'Jallikattu' is India's official Oscar entry

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New Delhi: Malayalam feature "Jallikattu", directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, has been selected as India's official entry for the International Feature Film category at the 93rd Academy Awards, the Film Federation of India (FFI) announced on Wednesday.

"Jallikattu", which was unanimously chosen from 27 entries across Hindi, Marathi and other languages, is about a tribe of men coming together to stop a bull that has run amok in their village.

"There were a total of 27 films that had entered the race from Hindi, Malayalam, Odia and Marathi. The film which has been nominated by the jury to represent India at Oscars is Malayalam film 'Jallikattu'.

"It is a film that really brings out the raw problems which are there in human beings, that is we are worse than animals," filmmaker Rahul Rawail, Chairman, Jury Board, Film Federation of India, told reporters in an online press conference.

The film, which derives its name from the popular-yet-controversial bull-taming event from the south, is based on a short story by Hareesh.

It features actors Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad and Santhy Balachandran.

Apart from "Jallikattu, other films that were competing to be named as India's Oscar entry included "Chhapaak", "Shakuntala Devi", "Chhalaang", "Gulabo Sitabo", "Eeb Allay Ooo!", "The Sky is Pink", "Bulbbul" in the Hindi language and internationally-celebrated Marathi feature "The Disciple".

Calling Pellissery a "very competent director", known for several critically acclaimed films like "Angamaly Diaries" and "Ea Ma Yau", Rawail said "Jallikattu" is a production that the country should be proud of.

"The whole film talks about an animal that has run amok in a butcher's shop... The film has been depicted wonderfully and it has been shot very well. The emotion that comes out really moved all of us to have it selected," the chairman said.

According to Firdausul Hasan, President of Film Federation of India, the 14-member jury met virtually this year keeping in mind the coronavirus pandemic.

"We appreciate the efforts of all stakeholders who made themselves available virtually so that this process hit no hurdles.

"In this new normal' situation we figured that online would be the best avenue to reach out to the producers who sent their films for consideration as well as the Jury members to meet conveniently and deliberate their process before finalizing," Hasan said in a statement.

Headed by Rawail, the jury comprised directors Abhishek Shah, Atanu Ghosh, writer Shrinivas Bhanage, costume designer Sabarni Das, editor Vijay Khochikar, among others.

"Jallikattu" had its premiere in September 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival and received widespread critical acclaim.

The movie was particularly praised for Pellissery's spectacular directing effort, ably supported by Girish Gangadharan's cinematography and Renganaath Ravee's wild sound design work.

Pellissery also won the best director trophy at the 50th International Film Festival of India last year for "Jallikattu".

No Indian film has ever won an Oscar. The last film from India that made it to the final five in the Best Foreign Film category list was Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" in 2001.

"Mother India" (1958) and "Salaam Bombay" (1989) are the other two Indian movies to have made it to the top five.

Last year, Zoya Akhtar's Hindi feature "Gully Boy", starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, was India's entry to the Oscars.

"Period, End of Sentence", directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and co-produced by Indian filmmaker Guneet Monga, earned the Academy Award in the best documentary (short subject) category in 2019.

In June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) had announced that the 2021 Oscars will be held on April 25, 2021, eight weeks later than originally planned because of the coronavirus pandemic's effects on the film industry.

The eligibility window for feature films has also been pushed to February 28, 2021.

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