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Will Barfi! be disqualified from the Oscar race?

Insiders say that when Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan starring Kamal Hassan was sent as India’s official entry to the Oscars in 1987, it was disqualified by the jury and did not make it to the nominations

Will Barfi! be disqualified from the Oscar race?

The film might find passing the originality test of the Academy Awards jury next to impossible. Is there still any hope for it to win a trophy? Read on to find out…

Insiders say that when Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan starring Kamal Hassan was sent as India’s official entry to the Oscars in 1987, it was disqualified by the jury and did not make it to the nominations for Best Foreign Language Film because one scene in the film had uncanny similarities to the classic Hollywood flick The Godfather. But some believe that cannot have been the only reason.

This makes us wonder if Barfi!, which clearly has copied several scenes from classics like Singin’ In The Rain (1957) and Charlie Chaplin’s short The Adventurer (1917), should be sent for the Academy Awards, considering there is a big chance that it will not make it to the nominations.

Irrfan Khan has been quite vocal about how the Ranbir Kapoor-Priyanka Chopra-Ileana D’Cruz starrer is the wrong choice, for the same reason. “How can Barfi! stand a chance of making it to the nomination list of Oscars? In spite of knowing that few scenes from Barfi! have been copied, our film federation chose it over original. Only original films should be sent to the Oscars,” said Irrfan in an interview.

And Irrfan is probably right. The Academy Awards selection committee in India has chosen Barfi! as this year’s official entry from India, but it stands a great chance of being thrown out at the start because of the plagiarism charges that have already been heard dogging it. The negative buzz back in India won’t help it either.

What could probably save the movie is a written clarification at the beginning which says ‘Inspired from classics like Singing In The Rain, Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurer and City Lights and The Notebook‘ or ‘A tribute to great cinema made by legends like Charlie Chaplin, Gene Kelly and Nick Casavetes, which inspired me to make Barfi! –Anurag Basu’.

But there are several more copied scenes, including from Mr Bean’s Holiday, Back To School, The Goonies, and more. So how many clarifications will UTV Motion Pictures manage to put in? And even if it is done, there is no guarantee that the film will pass the jury’s originality test.

On the other hand, there is still some hope for the film. Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, which won the award for Best Picture this year is said to be inspired from several sources. The breakfast table montage in the movie was clearly lifted from Citizen Kane and the music took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In fact, The Artist is said to be a remake of the 1954 musical A Star Is Born, directed by George Cukor.

Leaving the objective principles of fair selection aside, if the jury believes that the artistic inspirations of Barfi! are appropriate and the end product is marvellous, these copied elements may be condoned. Barfi! is definitely walking on thin ice. Perhaps that coveted statuette can save it from breaking through and drowning.

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