Why I will not celebrate the success of Slumdog Millionaire?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"I puked when I saw that kid smeared in shit asking for Bachchan Saab's autograph. What the f...k was that? Does Danny Boyle know what Bachchan Saab means to us Indians? Who would dare approach him like that?" - Aadesh Srivastava (Aadesh Srivastava who..?)

True, the child should have come draped in silken clothing with nothing less than a Parker pen in his hands to get the autograph to do justice to the stature of the superstar in question. Slumdog Millionaire has smeared our faces with the same shit that the young Jamaal had all over his body and we must puke everything out to regain sanity. Let me join hands with those involved in Slumdog bashing and add my insignificant two cents on it.

I will not celebrate the success of Slumdog Millionaire because Delhi 6 has bombed. Big B is upset. That’s one reason for not celebrating the success of Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog showed the underbelly of Mumbai while Delhi 6 showed the warmth in the heart of Delhi. Its gross injustice to rate one as superior and the other as an average film with nothing solid besides good music and cinematography to back it up. So what if there was no story in Delhi 6? I agree that the audience was left confused whether it was a docu-drama or a movie but it was Indian in every sense!

I will not celebrate a film made by a Western film-maker. As learned men tell you, we have a fascination for white skin and that’s why a film made by a man from the West is rated as brilliant despite being a collection of clich├ęs of a regular Bollywood potboiler. Salaam Bombay too was made on Mumbai’s underbelly but it never got its due. Isn’t that a reason to believe so? It is another matter altogether that when Salaam Bombay was made 21 years ago, there was hardly an awareness in the Global audience about the Hindi film industry (it won several accolades and an Oscar nomination). It was a time when our industry stalwarts were busy making path breaking films like Toofan and Ajooba rather than doing any cinema to catch the World’s eye. Oh, I got it. They were catering to the Indian audience that liked to see its superhero do crazy stuff in bizarre outfits.

I will not celebrate the success of a film made by an English man. Remember we forced them out of India some 60 years back and they still harp that bitterness against us? It is absolutely out of design that an Englishman wakes up one day and decides to make a film called Slumdog Millionaire based on an Indian novel. We have every right to feel that the Slumdog is actually a reference to all Indians.

I will not celebrate the success of Slumdog Millioanire because the court jesters in the film industry who love to call themselves the ‘film critics’ have showered lavish praises on it. We all know how they are sold out to camps in the industry so let us take this opportunity to show them that they mean a whole load of crap to us by disregarding their review comments on Slumdog Millionaire.

I will not celebrate the success of a film that is regressive in comparison to grand Bollywood fares that depict rich men living in castle like homes and having personal choppers for regular pick and drop from home to office. We are used to seeing people dancing and singing on exotic locations and find it comforting. It is totally the demand of scripts to base all our films in US and UK and for characters to be draped in international brands. Its obviously not done to paint a gloomy picture of India by showing a rioting Mumbai with open lavatories and people maiming kids. Depiction of this aspect of our reality should be understood as the sadist and imperialistic mindset of the west. If you think otherwise, you are probably a western culture obsessed freak who doesn't take pride in his culture or roots.

I will not celebrate the success of Slumdog Millionaire just because it has given our talent a chance to showcase itself on the World scene. Rehman’s music in this film or Gulzar's lyrics was not as good as some of his Hindi/Tamil film work (Dil Se and Taal were superior). Similarly why should the success of a guy like Resul Pookutty who is just a sound engineer give us a reason to celebrate? These people are faceless and are rightly shoved away from popular Hindi film award shows and not allowed to even say a thank you after receiving an award. Why should we care if they are given a podium to stand on and speak for their work? For all of us star struck people (ironically portrayed rightly in Slumdog Millionaire by Jamaal's shit laden avtar), the film is full of aberrations. It is about the dark side of our existence, it is sans any Bollywood star and it is made by an outsider. That gives us ample reason to us to scorn it. Hopefully the hoopla will subside after the Oscar high.

