Indian films’ international journey and success started way back in 1983, when Bhanu Athaiya became the first Indian-born person to win an Oscar. She won it for Best Costume Design and that, too, in a film that has remained among the best ever produced. The Richard Attenborough-directed mega film was not only a super success in the market, but received 11 nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, winning eight (more than any other film nominated that year), including those for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (for Ben Kingsley). Athaiya had shared her award with John Mollo.
Next was one of India’s greatest directors, Satyajit Ray, who received an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. It was said that Ray was not considered for a proper Oscar during his career in which he produced some of the best movies the world has ever seen. Even a giant of a filmmaker such as Akira Kurosawa had acknowledged the genius of Ray, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences probably held a rather slanted view of movies produced and directed in this subcontinent. This was clear bias.
Six more Oscar winning Indians followed, including this year, when two more Oscars came India’s way, one for Best Documentary (The Elephant Whisperers) and for Best Original Song (Naatu Naatu in RRR).
In between, four Oscars were from Slumdog Millionaire itself. AR Rahaman got two, including Best Original Song and Best Original Score, Gulzar also for Best Original Sing (Jai Ho) and Resul Pookutty for Best Sound Mixing.
Eight Oscars in all, and this is not counting the many nominations that Indian films have received over the years.
The way the road has been paved, it seems that in the coming years Indian films will be more in demand across the globe and will be receiving more accolades in the many top level film festivals and awards ceremonies. Hope the injustice heaped on Ray will not be repeated.