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…’