Just a couple of days back, my manager who is from the USA asked me the names of a couple of good Indian films after watching Slumdog Millionaire, I did not flinch thinking that he was actually looking for a film that made a caricature out of India. I ranted 10 names in one breath and did that with a sense of pride.

We have a lot of insecurities about ourselves. That is why we go bonkers when someone shows us any of our dark sides. Slumdog Millionaire is defintely not a classy affair but it has done what its predecessors like Salaam Bombay and Lagaan could not. Chances are ripe that it may just have been because of lobbying, bigger reach and biased mindset of the West but you cannot discount the fact that it gave our talent a bigger window to explore. We are the world’s biggest film industry and it is time we came out of that shell and stopped suspecting a foul play in everything. As the world sways to the beats of the Mozart from Madras, Indian film stalwarts should stop bickering about why an XYZ film received negative reviews while an ABC film did not and work on something worth showcasing. It is time to show them that ignoring India all this while was actually the World's loss and not ours.

Jai Ho!


Rahul said...

I tend to agree u there... After watching slumdog, I rewatched Salam Bombay... the movie is far superior in all aspects (except music) than slumdog.. I do not think any of songs in the film will feature in top 20 of Rahman's greatest composition either...
And why the hell films like Dark Knight don't get any meaningful nomination...

Anonymous said...

America is in 'Change' Mode Lately. In politics, in economics, and now in movies too :)

Well written peice. I am tempted to watch Slumdog once more after 8 academy awards . May be this time it won't look as ordinary as it looked 1 month back .

Btw, A R RAHMAN has been spelt incorrectly twice in as many blogs :)


Sensible Garbage said...

@rahul: I feel that awards are given based on popular perceptions. After all the people who judge them are humans and it is expected tht they too get carried away. The best thing abt Dark Knight was Heath Ledger and he did get the award..didn't he ;)

@Srbhkr: A good observation about the change sweeping across America. I cudn't agree more.

RAHMAN..REHMAN..wht's in a name afterall :D Will take care of tht in future.

Anonymous said...

Well...I do not know whether I should celebrate or not. I am happy that a bollywood movie got recognition and I am calling it bollywood as it is indeed a typical bollywood masala movie for me..not that there is anything wrong in that...but that, I guess, is the point that I have been trying to make for the past several years (and I think SM vindicates my stand). But I am somewhat confused as to why other "similar" movies made by Indian filmmakers have fallen flat (I can not accept that TZP, Black or even RDB were lesser movies, except for their length may be). What angers me is not that Danny Boyle's film got recognition in the west rather the reaction that the film has received from fellow Indians (especially in the US). It has convinced me that we Indians are still suffering from inferiority complex as we fail to see anything good in ourselves until the west puts a "thappa" on it. There can be no denying that this was at best a mediocre work by rahman and even rahman would know that and I am happy that some of us do recognize that. For me what has been missing is the objective assessment of the movie in general. It is at best a fast-paced feel-good movie. The direction is ordinary at times (hence I question the best direction nominations, let aside awards, the most). These are some of the things that make me inclined towards SM bashing to make the equation a bit more fair. Sometime you do need two wrongs to make things right.

Anonymous said...

Yes Rahul, those guys have done a dastardly act by not nominating Dark knight.

Sensible Garbage said...

@anon1: There is an inherent bias in everyone and I don't blame the west for it. Moreover, its their award and their prerogative to award someone they want to. And before we point fingers at the Oscars we must also take a long hard look at the films that are sent as official entries from India. Oscars is not the end of the world. But it is a sign of changing times to watch a hindi song play on a Hollywood stage. et's celebrate that if we don't want to celebrate the cause (SM) of it!

@anon2: Dark Knight got swept away in the hype of SM. I think its producers didn't think SM was much of a threat as it was more of a Bollywood fim and so they didn't lobby hard enough to get any nomination.

Shivprasad said...

Two random unconnected comments:

"It was a time[ 21 years ago] when our industry stalwarts were busy making path breaking films like Toofan and Ajooba rather than doing any cinema to catch the World’s eye."

I will quibble with you on that broad generalization. Didn't Maniratnam make a Nayakan at about the same time? Wasn't Pushpak made at about the same time? I will quibble with you that this was not cinema that was worth catching the world's eye.

