Oscars: India Nominates 'The Good Road' for Foreign Language Category

The Good Road

The nomination of the Gujarati-language film debut by Gyan Correa is unexpected considering the accolades and buzz for Ritesh Batra's "The Lunchbox."

NEW DELHI – The Film Federation of India announced The Good Road as India's official entry to the Oscars. Produced by the government-backed National Film Development Corporation, the Gujarati-language film – the directorial debut of Gyan Correa – has also won a National Award.

The story is set in the state of Gujarat's Kachchh district and revolves around three sets of people who are on a "journey to achieve their respective pursuits, but over the next 24 hours, will discover something altogether different, something new and unexpected about their lives."

Q&A: The Lunchbox' Director Ritesh Batra

The film stars actresses Sonali Kulkarni and Poonam Kesar Singh and actors Ajay Gehi, Keval Katrodia, Shamji Dhana Kerasia and Priyank Upadhyay. The film's crew includes sound designer Resul Pookutty (who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire).

"It's fabulous that The Good Road has been nominated for the Oscars, and I congratulate each and every member of the film. … And it's just the beginning of the journey now!" said Correa.

"I am delighted that our film The Good Road has emerged from a competitive year as the official entry to the 2013 Oscars. Both The Good Road and much-loved The Lunchbox are projects NFDC has supported since their respective script stages; while another shortlisted contender, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag we have been associated with as producers," said NFDC managing director Nina Lath Gupta. "Its gratifying to see NFDC's support and strategic investment in new Indian cinema bearing such diverse fruits and to see these films appreciated and acclaimed in both home and international markets."

The 16-member FFI jury -- headed by filmmaker Gautam Ghose -- made the final selection from over 20 contenders, including The Lunchbox, Ship of Theseus, Celluloid, Shabdo, Viswaroopam, Viacom 18 co-produced sports biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Lucia and English Vinglish, among others.

"For the committee members, The Good Road was a new experience," Ghose said. "It explores strange and unknown territory, and it has different characters. There were other very strong contenders such as The Lunchbox, which I personally loved."

Following its premiere at Cannes – where it won a viewer's choice award in the Critics' Week – Ritesh Batra's directorial debut The Lunchbox was seen as a possible Oscar contender as it continued to garner critical acclaim at the Telluride and Toronto festivals.

At Cannes, The Lunchbox was a hot sell with Sony Pictures Classics picking it up for the U.S. where it is slated for release later this year. The film – starring actors Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui along with newcomer actress Nimrat Kaur -- won over the likes of Michael Moore and best-selling author Salman Rushdie, who posted a Twitter message, "I loved The Lunchbox, big hit at Telluride Film Festival, best Indian film in a long time. Strong foreign film Oscar contender, in my view."

The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg selected The Lunchbox as among the five selections for best foreign film, an endorsement that was also used in the film's Indian publicity campaign when it opened here Sept. 20, released by Disney-UTV. One of Bollywood's most successful filmmakers, Karan Johar, also boarded the project as a co-producer and presenter for its India release and promotions.

Indian critics have been largely unanimous in their praise of the film, with industry experts convinced that The Lunchbox was India's best chance at the Oscars considering the country has never won a foreign film Oscar. Only three Indian films have been nominated at the Oscars: Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957), Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! (1989) and Ashutosh Gowariker's historical epic Lagaan (2002).

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"Feeling very, very disappointed, can't comment on the film (The Good Road) which I have not seen, but it better make it to final five," The Lunchbox co-producer and acclaimed filmmaker Anurag Kashyap posted on his Twitter account. "I don't know who the federation is, but it goes to show, why we completely lack the understanding to make films that can travel across borders... First time and I really mean it, first time I really was excited because [this was the] first time we knew we had a chance, first time I was waiting for it," he added, expressing his dismay at The Lunchbox not being selected.

"Congrats to The Good Road, hope it makes it all the way, else it will be a lost chance by the FFI appointed jury that lacks vision. Hope I am wrong," The Lunchbox director Ritesh Batra posted on Facebook.