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Oscar Nominations for Best Foreign Film from India

Updated on December 5, 2014
Indian dream for Oscars
Indian dream for Oscars

India's dream for the "Best Foreign Language Film" has started in 1957 and is still continuing. Since 1957 till 2014, 47 films were submitted by Film Federation of India (FFI). The FFI is an apex body of the Indian film producers (around 18,000), distributors (around 20,000), exhibitors (around 12,000) and studio owners, headquartered in Mumbai. Among these 47 films, only 3 films managed to get nominated and none of them could win.

To have a film considered for a nomination, it must be

  • 40 minutes long
  • On 35mm or 70mm film, or 24- or 48-frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format at a minimum resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels;
  • Screened for paid admission in Los Angeles for at least seven days

FFI vs Directorate of film festivals

While FFI chooses the nomination for the academy awards, Directorate of film festivals which is is a child organization of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India awards the most prominent film award in India, the National film awards.The 3 films which were nominated by Oscars weren't the films that won the "Best feature film" in National film awards.

"Best Feature Film" in National film awards
Film Nominated for Oscars
Film that won in Oscars
Do Aankhen Barah Haath
Mother India
Nights of Cabiria
Salaam Bombay!
Pelle the Conqueror
No Man's Land
National award winners vs Indian films nominated for Oscars vs Oscar winners
National award winners vs Indian films nominated for Oscars vs Oscar winners

1957 - Mother India

Mother India is the first Indian film that was nominated for Oscars. Mother India has earned the highest revenue for any Hindi film at that time. Adjusted for inflation, Mother India still ranks among the all-time Indian box office hits. Mehaboob Khan directs and produces this film while he writes this epic drama along with Wajahat Mirza and S. Ali Raza.This epic drama was released on 25 October 1957 and runs for 172 mins.

Indian music legend Naushad provides music. Cinematography is by Faredoon A. Irani and this film is edited by Shamsudin Kadri.

Mother India Poster
Mother India Poster


  • Nargis as Radha
  • Sunil Dutt as Birju, Radha's rebellious younger son
  • Rajendra Kumar as Ramu, Radha's elder son
  • Raaj Kumar as Shamu, Radha's husband


Mother India is a remake of Mehboob Khan earlier film Aurat (1940), it is the story of a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha who, in the absence of her husband, struggles to raise her sons and survive against a cunning money-lender amidst many troubles. Amonth her two sons, one would become virtuous while the younger son becomes a bandit. Despite her hardship, she sets a goddess-like moral example of an ideal Indian.

This film has been the source of themes and sub-plots for so many Hindi films till date.

100 Years Of Bollywood - Mother India : The Memorable Masterpiece

1988 - Salaam Bombay!

Distributed by Cinecom Pictures (USA), Salaam Bombay! Released on 13 September 1988 (Toronto Film Festival). Directed by Mira Nair and and screenwritten by her longtime creative collaborator, Sooni Taraporevala, this film runs for 113 mins.
While the acclaimed Indian violinist L. Subramaniam composes the music, Hollywood cinematographer Sandi Sissel handles camera and editing is by the American film editor and director, Barry Alexander Brow.

Salaam Bombay! Poster
Salaam Bombay! Poster


  • Shafiq Syed - Krishna alias Chaipau
  • Hansa Vithal - Manju
  • Chanda Sharma - Sola Saal
  • Raghuvir Yadav - Chillum
  • Anita Kanwar - Rekha
  • Nana Patekar - Baba


The film chronicles the day-to-day life of children living on the streets of Mumbai

Krishna's journey into the miserable world is triggerred by an instance when he is fed up with his elder brother and sets fire to his brother's bicycle. For this, Krishna's mother takes him to the nearby Apollo Circus and orders him to come back home only if he earns 500 rupees.

From here, by twist of events, he ends up in the Mumbai's notorious red-light area, works for a drug dealer, falls for a prostitute, becomes the friend of a drug addict and lives in this world of pimps and drug dealers. How much ever he try, he will never be able to earn the 500 he owes his mother and never escapes this tarnished life.


