Mumbai: India’s official entry for the Oscars this year, Anurag Basu’s ‘Barfi!’ is in troubled waters. Plagued with plagiarism charges, the film has been drawing criticism for being chosen by the Film Federation of India to represent at the Academy Awards this year. But the makers are leaving no stone unturned to defend their film and risk its chances at the prestigious Oscars.
Arguing the matter, director Anurag Basu said, “It baffles me why people are not appreciating the original plot, screenplay, characters and situations. The other films that are contenders for the Oscars are really good films. I am very privileged to be in that group. I paid homage to the films and filmmakers that I grew up watching.”
With allegations of few portions of ‘Barfi!’ being straightly lifted from Charlie Chaplin films and other films such as ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Amelie’, Basu, standing firmly behind his work, said, “I don’t think they’re replicas, to begin with. Before the film released, I had said that I have taken inspiration from Chaplin. I never hid that fact. If Oscar winners like ‘The Artist’ (2011) can take inspiration, why can’t we?”
He further added, “Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino have done the same. Does that make them thieves? Great moments of cinema that you`ve watched through the years, stay with you and come out in your work. It doesn`t mean you`re copying anyone. Thank God ‘The Artiste’ was not made by an Indian. If it had been, it would have never been nominated for the Oscar, let alone winning the award."
Meanwhile, Manju Borah, chairperson of Oscars committee, India, clarified, “Had we selected any other film, we would have got the same response. I’m not bothered. Watching 20 films back to back, then choosing the best, is a tough job. There’s no vested interest. We don’t care who the maker is or who the star is. It’s the product that matters. ‘Barfi!’, we genuinely believe, is worthy.”
She further added, “The maker didn’t conceal that from the audience. In the beginning, it says it’s inspired by Chaplin. Ranbir’s mannerism is Chaplinesque. But what you take away is purely ‘Barfi!’. We selected ‘Barfi!’ because of its treatment and freshness. It leaves you happy and hopeful. There’s no moment of sorrow. And every Oscar movie is about hope and happiness. In any case, every filmmaker is inspired by some cinema or some filmmaker.”
On being asked about the selection process, Borah said, “As per the Oscars committee rules, the 11-member jury have to comprise people associated with films, like a director, technicians etc. We all watch 20 Indian films in different languages. Barfi! didn’t get all 11 votes. But it was chosen by the majority. There were three films in the final round and to get the majority, we did a three-round dissection and selection.
“We had some brilliant films from the regional sections. But there can be only one winner”, she said.