Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The (Slum)Dogs of India

Read this online...

Congress counts 8 Oscars as part of UPA `achievements'
24 Feb 2009, 1005 hrs IST, TNN

Keen to be part of the euphoric `Slumdog' bandwagon, Congress has counted the eight Oscars as part of the UPA's `achievements'. The party lost no time in claiming credit for the `Indian triumph' and hinted that good times had come with the UPA government.

In an unmistakable resonance of the previous NDA government's `India Shining' slogan, Congress floated the idea of an `achieving India' and listed among the milestones the Indo-US nuclear deal, Chandrayaan, near 9% growth and the total sweep of the Oscars.

"They represent the finest traditions of our film industry and are an inspiration to all of us," Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said. Her party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi went a few steps ahead and termed Slumdog Millionaire "a film of India, for India, by India" and talked about the "conducive atmosphere with emphasis on good governance contributing to an achieving India".

Sensing a feel-good factor before the elections in the massive success of the film, the party sought a closer association with it. Singhvi raised a toast to the film's music director, A R Rahman, calling him a "wonderful symbol of India" and embodiment of Indian nationalism.

Unable to wait for the Oscar moment to slip away, the spokesman sought to put the good story in perspective by contrasting it with what he projected as the BJP's disruptive politics. "There are parties drawing us back to the dark ages," he said. Making the reference to the rival BJP clear, Singhvi targeted L K Advani for the "gimmickry of rath yatras and pumping iron before the cameras".

Reminded of the criticism the film had drawn for showcasing India's poverty, Singhvi said such laurels had not gone to every other poor country. "Half the world is poor, there are countries poorer than India; but the film is a celebration of creativity," he said.

I really have no words to describe our politicians except that they're unparalleled in the world.

Unrelated to these claims but on a similar topic, agreed that 'Slumdog...' may not be a great piece of cinema (though I personally liked it quite a bit except for some inconsistencies/loopholes in the script) but we need to see it in the right context - which is the context of global cinema, and Hollywood in particular.

Hollywood isn't used to this kind of cinema. It's probably the first time they've seen a movie based on the slums of a "third world" country. For them, 'Slumdog...' had a novelty factor attached to it. Plus, people in America generally have such a financially secure existence, thoughts & visions of poverty move them. And when it is shown as graphically as it was in 'Slumdog...', well, they give awards.

Coming to those who've been saying 'Slumdog...' isn't the greatest of Rahman's work, and so a big deal should not be made of his win at the Oscars....Again, we need to see Rahman's work in the global context. Rahman has so far worked solely in the Indian film industry. This is the first time he worked on an international platform and his work was appreciated. His earlier movies were not promoted at an international level, nor were they meant for the international market. Had they been international films, who knows, he would've won much earlier!

Though I get the most baffled by people who're going about saying that with 'Slumdog Millionnaire', Indian cinema has arrived, the world is at Bollywood's feet etc. Do they not realize that 'Slumdog...' is in no way representative of Indian cinema? It is a movie based on India, with India as a backdrop, a movie 'on' India & not 'by' India. So what are we exulting for? Indian cinema has not arrived or gone anywhere! The only people who you can say have arrived are Rahman & Resul Pookutty. Had the movie had an Indian director/producer, one could've said Indian cinema is going places. 'Slumdog...' is a Hollywood movie.

And then of course, there is the controversy about the makers of 'Slumdog...' selling India's poverty to the West for their own gains. Well, Arvind Adiga should be accused of the same then? Read 'The White Tiger' and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's also one of the most well written books of recent times.

Coming back to the 'Slumdog...' controversy, Danny Boyle was not making a documentary on India. Neither was he on a 'let's-help-the-children-of-Mumbai-slums' charitable mission. He was making a movie and the purpose of any movie, apart from entertaining, is to make money. What part of that is not understood? In fact, the makers of 'Slumdog...' have made investments in the names of the child actors of the movie (who were taken right out of the slums) which will pay off once the kids turn 18. Something to the tune of 25 lakhs per child. There are so many Indian film makers who make money out of showcasing Indian poverty. Have they ever done something like this?

Heck, have we - the citizens of India - done anything to alleviate the poverty in our country except pretending that it doesn't exist! We live in the high-rises of Colaba, Cuffe Parade & Bandra where property prices are out the roof, with slums in our backyard!! Yet, we cringe when those very slums are shown on screen. Why? Let's face up to reality. Such cruel poverty exists & it exists all around us! But since we choose to pretend it doesn't exist, an outsider needs to come to our country & remind us of it by shoving it in our faces.

So let's not prosecute others unless we are willing to take blame for our own apathy, insensitivity & inaction. Fair enough?


Nirav said...

Hey. Here after a long time! I echo your opinion too... and it really pains me when we as Indians, feel so compelled to claim ownership of anything and everything that might have only the slightest association with our country. Even after getting snubbed by people like VS Naipaul, we still refuse to learn.

I wanted to kick this Singhvi fellow when he claims Slumdog to be a film 'by India' and 'for India'. What bullshit.

Anyways... now let me get back to reading your old posts to see what happened while I was away!

Scarlett said...

Welcome back! You've been away for long. Lots has happened in the meantime :)

We are desperate for international recognition. Just like we are desperate for icons. That's why we run to claim credit even when it's not ours.

The knife said...

We are shameless aren't we. BTW I think the Congress was started by an Irishman, Alexander Hume. In which case they are proabably right in appropriating this film by an Irishman for their party.
I saw Benjamin Button the other day. Now that's a classical Oscar winner. Slumdog is the equivalent of what Rock On or DevD are for hindi films. These films are so different from their regular genre that people are floored

Scarlett said...

This "different" films phenomenon is a revolution that has just started happening in India, therefore the hoopla around it. I liked DevD but thought it was a bit too long. Also, didn't like the actresses so much.

The knife said...

anyway good that there are some good films happening.

I was told that Kashyap was going around with the gilr who plays Paro. I thought she looked better in the film than in TV events. Was an interesting take. Better than that Learnardo wala Romeo and Juliet.

It was long but didn't mind it. But saw it at the end of the day so was quite pooped and could not finish dinner at Mahesh