Newton Out of Oscar

"Newton," directed by Amit V. Masurkar and starring the stellar Rajkummar Rao, is a story set against the backdrop of elections in the world's largest democracy. (Rajkummar Rao/Twitter photo)

LOS ANGELES/MUMBAI—India's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars 2018, "Newton," is out of the race for the honor. But the movie's team is feeling far from defeated.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Dec. 14 announced on its official website that nine features out of 92 will advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 90th Academy Awards.

"Newton," directed by Amit V. Masurkar and starring the stellar Rajkummar Rao in a story set against the backdrop of elections in the world's largest democracy, is not a part of it.

Masurkar said: "The Foreign Film Category is like the Olympics. We are competing with the best in the world, so it's extremely tough. The response from Academy members to 'Newton' was very positive, and we are grateful to everyone who supported us on this journey."

"The experience has enriched us and has encouraged me to push my limits each time I make a new film."

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta, who has always lent unrelenting support his blue-eyed boy Rajkummar and "Newton" – even when it was caught in a plagiarism row, also said that missing the Oscar bus changes nothing for this film's credentials.

Mehta claimed he was trolled after "Newton" was ousted from the competition, tweeted: "Oscars or no Oscars, it remains one of the finest films made in our country in a long time."

When the film was chosen as India's Oscar entry by the Film Federation of India, there was buzz that it was inspired by a 2001 Iranian movie titled "Secret Ballot."

At that time, Mehta, who has worked closely with Rajkummar Rao on award-winning films like "Shahid" and "CityLights," had spoken out in favor of the "Newton" team.

Mehta's latest Twitter post on Dec. 15 also found support from filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who was at the forefront of slamming the plagiarism claims against the film's makers. He had contacted "Secret Ballot" producer Marco Mueller to take his feedback on the similarities.

"There is not even a hint of plagiarisation," Mueller had told him.

The shortlisted films for the Foreign Language Film category for Oscars 2018 include: "A Fantastic Woman" (Chile), "In the Fade" (Germany), "On Body and Soul" (Hungary), "Foxtrot" (Israel), "The Insult" (Lebanon), "Loveless" (Russia), "Felicite" (Senegal), "The Wound" (South Africa) and "The Square" (Sweden).

Final nominations for all categories of the 90th Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 23. The Oscars ceremony will be held on March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

So far, "Mother India," "Salaam Bombay!" and "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India" are the only Indian films that made it to the top five in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards, but none have won the honor.

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