And these weren't Johar-Chopra fabulations; they dealt with 'real''tender points'; unemployment, poverty , crime , slums and the like. Didn't we celebrate and cherish these films though they agitated those very tender points? Contrary to what the general tenor of your post suggests, we Indians can gaze even when a someone holds a mirror to us and what appears is not very pretty. Neither is it true that a film maker needs to postulate spaghetti monsters or some fabulous setting in order to capture public imagination in India.The fact that we celebrate Satyajit Ray is enough proof of the falsehood of such a claim.

Abhinav Prasad said...

I totally agree with u...its not a movie to have won so many oscars n academy awards..neither is d music so very soothin as other A.R.Rehman's composition...but what i think is that a question which might arise in everyone's mind....Is it possible for a child from the slums to walk like dis..."the child should have come draped in silken clothing with nothing less than a Parker pen in his hands".....for an autograph????

Sensible Garbage said...

A few points:

a.) I tried being sarcastic. Dunno if it got peole confused. Some did get back to me saying that..maybe the title or my language got them confused!

b.) My tirade is not against Indian films but the people who are our faces to the outside world but still like to live in a shell. They cry hoarse when a westerner comes, makes a film on us and gets accolades. The Ajooba, Toofan line was used for them.

c.) I feel that India does make good movies. Why just Pushpak and Nayakan. We had Anjali, Bombay, RDB and a whole lot of other films that were good. But their failure to win BIG awards in the west shouldn't be accorded solely to the partisan nature of the west. Many a times we fail to even send a proper nomination + Awards are based on popular acclaim. We didn't have people who could make these people watch our films which would appear sinfully long to people accustomed to watching 1.5 hr affairs.

After Nayakan, Salam Bombay and Lagaan things have changed. Nayakan was included in an elite list of top 100 films by Time in 2005.

c.) Slumdog is an average but entertaining fare. Whether it should have won 8 Oscars is a different matter altogether. The plus that I draw from the film is that it gave a chance to our talent to get recognition in the west. That is a cause for celebration.

d.) I am in total agreement with Shiva when he says that a film maker doesn't need to postulate spaghetti monsters or some fabulous setting in order to capture public imagination. If we celebrate indigenous work that captured some dark elements of ours, why call it someone's prejudice against us when a foreigner decides to capture that as well?

Anonymous said...

This is anon2. My comment did not deserve a serious reply from you. It was only meant to reply to Rahul's comment with the word "dastardly" somehow fitted into it. If Rahul is the one who I think he is then he would know the historical significance of the word and so will you. Anyway, so much of explanation has already taken the sting away from the earlier comment.

Anonymous said...

SensibleGarbage...I kind of disagree with your comments (b and c). I am convinced that having westerners produce/direct the film helped it get those awards. For me, the direction was very ordinary. The only reason it got an award was because people (jury) knew who Danny Boyle was. About Rahman getting the awards, I am sure the case would have been different had it been someone else. Rahman is a known face for quite some years now. His music has been used in some other hollywood productions. I am sure he must have had his share of network and lobbyists working for him. Being in the US for a while, I have observed that "sifarish" is the only thing that works here. I have seen people working more to strengthen there "network" rather than actually work. The good thing though is that an Indian artist has got recognition and this will certainly help future Indian movies/artists (I hope to see something similar to what happened to the miss world/universe contests).

Sensible Garbage said...

@anon2: The rahul is not the same I am sure. C'mon now he doesn't talk of Hindi films in public..:)

@last anon: I agree with your views and its an open secret that lobbying gets u awards. Not just at the Oscars but at any level. It is more prevalent in US maybe due to the 'sifarish' culture. I am not debating whether Slumdog shud have won an award at the Oscars. I am just happy for the recognition tht Indian talent got. There could be levels beneath what meets the eye when they dubiously awarded everything to Slumdog. However, I am sure tht we are not tht naive to fall into any trap tht these westerners are setting for us.

Custom Search

Lorem Ipsum

  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP