Finally, The Oscars Bring India Some Cheer

| Updated: March 13, 2023 5:44 pm

For India, winning the coveted Oscars has been like chasing an unattainable Sylph creature. Imaginary beings that remain in the realm of fantasies. The nation let out a collective sigh of anguish when Lagaan lost to Bosnia’s No Man’s Land in the best foreign film category at the 74th Academy Awards. 


Mother India (1957) and Salaam Bombay (1988) carried the nation’s Oscar hopes in the past. It was held that Satyajit Ray’s classic Pather Panchali had a better chance of bagging the prestigious award the year Mother India was nominated for it.

Mother India

Gandhi and Slumdog Millionaire, which swept the Oscars in the past, were British films. Essentially, India’s story at the Oscars has been that of hopes and heartbreaks. This year, India can afford a smile. 

Naatu Naatu, a number from the Telugu superhit RRR, won the Best Original Song award at the 95th Academy Awards held in Los Angeles. 

The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, won the Best Documentary Short Subject. All That Breathes, nominated in the Best Documentary Feature Film category, lost to Daniel Roher’s Navalny.

The Elephant Whisperers

The peppy soundtrack of Naatu Naatu has caught the nation’s fancy. The lyrics are electric, with a strong visual appeal. The media publication reports: “Naatu Naatu’s nominees, MM Keeravani (composer) and Chandrabose (lyricist), ingeniously synced the melody and lyrics with the choreography using a non-stop loop with the help of vocalist Kaala Bhairava.”

SS Rajamouli and MM keeravani

You can’t but feel a dash of testosterone in the loosely-translated lines: “aggressive bull jumping in the dust of the fields” or “a main dancer dancing at the festival of a local goddess.”

The Elephant Whisperer is a story about Bomman and Bellie, a South Indian couple, who raise an orphaned male calf, Raghu. 

Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

The maker of the film Kartiki Gonsalves’s chance meeting with the baby elephant inspired the script. In an article, seasoned writer Kamala Thiagarajan observes, “Gonsalves steps aside and takes viewers to the heart of Theppakadu Elephant camp in a landscape that is one of the largest undisturbed spaces for the Asian elephant. Here, the Kattunayakan and forest rangers work together to care for abandoned elephants. The documentary follows the journey of Bomman and Bellie and baby elephant Raghu, whose herd wandered into a village searching for water where, after his mother was electrocuted, he was abandoned by the herd.”

What stands out is Gonsalves’s craft as a wildlife photographer, technical mastery, and extensive knowledge of wildlife. A directorial debut to cherish. 

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