Gujarati film "Chhello Show", a coming-of-age drama about a young boy's love affair with cinema in a village in Saurashtra, is India's official entry for the 95th Academy Awards, the Film Federation of India (FFI) announced on Tuesday.
Titled "Last Film Show" in English, the Pan Nalin-directorial will release in theatres countrywide on October 14.
"'Chhello Show' is India's official entry for Oscars 2023," FFI Secretary General Supran Sen told PTI.
According to FFI president TP Aggarwal, "Chhello Show" was unanimously chosen over films such as SS Rajamouli's "RRR", Ranbir Kapoor-led "Brahmastra: Part One Shiva", Vivek Agnihotri's "The Kashmir Files" and R Madhavan's directorial debut "Rocketry".
"The 17 member jury unanimously chose 'Chhello Show'. There were a total of 13 films of different languages including six in Hindi -- 'Brahmastra', 'The Kashmir Files', 'Anek', 'Jhund", "Badhaai Do' and 'Rocketry' -- and one each in Tamil ('Iravin Nizhal'), Telugu ('RRR'), Bengali ('Aparajito') and Gujarati ('Chhello Show') as well as few others," Aggarwal told PTI.
The film, which will represent the country in the best international feature film category at the Oscars, is produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur's banner Roy Kapur Films, Jugaad Motion Pictures, Monsoon Films, Chhello Show LLP and Marc Duale.
The story is inspired by Nalin's own memories of falling in love with movies as a child in rural Gujarat.
Set in a remote rural village of Saurashtra, the film follows the story of a nine-year-old boy who begins a lifelong love affair with cinema when he bribes his way into a rundown movie palace and spends a summer watching movies from the projection booth.
Nalin, best known for directing critically-acclaimed films "Samsara", "Valley of Flowers" and "Angry Indian Goddesses", expressed his gratitude to the FFI and the selection jury.
"I could have never imagined such a day would come and bring light and celebration of light. 'Chhello Show' has been enjoying love from around the world but there was an ache in my heart that how do I make India discover it? Now I can breathe again and believe in cinema that entertains, inspires and enlightens! Thank you FFI, Thank you Jury," the director said in a statement.
"Chhello Show", which features Bhavin Rabari, Vikas Bata, Richa Meena, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval and Rahul Koli, had its world premiere as the opening film at the Tribeca Film Festival in June last year.
It won multiple awards during its festival run, including the Golden Spike at the 66th Valladolid Film Festival in Spain where it also enjoyed commercial success during its theatrical run.
Roy Kapur said the team is thrilled and honoured with the film's selection for the Oscars 2023.
"There could not be a more apt time for a film like this one, that celebrates the magic and wonder of cinema and the theatrical experience. When cinema-going around the world has been disrupted by a pandemic, it reminds audiences anew of the first time they fell in love with the experience of watching a movie in a darkened cinema hall," the producer said.
Last year, Tamil drama "Koozhangal" ("Pebbles"), directed by filmmaker Vinothraj PS, was India's official entry at the Oscars but didn't make the shortlist.
The last Indian film that made it to the final five was the Aamir Khan-led "Lagaan" in 2001.
"Mother India" (1958) and "Salaam Bombay" (1989) are the other two Indian movies to have made it to the top five.
The 95th Academy Awards are scheduled to take place on March 12, 2023 in Los Angeles.