An unending highway, sun blazing down and an infinite expanse of white sand. Three sets of stranded travellers search for their own individual paths against this imposing backdrop. The Shroff family, on a holiday to Athangasa, lose their young son, Adi. He ends up in the truck of Pappu who is on his way to an illegal deal. Then there’s little Poonam who strays into a brothel while travelling to her grandmother’s house. Gyan Correa’s debut Gujarati film, The Good Road, is an interesting idea on paper that fails to mount well on screen.
It’s somewhat like an Iranian film—slow, simple and spartan—just that there are no hidden depths or complexities here, only a few arresting moments. The mix of the real and the fablesque gets uneasy after awhile. The narrative moves in fits and spurts, many a sequence feels patently contrived, scenes too perfectly designed. And the acting, even by the professionals, is stilted, not to speak of the awkwardness of the amateur cast. It’s the rough and desolate Kutch landscape that lends the film its rootedness and character. The Good Road is a middling, innocuous film that may have just left the viewers feeling indifferent. However, its surprise selection as India’s foreign language Oscar entry, over the much touted The Lunchbox, put it in the veritable eye of the storm last week.
And in the thick of this unseemly controversy, a few logical heads have also been wondering—what’s so great about the debatable Oscars anyways? Aren’t critical appreciation and popularity enough? Obviously not. Or else, would there have been sound and fury of such magnitude?
The one organisation happy with the result is the NFDC, having been associated with three films that were in the reckoning: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, The Lunchbox and The Good Road. “It’s a diverse range. Our mandate is to promote cinemas of India and we have achieved that,” says GM Vikramjit Roy.
But debate on the films apart, the selection process is, yet again, under the scanner. Is it transparent, fair? This year, the composition of the jury itself was a secret with only chairman Gautam Ghosh facing the media till a resourceful blog revealed the 19 names online. Outlook tried to get in touch with a few but got no response. One member said he couldn’t speak. Actress Rupa Ganguly said that though she was invited to be on the jury she couldn’t attend the proceedings because of other commitments.
The moot question remains the same: what is our criterion for choosing a film? If it be quality, then why not Shabdo or The Ship of Theseus? What is the idea of India we want our films to represent at the Oscars? Is a surreal show of young prostitutes in tents (much like the Amsterdam display windows) more Indian than the dabbawalas of Mumbai? Is National Geographic-inspired images of Kutchi tribals more Indian than a man cutting vegetables on the local? “I don’t think we can stick to any narrow definitions of what constitutes Indian. The idea of representing India abroad is itself intrinsically problematic,” says Ganguly. “We need to break away from stereotypical images through which the West sees us...identify other aspects of Indianness,” says Shabdo actress Churni Ganguly.
Oscars is also ultimately a game that we need to play well. “This decision has to be taken seriously,” says Lunchbox star Irrfan. “A young generation of filmmakers wants to make films that travel and connect,” he says. “We mustn’t act as a deterrent to that.”
By Namrata Joshi with Dola Mitra
Although I have not seen either film, from all reports it appears that the better film was not picked for Oscar consideration. If true, it would be a pity.
We should make films that audiences enjoy, the Oscars will make their way to us when one of them transcends the ordinary. Have a sneaking suspicion that The Lunchbox avoided a conventional happy ending because it had to feel a little different to remain in contention.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT