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Sharmila Tagore, Deepa Mehta in Academy's new class of members

New York, PTI | Updated : 30 June 2016, 08:40 PM

Legendary Indian actress Sharmila Tagore, “Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto and director Deepa Mehta are among the Indian-origin film personalities, who have been invited by the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be its members.

This is a significant effort to boost diversity following the controversy earlier this year when no actors of colour were nominated for the Oscars.

The Academy extended membership invitations to 683 distinguished filmmakers, artists and executives representing “the best in our global film community and who have made a lasting impact on movie fans everywhere.” The new members are among the largest and most diverse class in the Academy’s 89-year history.

“This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today. We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in the announcement yesterday.

Apart from Tagore and Pinto, British filmmaker of Indian-origin Asif Kapadia, who won the best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards for his work on jazz singer Amy Winehouse, also features in this year’s class of new members.

Mehta is known for her direction of movies such as “Midnight’s Children” and “Water”. The other notable people of Indian-origin in the class of 2016 are Pixar animator Sanjay Bakshi, known for his work on the movie “The Good Dinosaur”, producer Anish Savjani and animator Sanjay Patel.

The Academy said the class of 2016 includes 283 international members hailing from 59 countries, and 46 per cent of this year’s 683 invitees are women, and 41 per cent are minorities.

The new class is more than double last year’s 322 invitees and the effort to diversify its members comes in the wake of the ‘#OscarsSoWhite’ controversy which erupted earlier this year when no actors of colour were nominated for Oscars for the second year in a row.

Following the controversy, in January the Academy had vowed to make radical changes to its voting requirements, recruiting process and governing structure, with an aim toward increasing the diversity of its membership.