From Mother India to RRR and The Elephant Whisperers

Nargis and Raj kumar in Mother India movie (Photo IMDb)

Dr Malini Yugendran
Auckland, March 15, 2023

India made history at the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles as the hit song Naatu Naatu from the action movie RRR won the award for Best Original Song, becoming the first movie from the South Asian country to win the honour. The song, a fast-paced number that has garnered fans globally, also won the Golden Globes earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Kartiki Gonsalves won for The Elephant Whisperers, making her the first Indian director to win in the category of Best Documentary Short Film as well as the first Indian ever to win in any directing category.

“Mother India” Paves the Way in 1958

Mehboob Khan’s “Mother India” was the first Indian film to receive a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars in 1958. It tells the story of a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha who struggles to raise her children and make ends meet in the face of various challenges, including the tyranny of a moneylender. The film is known for its powerful portrayal of the resilience and sacrifice of a mother, as well as for its social commentary on issues such as class, gender, and poverty. Mother India was a critical and commercial success, and it is considered a classic of Indian cinema. Although the movie did not win, it paved the way for Indian cinema to be recognised on a global stage.

RRR Movie brings Indian an Oscar (Photo RRR Twitter)

Bhanu Athaiya and Krishna Bhanji 1983

Bhanu Athaiya made history by becoming the first Indian to win an Oscar in the Best Costume Design category in 1983 for her work on “Gandhi.” Her iconic designs include the dhoti and shawl worn by Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi.

Sir Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji to an English mother and an Indian Gujarati father with roots in Jamnagar. He is best known for his portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Salaam Bombay! and Lagaan Impress in 1989 and 2002

Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay!” and Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Lagaan” both received nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 1989 and 2002, respectively. Salaam Bombay depicts the daily lives of children living on the streets of Mumbai, India. The story revolves around a young boy named Krishna, who runs away from home and arrives in Mumbai with dreams of making money to support his family. He ends up working in a tea stall and befriends other street children. The film received critical acclaim.

Lagaan is set in the late 19th century, where a group of Indian villagers, led by Bhuvan, accept a challenge from British officers to play a game of cricket. The bet is that if the Indians win, they will not have to pay taxes for three years, while if the British win, they will have to pay triple taxes. The film was a huge commercial success and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Lagaan is considered a landmark in Indian cinema and is known for its beautiful music, cinematography and performances.

Although both movies did not win, they showcased the diversity and excellence of Indian cinema.

Satyajit Ray’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992

Satyajit Ray, a legendary Indian filmmaker, was honoured with an Honorary Academy Award in 1992 for his lifetime achievements in filmmaking. Despite his poor health, Mr Ray received the prestigious award from his hospital bed. Mr Ray was a multifaceted artist who excelled in directing, screenwriting, and writing. He is widely recognised as one of the greatest filmmakers in Indian cinema history. His most famous work, the “Apu Trilogy,” is a set of three films that depict the life of a young boy named Apu and his family in rural Bengal. The trilogy comprises “Pather Panchali” (1955), “Aparajito” (1956), and “Apur Sansar” (1959) and is considered a masterpiece of world cinema. Mr Ray’s other notable films include “Charulata” (1964), “Devi” (1960), and “The Music Room” (1958). In addition, he was a prolific writer who wrote several books on film, fiction, and non-fiction. Mr Ray received many awards during his career, including India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1992. He passed away on April 23, 1992, in Kolkata, but his legacy continues to inspire and influence Indian and world cinema.

AR Rahman and Resul Pookutty in 2009

AR Rahman won two Oscars for his work on “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009, for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. His revolutionary contributions to the Indian music industry have earned him worldwide acclaim and recognition.

Resul Pookutty won an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009, sharing the award with Richard Pryke and Ian Tapp. His achievement brought attention to the importance of sound design in Indian cinema.

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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