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Aiming at the Oscars

After three packed shows at the recent World Film Festival in Bangkok, "Shwaas" is all set to make waves at the Oscars, says LEKHA J. SHANKAR.

INDIA'S OSCAR entry "Shwaas" had three packed shows, at the World Film Festival in Bangkok that ended recently.

Most conspicuous was the Marathi community who flocked in large numbers to see the movie, and at the post-film Question-Answer session, fielded several questions in Marathi.

It was one of three Indian films screened at the festival, the others being Gautam Halder's "Bhalo Dekho'' (that won three National Awards) and R. Sarath's "Stithi'' (that won several Kerala State Awards).

This is the first international festival for the movie that won the National Award for Best Film, which has been invited to the prestigious Berlin, Sundance and Palm Springs festivals.

Meanwhile, director Sandeep Sawant said in Bangkok that he and some of the theatre-team who formed the Kathi Arts company to produce "Shwaas" would be leaving shortly for Los Angeles, to begin a month-long campaign there, to promote the film.

They planned to hold various screenings of the film, both for the influential Indian community, and for the Hollywood fraternity. "There are only three official screenings for the 2000-odd Oscar members, who are spread all over the US," said Sawant, "which is why many of them see the films through its campaigns and promotions."

"Shwaas'' is one of 49 films from around the world, submitted for the `Best Foreign Film' category of the Oscars. Five films will be chosen for the final run, which will be announced on January 25, 2005.

"The campaign for the Oscars is going to cost us three times more than the making of the film!" exclaimed Sawant, about his small film, which was made at a modest budget of 65 lakh rupees.

A `Shwaas Oscar Fund Campaign' was launched for this in Mumbai, which brought a `terrific response,' according to the director. A `shwaas yahoo.com' account has also been started on the Internet. "Our web site will be ready soon," informed Neeraja, the director's costume-designer wife. According to businessman Anil Bastawade, who accompanied Sawant to Bangkok, and who's organising the film's campaigns in the U.S., a PR company has been hired for the job in LA.

Influential film-people like Mira Nair, Steven Seagal and Stevie Wonder are also being contacted to help promote the film. While the film took two years to make, and the funds were hard to get, the next two months for the Oscar build-up of the film, seem tougher for the young couple.

But Sawant and his wife were buoyant, while enjoying the attractions of Bangkok, on their maiden trip to Thailand.

"If the film makes it to the final five of the Oscars, it'll be great, not just for India but for all of Asian Cinema!" exclaimed the soft-spoken director.

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