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“Chhello show”: Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards

The Last Film Show, also known as Chhello Show, is India’s entry for the Best Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards in 2023. The Gujarati film tells the narrative of a young child in rural India who is captivated by the power of cinema. This Pan Nalin film is based on the director’s youth and tells a simple yet profound story, even as it prepares to market itself abroad in preparation for the Oscars. The film’s director, Pan Nalin, and producers, Siddharth Roy Kapur and Dheer Momaya, are making all the right noises.

But Chhello Show is more than simply a coming-of-age drama inspired by Samay’s passion for cinema; it’s also a film with a story that chronicles the growth of cinema and movie theatres. Samay’s fascination with films leads him on a mission to “catch” light. Samay steals a bit of film from a theatre and transforms a train carriage into a homemade camera obscura, projecting film through a tiny hole in the glass. But now he’s perplexed by the inverted picture generated by rectilinear light propagation and he’s looking for a solution. Similarly, Samay studies and figures out, hands-on, every step necessary to present a video reel with the aid of a few more buddies.

In parallel to this, his finely woven relationship with Fazal unfolds, and we see the progress of film theatres and the painful truth behind the digitalised world of cinema. In fact, a wonderful moment in which Samay learns about frame rate physics makes us wonder if all digitally filmed movies are artificial in their “lack of darkness.”

The contrasts that film thrives on are brought out in Chhello Show: truth and falsehoods; light and dark; sound and silence; the visual and the temporal; the complicated and the simple; inveiglement and contemplation; immobility and movement; the extraordinary and the banal; and the soaring and the sobering.

The Chhello Show is a hidden gem that is both rooted and global. It represents a turning point in the history of the seventh art, lamenting what has been lost while celebrating what has been left behind for posterity and, hopefully, forever.


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