‘Visaranai’ could bring India back to Foreign Language Film race for first time in 15 years

India has entered the Tamil-language docudrama “Visaranai” (“Interrogation”) in the Foreign Language film category at this year’s Oscars. The political thriller was both a critical and commercial hit in its native country, winning three top prizes at India’s National Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Samuthirakani).

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“Visaranai” is written and directed by Vetrimaaran, who won both Best Director and Screenplay at the India Film Awards in 2011 for the drama “Aadukalam” and Best Children’s Film in 2014 for “Kaaka Muttai.” For his new film, he adapted M. Chandrakumar‘s bestselling novel “Lock Up.” The film tells the story of four migrant workers from South India living in abject poverty on the streets. Rounded up by police as suspected robbers, the four are brutally tortured for weeks until they are forced to confess to the crime. Befriended by a sympathetic officer (played by Samuthirakani), they are thrust into a deadly game of opposing political philosophies that compel them to make choices that could have deadly consequences.

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Based on a true story, the film shines a light on the corruption and violence inherent in parts of India’s bureaucracy, particularly law enforcement. For tackling such powerful subject matter, “Visaranai” earned special recognition from Amnesty International after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

In 1957, the second year of the Foreign Language Film race at the Oscars, India received a nomination for the epic drama “Mother India.” Since then, it has reaped just two additional bids: for 1988’s “Salaam Bombay” and 2001’s “Lagaan. The humanitarian elements that underlie “Visaranai” could well prove attractive to academy voters.

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