Why Do Indian Movies Lag Behind at the Oscars?

India is the largest producer of films in the world, yet only three have ever been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. What could be the reason? Read on to find out.
Why do Indian movies lag behind at the Oscars
Why do Indian movies lag behind at the Oscars

India has one of the largest and oldest film industries in the world. India produces the highest number of films every year, and yet most of them go unnoticed outside the country. Only three Indian films have ever been nominated for the Academy Awards, commonly called the Oscars.

What could be the reason behind this shocking parity? It certainly can’t be the quality, as India produces plenty of acclaimed movies every year. The last Indian movie that managed to make it into the final lineup of the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film (previously Best Foreign Language Film) category was 2001’s Lagaan.

Two decades have passed by, but no other movie has been able to repeat the feat. Dive in to find out how the Oscars work and why Indian movies are rarely recognized.

What are the Oscars, and how do they work?


The Oscars, also known as the Academy Awards, are the most prestigious awards in the entertainment industry. They are handed out annually to the best films and documentaries from all over the world by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy has numerous members that vote for the shortlisted movies in every category. This process goes on for a few months before the winners are announced every spring.

Why do Indian Movies Lag Behind at the Oscars?

Every eligible country is allowed to submit one film every year. The Academy members watch them and shortlist 10 for consideration. Only five make it to the official nominations, which are again viewed by active and life members of the Academy.

As evident, it’s a tough process for an international movie to get nominated for the Oscars, and India’s diverse film industry only complicates the matter. Below are the reasons why Indian movies don’t get nominated for the Oscars.

Politics Between the Film Industries

The Film Federation of India (FFI) selects the official Oscar entry from India every year. It comprises thousands of Indian film producers, distributors, and exhibitors.

Time and time again, nepotism and bias have come into effect during the Oscars shortlisting process in India. It’s rare for the FFI to send a movie to the Oscars that’s not from the Hindi belt. And it’s even rare that the FFI’s choice doesn’t create any controversy. In the past, the FFI has sent films like Paheli, Barfi!, and Newton over much better alternatives.

Regional movies already don’t get much recognition outside their respective states, and the FFI doesn’t consider them either. However, this attitude has been changing lately, as the FFI has been selecting Malayalam, Tamil, and Marathi films as India’s official Oscar entries.

Lack of Marketing

The movies that the Film Federation of India nominates for the Oscars are unheard of by most people in India and outside the country. It doesn’t matter if they are from Bollywood or any other film industry. Lack of marketing is arguably the biggest reason behind India’s poor show at the Oscars.

As we know, the Academy is composed of voters. Some of these people are active in their respective fields and have to watch movies simultaneously. And no one has the time to watch all the movies that every country sends for consideration.

It all boils down to the popularity of the movies. Films like Parasite, Roma, and The Salesman play at multiple renowned film festivals throughout the year and also have the backing of major distributors like Netflix. Many of the Academy jury members happen to have already seen such movies before and don’t bother watching movies like Gully Boy.

The Indian government doesn’t do much to promote the films either. While other filmmakers are supported by their countries to organise special screenings for the Academy voters, Indian filmmakers are left to fend for themselves.

Quality of Indian Films

While countries like South Korea and Spain were sending movies like Parasite and Pain and Glory in 2019, India’s official Oscar entry was Gully Boy. While the film was competently made, it had several factors working against it.

Gully Boy didn’t even receive great reviews in India. Plus, the film is heavily inspired by Eminem’s 8 Mile, and the Academy tends to look down upon remakes, sequels, and ripoffs. Fans argued that Article 15, Andhadhun, and Super Deluxe would have been better choices.

Blunders by the Film Federation of India (FFI)

The FFI didn’t nominate RRR or The Kashmir Files in 2022. RRR is one of the highest-grossing Indian movies of the year and has been more critically acclaimed outside India. Numerous Hollywood celebrities like Edgar Wright, Seth Rogen, Danny Devito, the Russo Brothers, and James Gunn have lauded the film as well.

The Kashmir Files, on the other hand, is one of Bollywood’s most controversial films in recent years. Historians and critics slammed The Kashmir Files for its "propaganda," but the audience absolutely loved the film. Both films attracted significant attention and had much better chances of getting nominated.

Instead, the FFI chose an unknown Chello Show over films that had good publicity and foreign appeals like RRR and The Kashmir Files. It would be a surprise if the Chello Show made the final cut. Plus it's heavily inspired by the 1985 Oscar-winning film Cinema Paradiso.


Gangs of Wasseypur snubbed for Barfi

Another instance of FFI’s blunders is choosing Barfi! over Gangs of Wasseypur. Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. The film had significant controversy behind it for its violence and profanity, so the FFI decided to send Barfi! instead.

Similarly, The Lunchbox was snubbed for The Good Road in 2013. The Lunchbox also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was produced by Anurag Kashyap.

Streaming vs Theatrical Competition

The Academy only allows those movies to be nominated that are playing in theaters at a particular period. This automatically disqualifies the films that debut on OTT platforms like Prime Video and Netflix. And nowadays, streaming services release much better movies than theaters. This is however only a recent development as the OTT scene in India barely existed before 2018.

RRR: An Oscar Anomaly

RRR Song

In 2022, S.S. Rajamouli delivered his much-anticipated follow-up to the Baahubali series with RRR, an equally bombastic and epic period drama set against the backdrop of the British Raj. RRR became one of the highest grossing films in India and won hearts all over the world, more so internationally than in India. It premiered at various film festivals and bagged the top honours yet the Indian Government chose not to pick it as the official entry for the Best International Feature at the 95th Academy Awards.

Rajamouli and RRR producers campaigned independently for the film and it managed to secure and ultimately win the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Naatu Naatu." One could only wonder what the fate of the film would have been, had it the backing of the Indian government as well.


The overall quality of Indian films, lack of marketing, and politics within the various film industries are some of the reasons why Indian movies rarely get nominated at the Oscars. More unity among the film industries and more groundbreaking movies are the needs of the hour if India wants Oscar glory.

Also Read: List of Indians who won the Oscar Awards

Also Read: List of Indian movies nominated for Oscar (1957-2022)

Also Read: Gujarati movie “Chhello Show” is India's official entry for Oscar 2023


Which Indian movies have received Oscar nominations?

Only three Indian movies have ever received Oscar nominations. These are Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988), and Lagaan (2001).

How many Indians have won the Oscars till now?

13 Indians have been nominated, and 8 have won the Oscars till now. Indian composer A.R. Rahman is the only Indian to win twice, while the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray won an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to cinema.

Is Slumdog Millionaire an Indian film?

Slumdog Millionaire features a predominantly Indian cast and was filmed in India but produced by the British Film Industry. The same is the case with Gandhi (1982). This further proves that the Academy prefers popularity first and then merit.
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