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Jai Bhim was released on November 2 on Amazon Prime to rave reviews. On January 18, a few scenes of the film were made available for viewing on the official Oscars YouTube channel. This was a first for Tamil movies, and actor Suriya’s fans celebrated.

But it turned out that this was not any kind of official recognition of the film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was merely a service that the Academy provides for a payment of a fee of USD 5,000. When this information came out, it led to much trolling of Jai Bhim on social media.

In an interview to the BBC, director Gnanavel said that an Academy Awards (Oscars) panel had asked him for an interview along with a few scenes from the movie. But he did not reveal that this was available as a service for which money was paid.

Then came the news that Jai Bhim was on the Oscar reminders list along with 275 other films. Many in India wrongly took this to mean that Jai Bhim was selected by a jury of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its merit, or that it was India’s official entry to the Oscars. In reality, Jai Bhim was a paid submission to the Oscars. It was submitted by paying a fee of USD 12,500. Another Indian film on this list is director Priyadarshan’s Marakkar.

In an interview to the BBC, director Gnanavel said that an Academy Awards (Oscars) panel had asked him for an interview along with a few scenes from the movie. But he did not reveal that this was available as a service for which money was paid.

The official entry for the Oscars from India is the Tamil film Koozhangal. Such official entries, which are only eligible for the category of Best Foreign Language Film, are selected by the autonomous body Film Federation of India.

In the BBC interview, Gnanavel did say that Jai Bhim was sent under the open category, and not the Foreign film category. But he failed to mention that it was a paid submission and not one selected by a jury.

If any movie is not an official entry from any country, it can still compete in the Oscars through the paid submission route. For a fee, Academy members will watch the movie and consider it while nominating movies for the Oscar awards.

According to the rules, entries submitted for the open category must be films released between March 1 and December 31 in either Los Angeles or New York and have run for at least seven days with three shows each. Many of the 275 films had had theatrical releases in the US but Jai Bhim was screened in the Oscar screening room for members with the payment of a fee, as it did not have a theatrical release there.

Such films are given an opportunity to screen a package that includes scenes from the movie and background information on how the movie was made, its technical aspects and so on, for which the payment of USD 5,000 was made. This video is made available on the Oscar YouTube channel. It is usually 15 minutes long and it serves to educate Academy members who will vote on the movies in the open category for Best Picture.

While the paid submission is a lawful means to compete and promote one’s film among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the makers of Jai Bhim should have made a full disclosure about this. In the absence of this information, an impression was created that the Oscar award organizers recognized Jai Bhim on its own merit.

A paid submission is a lawful way to compete and promote one’s film among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But the makers of the Jai Bhim should have made a full disclosure about this.

It should be recalled that Soorarai Potru was also a similar entry. It went through the same route of paid submission in 2020 while India’s official entry was another film Jallikattu.

In 2020, the Korean film Parasite swept the Oscars, and that gives us some hope for Jai Bhim. However, when Parasite was showing in theatres in the US, there was talk that it would feature in the Oscars. However, has been no such buzz this year about Jai Bhim.

There is still some consolation that the Jai Bhim video on the Oscar YouTube channel has been watched by lakhs of people. One can only hope that among those who watched the video were Academy members who will vote on the movie, and that they were impressed by it.

The members will vote on the films between January 27 and February 1. On February 8, the nominations will be announced. The voting for the winners will begin March 17 and end March 22. On March 27, the awards ceremony will be held.

So far, Jai Bhim has not achieved anything significant in the Oscar race. There is very little to believe it stands a chance except for the faith that the voters will watch the movie and like it enough. Only if Jai Bhim gets nominated and wins the award eventually, will it make history. Until then, there is nothing on Jai Bhim to write home about


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