“Last Film Show” (“Chhello Show”) India’s contender in the Oscars international feature category, will release across India on Oct. 14.
Cashing in on the fact that it is in contention at the 95th Oscars, the distributors – Roy Kapur Films in partnership with PVR – are pricing previews on Oct. 13 across 95 Indian cinemas at INR95 ($1.16).
The partly autobiographical drama takes director Pan Nalin back to his roots in Saurashtra, Gujarat, western India, where “Last Film Show” was filmed. The story is set against the backdrop of Indian cinemas witnessing a massive transition from celluloid to digital where hundreds of single-screen cinemas are either in ruins or have disappeared altogether.
The Gujarati-language film will have an extensive release in Gujarat and at selected centers in the rest of India. “We want to ensure that we give it the optimum release, so all the key centers will be covered. We’ll make sure that anyone who wants to watch the film gets a chance to watch it,” producer and distributor Siddarth Roy Kapur told Variety.
Producer Dheer Momaya told Variety: “It’s been dubbed and localized in so many languages, including Spanish, German, Russian, Hebrew, we just felt that, if it can travel across the world, why can’t it travel across India? It’s made the larger journey and now there’s a large journey to be made within the country.”
The film will be released in its original Gujarati version and a Hindi-language dubbed version will be deployed when demand grows.
“It’s not a dialog heavy film, it’s very emotional. This is the English subtitled version for the urban Indian audience. But I think it should be able to speak to audiences across India,” Nalin told Variety. The director added that the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise in that audiences are used to consuming content in a plethora of languages.
“People have opened up to stories – if they think it’s a great story they will watch shows or movies and we have seen that across the world,” Nalin said.
The film follows nine-year-old boy Samay, whose life turns upside down after watching his first movie. He passionately falls in love with films – against his father’s wishes. Samay strikes a deal with Fazal, the projectionist, who will let him watch movies for free in exchange for eating the contents of his lunchbox. Their food-for-films deal turns into an endearing friendship, but heartbreaking choices lie ahead.
“Last Film Show” was chosen as India’s official Oscar entry over S.S. Rajamouli’s period action film “RRR,” which has grossed more than $11 million in the U.S. over two releases this year. After being snubbed by India, “RRR” U.S. distributor Variance Films is mounting an Oscar campaign across the other major categories.
Not to be outdone, “Last Film Show” U.S. distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films is backing their film with president Peter Goldwyn describing it as “a really strong contender.” In India, after initial dismay from “RRR” aficionados, the cream of Bollywood, including superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan and filmmaker Karan Johar, among many others, have expressed support for “Chhello Show.”.
“My teacher told me, don’t worry about your exams, go and win the Oscar,” the young “Last Film Show” lead Bhavin Rabari told Variety.
The film is represented in international markets by France’s Orange Studios. Indian companies involved in the production include: Jugaad Motion Pictures, Monsoon Films, Chhello Show LLP and Roy Kapur Films. The French co-producer is Virginie Films.
Momaya points to the track record of Samuel Goldwyn Films, which distributed Oscar winner “Another Round” in the U.S. and another film distributed by them, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” scored a nomination and that Orange Studios produced Oscar winners “The Father” and “The Artist.”
“They believe that it would speak to that core voting base of the AMPAS because, it’s an authentic story that tells of an authentic culture,” says Momaya. “There’s a love for film and a passion for film that’s built into it. It plays into the nostalgic 35 mm era. At the end of the day, the voting members of the academy are film professionals and anyone who’s a film professional who watches this film will understand the multiple layers of the film.”
Momaya also indicates that the second and third highest AMPAS voter base is in the U.K. and France and they will be targeted by Samuel Goldwyn and Orange.
Nalin adds that many academy voters have already watched “Last Film Show” at festivals, including at Tribeca, where it premiered last year and that the academy has honored him by inviting him to be a member of its Directors Branch this year.
On the “RRR” situation, Roy Kapur says: “There always is a debate around which film should have been sent by which country to the Academy Awards, and rightly so because all filmmakers are passionate about their work and obviously would like to represent the country. We are honored and privileged to have been selected to represent India and we hope to give it our best shot there. If there are more than one Indian film in contention in other categories that’s great for the country, we welcome it. I see no issue with that at all.”
“Our best campaign is showing the film. And if that happens, that really is pretty much the battle won in terms of making sure that you’ve got the best chance of success, because the film will speak for itself. So, our main motivation is to be able to get all the AMPAS members to watch the film,” adds Roy Kapur.
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