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Delhi Court Tells ‘Bandit’ Producer Not to Court Oscar

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two judges of the Delhi High Court have ordered producer S.S. (Bobby) Bedi not to do anything further that might win his critically acclaimed but controversial movie “Bandit Queen” this year’s foreign film Oscar.

But Bedi was hoping some other judges--the ones in Los Angeles who decide which movies will get the Academy Awards--would ignore the Delhi court.

“I think this will have a happy ending,” Bedi said. “I don’t think the academy will pay attention.”

In any event, “Bandit Queen,” short-listed by Time magazine as one of the 10 best films of 1994, has already been entered as India’s official entry for this year’s foreign Oscar, a distinction that no Indian film has ever won.

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According to Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy, he received a fax Monday in which Bedi informed them of an appeals process that is currently under way. “That won’t have any impact on our thinking,” Davis said. “A few years ago, China tried to get us to rescind the nomination of ‘Ju Dou’ and the executive committee declined because the viewing and voting process was already under way. We’re taking the same position this time.”

About 400 people from all 12 branches of the academy are now sorting through foreign language submissions from 45 countries. After the five nominees are announced Feb. 14, any academy member who screens all five films will be eligible to vote.

In its home country, the 120-minute bio-pic has kindled tremendous controversy--for its sex, raw language and rough treatment of India’s caste system.

The film’s subject, legendary outlaw Phoolan Devi, contends that much of the movie is pure fiction. A lawsuit filed by Devi, released from New Delhi’s Tihar jail last February after spending 11 years behind bars without trial, has tied up the film in Indian court.

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On Dec. 20, a Delhi judge banned the showing of the movie in India or anywhere else in the world until the issues raised by Devi’s suit and an appeal from “Bandit Queen’s” creators could be heard. Bedi went back to court, and two days later, another judge said the movie should be available for viewing outside India.

But last Thursday, two members of the Delhi High Court ruled that their colleague had erred on a technicality and said the ban on showing the movie anywhere in the world should be restored.

Times staff writer Elaine Dutka in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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