Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Film Federation of India demands apology from Ritesh Batra after 'Lunchbox' comments

The Film Federation of India (FFI), the body responsible for sending the country's entry to the Oscar Awards, has demanded an "unconditional apology" from 'The Lunchbox' director Ritesh Batra over the filmmaker's comments about this year's Indian choice for the Academy Awards.

The FFI chose Gyan Correa's 'The Good Road' over Batra's hotly-tipped romantic drama starring Irrfan Khan which has already garnered a number of awards and widespread acclaim, including at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Speaking to Tehelka magazine after the FFI announced its decision, Batra said the choice of 'The Good Road' was a "defeat for independent cinema" and a "missed opportunity" for India and even intimated that the Federation's selection process was "corrupt".

In a letter posted to Batra on Saturday, FFI secretary Supran Sen said the federation would take up the matter with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

“The Good Road” is produced by NFDC, which is a Government of India undertaking! Are you then suggesting that the I&B ministry, i.e, the Government of India has made a successful attempt in bribing the jurors?” the letter demanded.

Among Batra’s supporters was Danis Tanovic, the Bosnian filmmaker whose war drama 'No Man's Land' won his country its first Foreign Film Academy Award in 2001.

Tanovic said on Twitter that he would gladly give up his film’s place as an entry for Best Foreign Film to “The Lunchbox”. Tanovic is one of the many producers on the film.

Another of Batra's producers, independent cinema king Anurag Kashyap, was so angered following the snub for 'The Lunchbox' that he was moved to delete his Twitter account after several heated exchanges with fans and other filmmakers.

Kashyap and Batra had said that their film had a better shot at an Oscar for India, considering the buzz around the movie, the fact that Academy members have seen it, and its backing by Sony Pictures, which bought U.S. distribution rights to the film.

“The Good Road,” they said, was by comparison a little-known film that even mainstream critics in India haven’t seen, and which got a limited release even in its home state of Gujarat.

The FFI dismissed these points. “There is no criteria in the Academy that suggests the jury should keep the marketing angle in mind while selecting …” it said in its letter, which was signed by Sen.

Batra is yet to comment.

- Poonam Joshi



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