Published On: Sun, May 20th, 2018

History of Indian Films and the Oscars

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The 2009 Oscar awards saw Indians announcing their presence, courtesy of Slumdog Millionaire. A R Rahman scooped up two awards – for Original Score and Best Song.

Sharing the award for Best Song ‘Jai Ho’ was poet-writer-director Gulzar. He has won numerous national and Hindi film (Bollywood) awards for screenplay, direction as well as song lyrics. Gulzar has directed over 15 Hindi films, television serials and documentaries, and written the lyrics for over 500 songs. He’s also known as a poet and short story writer in Hindi, and has won national awards there too.

There was also Resul Pookutty, who shared the award with two others for sound mixing. It is the first time a technical person trained in India measured up to the best of Hollywood.

Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars in all.

Smile Pinki, a documentary about a girl inrural India whose cleft lip made her a social outcast, won the award in the Documentary Short Subject category. The 39-minute film was made by American director Megan Mylan.

Mother India – First Indian film at the Oscars

History of Indian Films and the Oscars

Mother India was the first Indian film to feature at the Oscars. The 1957 film starring Nargis and directed by Mehboob Khan was nominated for the best foreign film in 1958.

Bhanu Athaiya – First Indian to win an Oscar

It took 26 years after Mother India for an Indian presence at the Oscars. In 1983, Bhanu Athaiya became the first Indian to win an Oscar. She won the best costume designer award for Gandhi. The Richard Attenborough film won eight Oscars.

There was also A Passage to India, David Lean’s film based on E M Forster’s bookin 1985. The film, with mostly British actors, won two Oscars. Mira Nair’s directorial debut, Salaam Bombay, was nominated for best foreign film in 1989.

Satyajit Ray wins Lifetime Achievement Oscar

Hollywood recognized the legendary Satyajit Ray with a Lifetime Achievement in 1992. By the time the award ceremony took place, Ray was too ill and could not make it. A recorded message was played out instead.

Ray made 29 feature films and 10 documentary and short films in his career, most of which won international acclaim.

Elizabeth, directed by Shekhar Kapoor, was nominated for best film in 1999.

Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, which he produced and starred in, reached the final stage in the 2002 Oscar race for the best foreign film. But the three hour 44 minute cricket drama lost out to Bosnia’s No Man’s Land.

Deepa Mehta’s Water made it to the foreign language shortlist in 2007. But the film was nominated from Canada, where Mehta is based, even though the story is set in India and the characters speak Hindi.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

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