With days to go for the Academy announcement, AMOL PALEKAR speaks to Pratim D. Gupta about Paheli’s chances of making it to the final five in the Foreign Film category. When you started out making Paheli,did you foresee the Oscar selection? (Laughs) That’s a very funny question. When I make a film, the only focus for me is to make it to the best of my abilities. Any award or acclaim is a bonus. My only concern was to make Paheli the way I had visualised it and to do justice to the particular subject. I am extremely fortunate I have been able to do that and do that on my own terms. What was your first reaction when you learnt that Paheli has been chosen as India’s entry to the Oscars? I was busy with a theatre festival that we do every year to convey our gratitude to people who have given their lives for theatre. So, I was completely tied down with rehearsals for the festival when the Oscar news came in. I was in a completely different world, the world of theatre. So, it took me some time to react. But these days, the media has become so aggressive, they were breathing down my neck in no time. They wanted a ‘byte’ from me, something I am slowly getting used to. It’s not only phonetically but actually similar to a ‘bite’ (laughs). But you must have been happy… One feels extremely happy that Paheli was chosen as the official Indian entry after competing with the best films in the country. But I would also like to say that we over-react to the Oscars. To me, the best possible acclaim is and would be our own National Awards. That is the most valuable recognition for me. Every other award will be welcome, only in that perspective. Why do you think we over-react to the Oscars? See, most of us are really not aware of what the Oscar game is. The hype that went with Paheli’s selection was not realistic. Most of the media publications said that Paheli was nominated for the Oscars, which was not true. Till January 31, it’s only an official entry. There are 57 other countries competing for that one award of the Best Foreign Film. Yes, it does feel nice that your film is competing with the best in the world — the film that I made on my own terms. Didn’t the presence of Shah Rukh Khan the producer help your vision? With Shah Rukh as the producer, it all became very easy. He was completely behind me and supported me with what I wanted to make. He helped me out with the best technicians and the best technology available to Indian cinema. All the special effects that you see in the film have been done in our country and are of truly world standard. Also, Shah Rukh has taken the film to its logical conclusion. Both of us are extremely proud that we are representing our country at the Oscars. Why don’t you feature in Paheli’s Oscar campaign in Hollywood? It was completely a producer’s call. We had a marathon meeting after Paheli was selected as the Indian entry. Shah Rukh flew in from New York, where he was shooting for a film (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna) and I flew to Mumbai from Pune. We had this long meeting, deciding on the strategy we should adopt for the campaign. Shah Rukh is very savvy and he will do everything that’s needed to be done. And the big advantage he has is his physical presence there. Whenever Shah Rukh needs me to join him, I will be there. Have you heard of any positive response from the campaign? I have come across a lot of reports here, which claim that both Shah Rukh and Rani are not part of the campaigning and Amol Palekar has been left in the lurch. That is completely untrue. The response to Paheli has been tremendous to say the least. I last heard from the Palm Springs Festival and when there was supposed to be just one screening, Paheli had three. It also got a standing ovation at the Golden Globes. What do you feel will work in Paheli’s favour? Paheli has everything going for it. On this, I would like to quote Javed Akhtar who had hugged me after the premiere and said: “If India can ever get an Oscar, this film will get it.” The words seem so prophetic now. He gave me three reasons why he was going into superlatives. One, it is extremely well made, is technically sound and has beautiful performances. Secondly, it has a very progressive thought — the right to choose for a woman, which is a global concern today. And thirdly, it is an Indian film to the core, in every way of expression. So, from every angle, Paheli is the correct film to represent our country. Then Shyam Benegal called me to say that almost everything in the film is just perfect. So did Girish Karnad. When you have people who have contributed to Indian cinema in no uncertain terms talking so highly about your film, you do feel like giving yourself a pat in the back. Two days before the Oscar announcement, Paheli is having its TV premiere on STAR Gold at 9 pm on Sunday. Do you feel you can reach out to a larger number of people through the small screen? The film will once again reach out to a lot of people. When you see a film at a theatre, you are making an effort to reach out to it just like the film is trying to reach out to you. TV, on the other hand, comes right into your bedroom. It’s not a two-way traffic and you need a different mindset to watch a film on TV. What will be your next film? I am already shooting my next film. All I can say is that it is a bilingual film in Marathi and English. This is the third film of my trilogy on sexuality after Daayra and Anaahat.