the 14 films that were screened.”

Given that the screening and the press conference were both held in Kolkata, the jury had to explain why there were no Bengali films in contention this year.

“There were no major Bengali releases this year. That apart, most producers faced financial crunch because of the pandemic. We are sure that next year we will get Bengali nominations,” said Shaji N Karun. He added, “Koozhangal deals with pain, and the film is so well sketched that it will touch everyone’s heart without language being a barrier.”

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