Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, “Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto and director Deepa Mehta feature among Indian-origin film personalities invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be part of its new class of members.
The Academy invited a record 683 new members — 46 per cent female and 41 per cent persons of colour — as it aims to diversify following criticism of its largely white and male membership.
Apart from Tagore, Pinto and Mehta, British filmmaker of Indian origin Asif Kapadia — who bagged the Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “Amy”, based on the life of late singer Amy Winehouse — also features in this year’s class of new members.
A two-time National Award winner and a Padma Bhushan awardee, Tagore began her career as an actress in Satyajit Ray’s 1959 Bengali film “Apur Sansar” (“The World of Apu”) and acted in several films in Hindi cinema.
She also served as the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) from 2004 to 2011. In 2005 Tagore was chosen as an Unicef Goodwill Ambassador. She was also one of the International Competition’s Jury Members at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Pinto rose to prominence through the 2008 British drama film “Slumdog Millionaire”, which won eight Academy Awards in 2009. She has appeared in several American and British productions, often playing supporting roles. Pinto also appeared in the 2011 science fiction film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.
A noted Indo-Canadian director and screenwriter, Mehta began her career with the controversial film “Fire” in 1996, later working on her trilogy of the elements: “Fire”, “Earth”, and “Water”.
Mehta was born in India and has a degree in philosophy from the University of Delhi. After immigrating to Canada in 1973, she embarked on her professional cinematic career as a scriptwriter for children’s films.
She made her debut as a director and producer with “Sam & Me” in 1991.
The diversity push at the Academy comes in response to the #OscarsSoWhite uproar that took place earlier this year, when all-white acting nominees put a microscope on the Academy’s largely white and male membership.
“We are proud to welcome these new members to the Academy, and know they view this as an opportunity and not just an invitation, a mission and not just a membership,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement.
Isaacs also encouraged Hollywood and the larger creative community to “open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry”.
The new class is by far the largest ever announced by the Academy — and it features celebrities aged as young as 24 and as old as 91.
On the Hollywood front, the new members also include “Star Wars” actor John Boyega, Idris Elba and last year’s best actress winner Brie Larson. Also invited are Kate Beckinsale, “Creed” director Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan and Emma Watson.