  • National Film Award: Best Feature Film in Hindi and Best Child Artist: Shafiq Syed
  • Cannes Film Festival: Audience Award and Golden Camera
  • Montréal World Film Festival: Jury Prize, Most Popular Film and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
  • National Board of Review Awards: Top Foreign Film
  • Los Angeles Women in Film Festival: Lilian Gish Award Excellence in Feature Film

Apart from being nominated for Academy Award, this film is nominated for BAFTA Film Award and Golden Globe Award

Salaam Bombay! Trailer

2001 - Lagaan

Distributed by Sony Entertainment Television (India), Lagaan released 15 June 2001. Apart from direction and story, Ashutosh Gowariker also writes the English dialogue. Hindi dialogue which is a combination of three dialects (Avadhi, Bhojpuri and Braj Bhasha) is written by K.P. Saxena. Screenplay is a combined effort of Ashutosh Gowarikar, Abbas Tyrewala and Sanjay Daima. The film hero, Aamir Khan along with Mansoor Khan produced this film. This film is 224 mins long.
The future academy award winner, A. R. Rahman is the music composer while Bhanu Athaiya, an academy award winner for Gandhi is the costume designer. Anil Mehta does cinematography and editing is by Ballu Saluja. The most challenging task of recreating 19th century India is taken up by the art director, Nitin Chandrakant Desai.

Lagaan Poster
Lagaan Poster


  • Amitabh Bachchan as Narrator.
  • Aamir Khan as Bhuvan.
  • Gracy Singh as Gauri.
  • Rachel Shelley as Elizabeth Russell
  • Paul Blackthorne as Captain Andrew Russell.

Since the script also demanded a British cast, Ashutosh and Aamir hired Danielle Roffe as one of the casting directors.


The film is set during the British Empire in India in 1893 in a small village of Champanar. The commanding officer of the cantonment, Andrew Russell imposes high taxes on people who are unable to pay due to drought. Led by Bhuvan, villagers seek help from Raja Puran Singh who is bound by British law.

After this visit, the people witness a cricket match. Bhuvan mocks the game and gets into a fight with one of the British officers. This turns into a bet. If Bhuvan's team wins, there are no taxes for 3 years while they lose, they have to pay taxes 3 times more. Rest of the movie is about how Bhuvan forms a team and prepares for a David and Goliath cricket match.

I feel great to have had an opportunity to see this film in Theathres. The whole theatre was transformed into a stadium and people were cheering for the team throughout the match.

Notable Awards

National Film Awards
Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment
Ashutosh Gowarikar and Aamir Khan
Best Music Direction
Best Playback Singer – Male
Udit Narayan
Best Audiography
H. Sridhar, Nakul Kamte
Best Lyricist
Javed Akhtar
Best Costume Design
Bhanu Athaiya
Best Art Direction
Nitin Chandrakant Desai
Best Choreography
Raju Khan
IIFA Awards
Best Movie
Ashutosh Gowariker
Best Director
Ashutosh Gowariker
Best Story
Ashutosh Gowariker
Best Actor
Aamir Khan
Best Playback Singer – Female
Asha Bhosle
Best Lyricist
Javed Akhtar
Best Music Director
Best Editing
Ballu Saluja
Best Sound Recording
H. Sridhar

Apart from the above Indian awards, Lagaan also won many international awards,

  • Portland International Film Festival: Audience Award for Best Film for Ashutosh Gowarikar
  • Leeds International Film Festival: Audience Award
  • Bergen International Film Festival: Jury Award
  • Locarno International Film Festival: Audience Award
  • NatFilm Festival: Audience Award
  • American Choreography Awards: Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film

Intermission Scene

Do you think India sends the right films to Oscars?

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    • indianreel profile image

      HK 3 years ago from London

      Thanks a lot for your comment Abdullah..

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 3 years ago

      Hi Hemant very informative. The narrations of nominated films for oscar portrays your passion for Indian cinema. Thanks for sharing.