The Oscars and Indian cinema

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India at the Oscars, till 2009

March 14, 2023: The Times of India

Bhanu Athaiya (1983)

Richard Attenborough said it took him 17 years to make ‘Gandhi’ but just 15 minutes to decide that Bhanu Athaiya was the right person to do the film’s costume design. The British filmmaker was on the ball. Athaiya became India’s first Oscar winner. 
In 2012, she returned the statuette the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for safekeeping. She said, “If Tagore’s Nobel medal could be stolen, what is the guarantee my trophy would be safe?”

Satyajit Ray (1992)

The moment was poignant, like a scene from his films. Lying on his hospital bed in Kolkata, the director said it was “an extraordinary experience” for him to receive the “magnificent award”, which he further described as “certainly the best achievement of my movie-making career”. And Ray had quite a few achievements. The maker of ‘Pather Panchali’ and ‘Charulata’ also revealed during his speech that, among others, he had written to Hollywood greats Ginger Rogers and Billy Wilder. Neither of them replied, he said, raising laughter. While presenting the honorary Oscar, Audrey Hepburn said, “The Academy recognises Mr Ray’s rare mastery of the art of motion pictures, and of his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world. ”

Gulzar (2009)

His poetry is often touched by longing for a world where the past and the present constantly collide yet find comfort in each other. In his core, Gulzar is a poet of wistful remembrances. But the Pakistan-born filmmaker (‘Aandhi’, ‘Namkeen’) can also adapt to a film’s need without compromising on quality as exemplified by Slumdog Millionaire’s Oscar-winning ‘Jai Ho’. The metaphors carry the unmistakable stamp of Gulzar as the song talks about “nights spent dancing on coal” and “burning fingers counting the stars”.

Gulzar shared the Oscar with Rahman. 

AR Rahman (2009)

The music maestro produced a pulsating track for Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ to win the Academy Award for music (original score). Rahman, who has composed countless chartbusters both home and abroad, shared his second Oscar with Gulzar for ‘Jai Ho’ in the original song category.

Picturised between two stationary trains in a railway station at night, the song brims with vitality and becomes a celebration of the survival spirit that the film journeys through. Rahman is the only Indian to receive two Oscars. 

Resul Pookutty (2009)

The Kerala-born sound designer, who overcame adversity in childhood, shared the award with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke for his work in Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

Indian entries


Indian entries for the Oscars: 1957-2016
The Times of India

The Film Federation of India, the apex body of the movie industry, is the authority that decides the country's entry in the best foreign language film category at the Oscar awards.It has decided to submit Tamil film Visaaranai in 2016.Mehboob Khan's `Mother India' was India's first submission for this award. So far, only three Indian films have reached the final nomination stage as best foreign film

See graphic." Indian entries for the Oscars: 1957-2016"


November 26, 2020: The Times of India

‘Jallikattu’ to be India’s official Oscar entry


Malayalam film “Jallikattu”, based on celebrated writer S Hareesh’s short story, Maoist, has been selected as India’s official entry for Oscars 2021. The announcement was made by chairman of the jury Rahul Rawail in Kolkata. The film will compete in the best international feature film category.

In all, 27 films were in contention. Among those to lose out were Chaitanya Tamhane’s much-feted Marathi film, “The Disciple”, “Bittersweet” (Marathi), “Chhalaang ” (Hindi) and “Gulabo Sitabo” (Hindi). “I wish to thank everyone who worked for the film,” said the film’s 42-year-old director Lijo Jose Pellissery, winner of the best director award at the International Film Festival of India last year. The film’s plot revolves around a buffalo that escapes from a slaughterhouse in a remote hill village where men gather to hunt down the animal. The film satirises the chaos and the chase becomes a metaphor for human aggression. TNN

Indians invited by the Academy


SRK, Naseeruddin among Oscar Academy’s 928 new members , June 26, 2018: The Indian Express

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Tabu and veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah are among a record 928 new members invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the body behind the Oscars seeks to enhance diversity. In an annoucement, the Academy said the new members will increase the diversity in a major way as 49% of its invitees are female and 38% are people of colour. India features prominently in the list of the new invitees that includes female stars Tabu and Madhuri Dixit, Tabu’s ‘Viraasat’ co-star Anil Kapoor and actor Ali Fazal. Veteran Bengali actors Soumitra Chatterjee (‘Bridge’) and Madhabi Mukherjee (‘Charulata’) are in the list of invitees as well.


July 3, 2019: The Times of India

The Academy invites six Indians to be members

In its latest push for inclusivity, the Oscars Academy has invited members from 59 countries

Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Anupam Kher are among the 842 new members invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in its latest push to become more inclusive.

Kher has starred in Hollywood films such as Hotel Mumbai and The Big Sick while Akhtar, who has been invited in the Directors’ branch, most recently directed Gully Boy. Kashyap has been invited in the Short Films and Feature Animation branch. Lunchbox writer-director Ritesh Batra is also a part of the new invitees’ list. In the Visual Effects branch, Sherry Bharda of Hichki fame and Srinivas Mohan, best known for his work on 2.0 and Baahubali: The Beginning, have been invited.


Zoya Akhtar - Directors branch

Anurag Kashyap - Short Films and Feature Animation branch

Anupam Kher - Actors branch

Ritesh Batra - Writers branch

Srinivas Mohan, Sherry Bharda - Visual Effects branch


Chaitanya Tamhane



Karan Johar

Mani Ratnam

MM Keeravani

Ram Charan,

Shaunak Sen

Siddharth Roy Kapur



Academy Award winners (list)

1982/ Bhanu Athaiya

For Gandhi (1982): The Oscar for Best Costume Design, India’s first Oscar. A part of more than 100 films, Athaiya won two National Awards — for Gulzar’s mystery drama Lekin (1990) and Lagaan, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker.

1992/ Satyajit Ray

An Academy Honorary Award in 1992, “in recognition of his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures, and of his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world.”


Resul Pookutty

Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty were jointly awarded for their work in Slumdog Millionaire (2008) for Best Sound Mixing..

A R Rahman

The first Indian to win Academy Awards in two categories, both for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Song (for ‘Jai Ho’) and

Best Original Score.

Another track from the film, ‘O Saaya’, was also nominated in the Best Original Song category.

Gulzar, Best Original Song Award

Lyricist Gulzar shared the Oscar with Rahman: for Best Original Song, for his work as a lyricist on ‘Jai Ho’ from Slumdog Millionaire.

2019: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

Period. End of a Sentence, won an award in 2019 in the Best Documentary (Short Subject) category. Produced by Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment and directed by the Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabchi.

See Kathikeda


Best Documentary Short Film

The Elephant Whisperers

The Elephant Whisperers (Tamil) short documentary film Won the 2023 Academy Award in the category 'Documentary Short Film

Kartiki Gonsalves, Guneet Monga (co-producer)

The short was the directorial debut of Kartiki Gonsalves. Gonsalves, who had a successful career as a wildlife and social documentary photographer, photojournalist, and cinematographer, left her job for this venture.

Best Original Song

Naatu naatu being performed on the Academy Awards stage in Mar 2023

RRR: the film's song 'Naatu Naatu' won an Oscar in the 'Best Original Song' category for Naatu Naatu.

M.M. Keeravani (Music), Chandrabose (Lyrics)

Naatu Naatu’ (Telugu) from ‘RRR’ competed with ‘Applause’ from ‘Tell It Like a Woman’, ‘Hold My Hand’ from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and ‘This Is a Life’ from ‘Everything Everywhere All atOnce’.

Indian films nominated for the Oscars (list)

1958/ Mother India

Category:Best Foreign Language Film

Released in India in 1957

Directed by Mehboob Khan

1961/ The Creation of Woman

Dir: Ismail Merchant

Category: Category:Best Short Subject (Live Action)

1968/ The House That Ananda Built

Directed by Fali Bilimoria, a short documentary film

Category:Best Documentary (Short Subject)

==1978/ Bead Game Dir: Ishu Patel

Category:Best Animated Short Film

1979/ An Encounter with Faces

Producer: K. K. Kapil

Category: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

1983/ Gandhi

Bhanu Athaiya Category:Best Costume Design Won an Oscar

Ravi Shankar Category:Best Original Score Nominated


A Room with a View is a 1985 British film though produced by the Indian Ismail Merchant and written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who lived substantially in India. It was directed by James Ivory

1988/ Salaam Bombay!

Directed by Mira Nair

Category:Best Foreign Language Film

1993, 1994

Though producer Ismail Merchant was an Indian,

Howards End (1993) is listed as a UK, Japan, USA co-production.

Category:Best Picture Nominated

1994 The Remains of the Day is listed as a UK-USA co-production.

Category:Best Picture Nominated

2001/ Lagaan

Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and produced by Aamir Khan

Category:Best Foreign Language Film

2004/ Little Terrorist

A 2004 short film directed by Ashvin Kumar

Category:Best Short Subject (Live Action)

2009/ Slumdog Millionaire

Resul Pookutty

Category:Best Sound Mixing Won an Oscar

Gulzar (Lyrics) Category:Best Original Song (For "Jai Ho") Won an Oscar

A. R. Rahman (Music) Category:Best Original Song (For "Jai Ho") Won an Oscar

Category:Best Original Score for the film Won an Oscar

Category:Best Original Song (For "O... Saya") Nominated

2011/127 Hours

Category:Best Original Score Nominated

Category:Best Original Song (For "If I Rise") Nominate

2013/ Life of Pi

Bombay Jayashri (Lyrics)

Category:Best Original Song (For "Pi's Lullaby") Nominated

2021/ The White Tiger

Written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, based on a novel by Aravind Adiga

It is a co-production of the countries: United States, India

However, this nomination does not count as Indian because the nominee was Ramin Bahrani (USA) for the Category:Best Adapted Screenplay

2022/ Writing with Fire

Directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, documentary

Category:Best Documentary Feature


RRR: the film's song 'Naatu Naatu' officially entered the Oscars race in the 'Best Original Song' category for Naatu Naatu.

M.M. Keeravani (Music), Chandrabose (Lyrics)

Thereafter, Naatu Naatu’ from ‘RRR’ competed with ‘Applause’ from ‘Tell It Like a Woman’, ‘Hold My Hand’ from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ and ‘This Is a Life’ from ‘Everything Everywhere All atOnce’.

All That Breathes documentary Nominated for a 2023 Academy Award in the 'Documentary Feature Film'

Shaunak Sen (prod, dir)

The Elephant Whisperers short documentary film Nominated for a 2023 Academy Award in the category 'Documentary Short Film

Kartiki Gonsalves, Guneet Monga (co-producer)

Official Oscar entries from India

Unless stated otherwise, the language of the film would be Hindi/ Hindi- Urdu / Hindustani

Mother India (1957)

Director: Mehboob Khan

Received Oscar Nomination

Madhumati (1958)

Director: Bimal Roy

Apur Sansar/ The World of Apu (1959) Bengali

Director: Satyajit Ray

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)

Director: Abrar Alvi

Mahanagar/ The Big City (1963) aka Metropolis/ Bengali

Director: Satyajit Ray

Title used for nomination: Metropolis

Guide (1965)

Director: Vijay Anand

Amrapali (1966)

Dir: Lekh Tandon

Aakhri Khat / The Last Letter (1967

Dir: Chetan Anand

Majhli Didi Elder Sister / 1968

Dir: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Deiva Magan (1969) Tamil

Dir: A. C. Tirulokchandar

Reshma Aur Shera (1971)

Dir: Sunil Dutt

Uphaar (1972

Dir: Sudhendu Roy

Saudagar (1973)

Dir: Sudhendu Roy

Garm Hava (1974) Hot Winds / Urdu

Dir: M. S. Sathyu

Manthan (1977)

dir Shyam Benegal

The Chess Players (1977) Urdu, Engish, Hindi

Director: Satyajit Ray

Saaransh (1984)

Director: Mahesh Bhatt

Nayakan (1987) Tamil

Director: Mani Ratnam

Salaam Bombay! (1988)

Director: Mira Nair

Received an Oscar Nomination

Parinda (1989)

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Anjali (1990) Tamil

Director: Mani Ratnam

Henna (1991)

Randhir Kapoor

Thevar Magan (1992) Tamil

Director: Bharathan

Rudaali (1993)

Dir: Kalpana Lajmi

Bandit Queen (1994)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Kuruthipunal (1995) Tamil

Director: P.C. Sreeram

Indian (1996)/ Indhiyan Tamil

Director: S. Shankar

Guru (1997) Malayalam

Director: Rajiv Anchal

Jeans (1998) Tamil

Dir: S. Shankar

Earth (1999)

Director: Deepa Mehta

Hey Ram (2000)

Director: Kamal Haasan

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Received an Oscar Nomination

Devdas (2002)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

A Breath (2004) Shwaas/ Marathi

Director: Sandeep Sawant

Riddle Paheli (2005)

Dir: Amol Palekar

Rang De Basanti (2006)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Eklavya: The Royal Guard (2007)

Dir: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Like Stars on Earth (2008) Taare Zameen Par

Directors: Aamir Khan, Amole Gupte | Stars: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma

Harishchandrachi Factory (2009)

Director: Paresh Mokashi

Peepli Live (2010)

Directors: Anusha Rizvi, Mahmood Farooqui

Abu, Son of Adam (2011) Malayalam

Director: Salim Ahmed

Barfi! (2012)

Director: Anurag Basu

The Good Road (2013) Gujarati

Dir: Gyan Correa

Liar's Dice (2014)

Dir: Geetu Mohandas

Court (2015)

Director: Chaitanya Tamhane

Visaaranai (2016) Tamil

Director: Vetrimaaran

Newton (2017)

Director: Amit Masurkar

Village Rockstars (2018) Assamese

Dir: Rima Das

Gully Boy (2019)

Director: Zoya Akhtar

Jallikattu (2020) Malayalam

Dir: Lijo Jose Pellissery

Pebbles Koozhangal (2021) Tamil

Dir: P. S. Vinothraj

Last Film Show Chhello Show (2022) Gujarati

Pan Nalin

Nominated and included in the shortlist



The Oscars and Indian cinema

Bollywood and Oscars over 100 years of Cinema

Tejashree Bhopatkar, The Times of India, Apr 25, 2013

The Times of India

On completion of 100 years of Indian Cinema, it's definitely an unfortunate moment that despite of honest attempts Indian movies could not win any Oscar Awards.

Since 1957, India has sent 45 films as its official entry for the Oscars. Out of these, only 3 films - Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988) and Lagaan (2001) were nominated for the Oscars in the "Best Foreign Language Film".

Not many know that An Encounter with Faces was filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra's first directorial attempt and interestingly won a nomination at the Oscars. It was a short documentary film by Chopra and nominated in the 'Best Documentary on Short Subjects' category where in Ashwin Kumar, son of fashion designer Ritu Kumar, made his entry to the Oscar nomination list with his short film ' Little Terrorist'. This 15-minute short was about a boy who crosses the line of control between India and Pakistan.

Indian Oscar winners (notes)

On the other hand, if not Bollywood movies as a whole, we have Indians as Oscar winners. India received its first Oscars in 1982, when Bhanu Athaiya won the award as the Best Costume Designer for Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi in 1982.

Exactly after a decade Satyajit Ray received honorary Academy Awards at Oscars.

2008 was the best year for Indian Cinema as Bollywood cash in 3 Oscar awards. Russell Pookutty won Best Sound Mixing (with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke) for Slumdog Millionaire, followed by A.R Rahman won Best Score and Best Original Song (music) again for Slumdog Millionaire, Gulzar won Best Song (lyrics) for Slumdog Millionaire.

Films with Indian connections

Gandhi (1982), an epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It took an Englishman, Richard Attenborough to make the best biographical film on India's most prominent freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi. Ben Kingsley portrayed Gandhi to perfection. Gandhi went on to win 8 Oscar Awards.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008), an India- based movie with a Hollywood producer, Danny Boyle. Slumdog Millionaire shot entirely in India and with an almost Indian cast won as many as 8 Oscars in different categories.

Life Of Pi (2012), again a film produced by foreign producers yet have Indian actors like Irfan Khan, Tabu, Suraj Sharma and is also filmed in India.

Water, starring John Abraham, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas which was again produced by David Hamilton. Deepa Mehta's Water was another film with an absolute Indian setting, Indian cast and Indian language but won an Oscar nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film from Canada, since the producer was from that country.

Fund for promotion at Oscars, international fests

Fund for promotion at Oscars, international fests
The Times of India

New fund to promote Indian cinema at Oscars, int'l fests, Nov 02 2016 : The Times of India

The government has created a film promotion fund to promote Indian cinema in international film festivals. The initiative would help independent filmmakers to promote their work across the globe.

Announcing the move, Union information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday said the fund would provide financial assistance to create a buzz around films selected an international film festival of repute or if it is India's official nomination to the Academy Awards under the foreign film category .

Directorate of film festivals has been designated as the nodal agency for implementing this initiative based on the recommendations of a panel of experts constituted by the government.

The Oscars and Pakistani cinema

See The Oscars and Pakistani cinema

“In Memorium”


Priyanka Dasgupta , April 28, 2021: The Times of India

Satyajit Ray’s Apu had his moment under the Oscar spotlight on Sunday when the 93rd Academy Awards featured the late Soumitra Chatterjee, whose portrayal of the character ranks among the best in Indian cinema, in its official “In Memoriam” tribute. Oscar nominee Angela Bassett introduced the segment, mentioning how “over 3 million souls were lost around the world to Covid alone”.

Chatterjee died on November 15, 2020 after a 40-day battle with the virus. While a 3-minutelong video featured actor Irrfan Khan and costume designer Bhanu Athaiya, the first Indian to win an Oscar, the official “In Memorium” page featured a still from Apur Sansar showing a contemplative Chatterjee. Others who found mention in the tribute included Sushant Singh Rajput, Rishi Kapoor and Shashikala.

Chatterjee’s daughter Poulami Bose called the Oscar tribute a “heartwarming” gesture. “My father was never too excited about awards. Growing up in pre-independence India, his value system was different. He was more work-oriented than recognition-oriented. Even when he was bestowed with international awards, he would see it as a recognition of his countrymen. Had Bapi somehow seen this ‘In Memoriam’ segment, he would have said it is a recognition for India rather than just his work,” she said.

Since Chatterjee’s death, the family has been plagued by a series of life events. In January, Bose tested positive for Covid and took some time to recover. On April 4, she lost her mother to kidney-related issues. Now, her daughter, Mekhola, has been infected.

A lot of work by the Soumitra Chatterjee Foundation has been put on hold due to the second wave of Covid-19. Currently, Bose is using this time to sort Chatterjee’s collection of English and Bengali books. “Director Suman Ghosh and actor Kheyali Dastidar have taken some. I’ve gifted some to actors from my theatre group. I don’t have enough space and want the books to find a good home. So, I’ll give them to those who will read, appreciate and treasure them because they belonged to Bapi,” she said.

There are some 200-odd books that are awaiting distribution. Bose kept some aside for Suman Mukhopadhyay, Kaushik Sen and Debshankar Halder – actors whom Chatterjee was extremely fond of. Incidentally, on Mrinal Sen’s death anniversary, many of the legend’s books and trophies were also gifted away to people who wanted them. “I also have such plans. I will keep the very important ones and give away the rest to others,” she added.

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