Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru is going to Oscars, but there is a catch

On January 26, 2021, Republic Day, cinema lovers across India learnt that Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru has entered the Oscars race. Directed by Sudha Kongara Prasad, the film is being considered under multiple categories, from Best Actor to Best Actress, Best Director to Best Original Score, and a few others. But in reality, the race could be a long one, and a slightly complex one too.

One of the producers of the film, Rajsekar Pandian, of 2D Entertainment, shared the news on Twitter with screenshots of the mail from the Academy Awards committee. He wrote, “Happy Republic Day! #SooraraiPottru joins OSCARS under General Category in Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Score & other categories! The film has been made available in the Academy Screening Room today (sic).”

What many failed to comprehend from this was that Soorarai Pottru is only available in the Academy Screening Room and will need several votes for it to qualify to the next round, and then some more for it to make it to the nominees’ list. And that the screening submission was a paid one.

The Academy Screening Room is a paid service where filmmakers from across the globe can submit their projects for screening. A fee of $12,500 (plus the cost of watermarking) is charged and the film is submitted for scrutiny.

Now, this move by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is in keeping with the times we are living in. While traditional DVD screeners will still be available, this will make Oscars submissions available for screening, evaluation and scrutiny online, especially for those two can handle technology. A welcome move, many would agree, especially as we saw the world shift towards OTT platforms over the last year.

Apart from being available on the member site, the Academy Screening Room will also be available on the new 4th generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4k app.

The rest of the process remains as is. Watch, vote, lobby, and finally wait for the Academy to announce the final nominations.

The Malayalam film Jallikattu is India’s official entry to Oscars 2021. But Soorarai Pottru, that opted for a direct OTT release on Amazon Prime Video, has a long way to go. But that in no way takes away from the film at hand. The news is still a magnificent one and is definitely something to be proud of.

It certainly does. While the Oscars essentially invites entries in every language and claims to evaluate a film as cinema, sans the language restrictions, until Parasite’s Oscar win in 2020, non-English content was simply restricted to Foreign Language Film or International Feature Film categories. Parasite broke open that door, thereby freeing Oscars of the shackles of language. In other words, Parasite helped us and the world understand that art in itself is language, and cannot or should not be categorised as English or non-English.

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