Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slum-dawg

It was a moment of pride for India. ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ took centerstage at the Golden Globes, winning all the 4 awards it was nominated for, including one for A R Rehman.

Bollywood is exulting for obvious reasons. Everyone is raving about what the award means for India & for Mumbai in particular. It sure as hell means a lot. The story of an underdog who wins big - a story right from the slums - has swept most of the major Golden Globe awards, usually considered a more-or-less accurate predictor of the Oscars. We’re basking in the limelight & seems there’s going to be more of it to bask in.

My question is, why did it take a foreigner with little knowledge of Indians & their way of life (before he embarked on the journey of making this movie, that is) to come to India, wrap his head around the sights, sounds and smells, the beauty and horror, the opulence & abject poverty, the celebrity & namelessness of the sprawling seething metropolis of extremes that is Mumbai? Why can’t we expect such a movie from an Indian director or producer?

Surely it’s not due to a lack of infrastructure, technology or finances? There was practically no infrastructure or path-breaking technology used in ‘Slumdog…’ As far as finances are concerned, there are big budget movies being made in India alright. These days movies are being made at astronomical budgets, most of which goes into paying the “stars” who anyway keep on doing the same bloody sh*t again & again. With the exception of Aamir Khan, and maybe Amitabh Bachchan to a certain extent, how many actors really put in an effort into their acting? And the actresses…let’s not even tax our brain cells trying to think of what they do!

The reason such movies don’t come out of India is simple – WE ARE SIMPLY NOT INTERESTED in making movies that are different and have some substance. It is a matter of lack of inclination, and not a lack of technology, infrastructure or finances. The big-time producers would rather spend their time, energy & resources making mindless movies, and yeah…can’t even think of a movie without an item number these days, most of which are a waste of time & useful only for taking bathroom breaks.

So, we need a Mira Nair or a Danny Boyle to come and make an outstanding piece of cinema on India. We shall just sit & hail them.

Interestingly, Danny Boyle’s take on Mumbai is that “it is a city extremes…it’s too hot, the tea is too sweet, there is fantastic wealth right up against the most extreme poverty…and that’s wonderful for drama”. He also says that “(making the movie) was an overwhelming experience…the sights & sounds of the city can be captured on celluloid but ’smell’ is the biggest thing you can't do as a filmmaker. And that smell is everywhere you go - the smell of human excrement. It's the most democratic thing about the city because no matter how rich you are, that smell is everywhere and you're breathing it in.”

Mumbaikars then wouldn’t be squirming in their seats in disgust when they see a small boy from the slums jump up in joy holding an autograph of his idol Amitabh Bachchan & covered in human excreta. Or would they?

Waiting anxiously for ‘Slumdog…’ to release & those of you who haven’t yet checked out the soundtrack of the movie, please do so. It’s brilliant. Time to be proud of AR once more. Till then, Jai Ho!!

PS: For the uninitiated, ‘Jai Ho’ is a track in ‘Slumdog…’

11 comments:

Ashwin said...

Haven't seen Slumdawg yet... but I think the dude who made it was targeting westerners. The globe probably wanted that.

Indians aren't too concerned about the Globes I suppose. They have more imnportant things to worry about. Namely - money. There's a lot of that in mindless movies that make bucketloads of money you see. Take Ghajni for example.

Scarlett said...

Exactly my point. No wonder we don't scale great heights...we're too afraid to take risks in life. Sad it is. Why do we go hankering after the Oscars then? If you don't have a chance at the Globes, you ain't got a shot at Oscars.

Moonshine said...

Movies are made with the Indians in mind.. or so they say.. which is these mindless movies like Rab ne are made!!! And even if a good movie is amde like Khosla ka ghosla / Bheja Fry etc etc.. they will never be nominated by our govt to represent India at some global awards... Devdas was the official Indian entry i rem many yrs back!!!!

Scarlett said...

Don't forget Paheli! It went to the Oscars too...the story of a woman who has a relationship with her dead husband's ghost b/c she can't wait to lose her virginity! And it was marketed as a movie on women's emancipation!!!

The knife said...

A B has slammed slum dog on his blog apparently. Reminds me of the alleged pot shots at Ray on peddling poverty to win abroad. People are disappointed about TZP? Then they should the see the films which actually win in the foreign film category. Just saw last year's winner, The Counterfieter. Fantastic

Re: the human excreta thing, that's Danny Boyle! Have you seen his train spotting. Very gross at times. Sp the scnene on the world's dirtiest loo

Scarlett said...

I read AB's blog where he's slammed both Slumdog & Satyajit Ray. By that logic, he should slam Arvind Adiga too! I think it's just a case of senility with age...we shouldn't worry too much about it. AB should step out of his air-conditioned Juhu bungalow to see how slum dwellers live in Bombay, then he can say whatever he has to say. It's true - we don't like the reality about us projected on the screen. It makes us very uncomfortable. We know poverty is a stark reality & we're not doing anything about it. That's why it makes us uncomfortable. We should be thankful atleast we're not projected as a land of snake-charmers & elephants anymore!

The knife said...

On the same lines I could really connect with Shantaram.

AB talks of poverty? Has he seen Bicycle Thief, the pianist, makes you cringe. The world is not all about escapism

The knife said...

children of heaven? turtles and butterflies? How green was my valley? Poverty is not owned by Indian cinema alone

Scarlett said...

His main bone of contention with 'Slumdog...' is that it shows the poverty of India unabashedly, and that sullies India's image globally. And that the West has been feasting over poverty in India for very long, and movie makers use it as a tool to improve their chances at getting awards. He has the same issue with Satyajit Ray.

The knife said...

I think he is jealous of Anil Kapoor

Scarlett said...

Who needs to re-discover the art of shaving!!