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HomeOpinionsFFI jury’s response for denying “Sardar Udham” Oscar entry is problematic, here’s why!

FFI jury’s response for denying “Sardar Udham” Oscar entry is problematic, here’s why!

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Bizarrely enough, it was an Indian origin jury member reminding us to forget our painful history for the sake of “globalization”

Let it be clear, denying ‘Sardar Udham’ an Oscar entry on basis of the film’s flawed storytelling and delayed climax could’ve been reasoned as a sound argument. Except, that wasn’t the case with the Vicky Kaushal starring historical-political blockbuster. Instead, Indians were reminded not to hold “hatred” over the British in this “era of globalization” (and drumrolls please…) by India’s very own Film Federation. Ouch!

The Oscar race for Indian cinema has always seemed like a far-fetched idea. Even with over 27 film industries with an estimated worth of 200 billion, an Indian film is yet to bag an Academy Award.

Perhaps, the answer lies in our failure at hosting a strategic worldwide Oscar campaign for film entries, or better yet, pandering to Western ideologies hasn’t been of help either. But I digress; the issue today lies in the perception that an Indian historical-political drama needs to appeal to fairness standards set by what? Globalization? Please…

Sardar Udham”, a film directed by Shoojit Sircar unfolds the life of the revolutionary freedom fighter, Sardar Udham Singh, known for assassinating Michael O’Dwyer in London, to exact revenge for the 1919 Jallinwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.

The infamous incident occurred under the orders of Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. Where British troops fired at peaceful protestors until exhausting their ammunition. Estimates of those killed in the incident vary between 379 to about 1500 people. But today let’s address the problematic idea that this Indian movie projects hatred towards the British.

Earlier last week, a Times of India report revealed a controversial statement by Bengali music director Indraadip Dasgupta. On the decision to deny Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar Udham a chance at the Academy Award. Was it because the film lacked compelling cinematic features? Nope, rather it was criticized for portraying too much “hatred” for the British.

“Sardar Udham is a little lengthy and harps on the Jallianwala Bagh incident. It is an honest effort to make a lavish film on an unsung hero of the Indian freedom struggle. But in the process, it again projects our hatred towards the British. In this era of globalization, it is not fair to hold on to this hatred.” said Dasgupta.

Is it unfair hatred when the Indian government is yet to receive a formal apology from the British for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? After more than 100 years!

Still of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour’

In the context of judging cinema, isn’t it unfair that a Hollywood Oscar-winning film such as ‘Darkest Hour’, praised as historically “accurate” fails to account for Winston Churchill’s obsessive hatred for Indians? Or that he and Britain’s wartime policies are complicit in worsening the man-made Bengal famine, leading to over 3 million deaths from starvation. But Hollywood would rather portray Churchill as a war leader for gaining the biggest victory for the allied powers.

No individual need be aware that the War leader despised Indians as primitive and savages. (Thanks for defeating the Germans Mr. Churchill, while you are at it, throw a bone to the Indians fighting beside English men during WWII, No? okay.) Rather, Let’s just turn a page over a third-world nation’s history, silently let it die in an age where popular media’s view is all.

I’m not done yet.

Still from Zero Dark Thirty Torture scene

Wasn’t it unfair for a movie like Zero Dark Thirty’ to glorify CIA’s interrogation techniques, now termed as torture? But wait, Hollywood’s film Jury doesn’t think so, since it was also an Oscar-winning film.

Still from ‘The Report’ movie

The irony though, it was yet another Academy Awarded title, ‘The Report’ that pointed out the CIA’s influence in attempting to justify torture through Kathryn Bigelow’s film, a technique practiced on at least 26 “wrongfully” held detainees.

Behind-the-scenes still from ‘DUNKIRK’

Or maybe, just maybe, it was fair to glorify a whitewashed historical flick like ‘DUNKIRK’, while it fails to throw even a tiny spotlight at the 300 forgotten Indian soldiers.

Recurrently, multiple flicks from well-known directors have made it to the Oscars. I wonder, would an Oscar Jury have the gall to call out ‘12 years A Slave’ or ‘Django Unchained’ as films holding unfair hatred over centuries of racism faced by the African American community?

Even ‘Black Hawk Down’ (multiple Oscar holding title) hailed as one of the most accurately depicted war films for portraying the realism of what American Soldiers faced in the Battle of Mogadishu, airbrushed the fact that one of the leading characters from the film is serving a 30-year sentence for child abuse.

It’s funny, as a center-left-leaning individual, propaganda war films have always been hard to come to terms with. Although Sardar Udham has its fair share, the current Oscar controversy highlights a worrisome perception among us. That maybe it’s time India forgave the British, perhaps the estimated 1.8 billion Indian deaths under the British raj and the plunder of over $45 trillion from the Indian economy wasn’t all that bad. Chalta hai!

‘Churchill is no better than Hitler’ – Dr. Shashi Tharoor
Follow Dr. Shashi Tharoor atFacebook:…

As Mr. Shashi Tharoor once said in discussion over reassessing British colonialism and the devasting consequences India faced:

“Indians are all too quick to forgive and forget. I’ve no problem of forgiving, we should forgive, but I think it’s important that we not forget,” said Tharoor

The comment related to Sardar Udham’s Oscar denial is a grim reminder of bias against eastern historical-political films [by our own, in this scenario] while Western media hails and praises their own.

A movie like Sardar Udham, even with its flaws, still identifies racialized logic of colonial violence, and continued imperialism by the Brits over India. Is it worthy of standing in contention for an Oscar nomination? Perhaps, especially when Hollywood movies airbrush dark sides of history to draw a pretty picture of Britain as a righteous nation fighting Germany in WWII are still praised with the world’s most prestigious film awards.


It’s unjust to reject a film on the grounds of projecting “Hatred” while Hollywood played a role in growing Islamophobia over the past decade and even threw Oscar nominations that enable them. It certainly sets dangerous precedence where a western-based industry’s viewpoint on what is and isn’t hatred, of an art form created by a rich eastern culture is taken into consideration. But yet again, it’s unfortunate it was an Indian with such retrograde opinion.

P.S. We hold no hatred over the current generation (Words laid down while headbanging to the Arctic Monkeys — When The Sun Goes Down).


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