‘SHWAAS' DID NOT CATER TO AMERICAN AUDIENCE TASTES

‘Shwaas’ (breath), India's hope at the 77th Annual Academy Award ran out of breath at the very first stage. The movie could not make it to the nomination's list.

By V Radhika (Contributor)

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Published: Sun 6 Feb 2005, 2:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:10 PM

Though it won various National Awards in India including Best Film, it wasn't sufficient to impress the Academy members.

The movie is a poignant portrayal of the relationship between a man and his grandson who is about to lose his eyes to cancer. Shorn of the accoutrements of a typical Bollywood film viz, extravagant sets, dazzling costumes, songs and dances--the film adopts a simple narrative to take the audience on an emotional journey of this duo who come to the city from a remote village for the child's treatment.

Even as a depressing cloud hangs over the film with the child's imminent blindness, debutante director Sandeep Sawant infuses ‘Shwaas’ with positive strokes as he sketches the relationship with sensitivity and tenderness—particularly the grandfather's attempts to fill the child's remaining hours of vision with bright images. The affirmative streak also filters through the efforts of a sympathetic social worker who guides the duo through the bureaucratic apathy and indifference of the medical world and an empathetic albeit overworked doctor. Shot in 33 days on a budget of less than Rs 60 lakh, this film unlike its high profile predecessor ‘Lagaan’ was marketed on a modest publicity budget of 1.5 crore rupees raised mainly through corporate and individual contributions.

The story of ‘Shwaas’ began almost six years ago when Sawant read a story based on a real incident. After two unsuccessful attempts to make a telefilm, he decided on making a film but ran into a wall, as financiers were skeptical of putting money in a product sans hero, heroine, songs or violence. A subsequent meeting with Arun Nalawade (who plays the grandfather's role in ‘Shwaas’) sparked off the chain of events leading to the making of this film.

So why could ‘Shwaas’ not make it? Creating a buzz about the film holds the key at the Oscars as none of the 1500 academy members (who comprise the Oscar jury) can be reached personally. And it is this awareness creation that gobbles up huge resources.

The film evoked mixed reviews in the North American print media. Barring a few scathing ones, ‘Shwaas’ was well-received by the critics though they were not sure of how it would be received by the broader audience. “While the film sometimes plays like an hour TV medical drama padded to reach feature length, Sawant achieves touching, naturalistic performances from a fine ensemble cast,” said the ‘Hollywood Reporter’.

“Sawant does his best to balance hopeful sentiment with the depressing prospect of a child's world going dark, and he tries to infuse this simple melodrama with a sense of tenderness and beauty,” said the New York Times critic. However, there were warnings that the movie might not suit the tastes of the American audience. The paper stated, “it will most likely prove a bit mawkish for American audiences, who may find its subject matter better suited to basic cable programming than to commercial cinema.”


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