AND THE OSCAR GOES TO… GUJARATI BJP MAN IN JURY
The “Gujarat Model” has reached the Film Federation of India too. Senior BJP leader and popular Gujarati actor Naresh Kanodia has become the first Gujarati to find a place in the jury to select India’s entries for the Oscars. Gujarati actor-turned-politician Naresh Kanodia who had acted in over 63 Gujarati films including blockbusters like Kanku Ni Kimat, Uchi Medi na Ucha Mol and Man Saiba ni Medie has been approached by the Film Federation of India (FFI) to become a member of the jury.
At a time when the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) hullabaloo is just refusing to die down, the selection of Kanodia – who was elected as MLA from central Gujarat’s Karjan seat in 2002, but lost the election in 2007 — comes as a surprise to many. For the uninitiated, students of the FTII have been protesting the appointment of actorturned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as the institute chief.
Naresh Kanodia told Mirror that though it is true that he helped BJP gather crowds in the early 90’s, this selection is purely on his merit as an actor. Kanodia’s son Hitu, also a Gujarati film actor, confirmed his father’s selection for the panel.
“He received a letter from the Film Federation of India (FFI), asking if he’d be interested in being part of the jury. My father has given his consent. It is a huge honour for him,” adding: “Finally, Gujarati cinema is being noticed.”
Speaking to Mirror, the senior Kanodia expressed his happiness: “It is nothing short of a miracle. Bau anand thaay chhe (It is a source of extreme happiness). I will be leaving with Hitu – I’m taking him along for support – on the 16th of September for Hyderabad, where I will join other members of the jury.”
The committee will watch the selected films – Hindi and other regional entries – over a week in Hyderabad, after which the decision will be taken. While the decision spells happiness for the Kanodias and Gujarati cinema, could this be another instance of political largesse?
When Mirror contacted the FFI – the body which decides the jury — its President JP Chowksey was unaware of the entire Kanodia episode.
“I don’t know. I have no clue about it. We send letters to prominent faces in respective regions. Once they send in their consent, it is up to us to choose the panel,” Chowksey told Mirror, when asked about the selection of the BJP leader. “Also, we have veteran actor Amol Palekar heading the committee this year. He is the chairman,” Chowksey clarified, adding, “They will watch the films and Mr Palekar will then hand over a sealed envelope of the selected films to me.”
‘DON’T COMPARE IT TO FTII CONTROVERSY’
The FFI president was quick to call back Mirror. “Don’t compare this to the FTII controversy. Gajendra Chauhan is a bad actor and he has done pornographic films. Naresh anodia is a prominent name in Gujarat and he makes it to our panel only on the basis of that.”
Chowksey added, “We also contacted Mrs Aamir Khan, Dr Jabbar Patel and the like, but they are yet to get back. Mr Kanodia is a simple member of the committee.” Regarding the selection criteria, he specified that they never check the political background of their members. “I want to assure you that no one is selected or considered because of his/her association with a political party. And since you have brought it up, we will ensure we do a political background check next time onwards,” a hassled Chowksey said.
‘WE RESPECT ALL LANGUAGES’
FFI secretary Supran Sen also voiced Chowksey’s opinion. “We are not connected to politics. It is a criteria that the panel must comprise actors and since we respect all languages, we decided to have someone from Gujarati cinema too,” he said. So, how did Kanodia’s name pop up? “It was recommended at a meeting of the office bearers. This year we have only approached Kanodia from Gujarat,” Sen explained.
SIGNIFICANT BODY OF WORK
Kanodia’s industry mates backed the decision, saying it shouldn’t be objectionable. Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt appreciated Kanodia’s body of work. Instead, the filmmaker called the Oscars a “non-issue”. “This is a non-issue. The Oscars itself is a non-issue. It is made out to be the mother-ofall awards, when it is nothing more than another marketing event. Through controversies like these, we are selling the Oscars to India rather than selling India to the Oscars,” said Bhatt.
“As far as Naresh Kanodia’s appointment goes, he’s an eminent film actor from Gujarati cinema with a significant body of work. He comes from a film family and with regional cinema asserting itself on the global map, is eminently suitable to be on the FFI jury,” Bhatt made it clear, adding “His political affiliation should not be seen as a disqualification. There’s a kind of paranoia in looking for a controversy under every rock which is very wearying.”
Actor-playwright Rajoo Barot said, “He’s a senior film artiste from Gujarat. His selection is good. There shouldn’t be an objection as he has contributed to Gujarati cinema. He has garnered popularity during his period.” “FTII ka head hona alag baat hai. This is something totally different, isn’t it?” Barot asserted.
(With inputs from Roshmila Bhattacharya and Yogesh Avasthi)