Slumdog Millionare and the Oscars
For the past couple of days, I have been observingm with mild amusement, the various reactions of desis about the movie Slumdog Millionare. It has ranged from righteous indignation to apologetic explainations to uncomfortable silences. Movies about poverty in India have been made before, movies dealing with underworld, prostitution, exploitation – all have made their appearances on the Indian screen.And yet, this one movie has left many of us unsettled in so many ways.
Some of us think the movie is not Indian at all. And celebrating it’s success is like cheering for the opposition. I am on the fence on this one really. I mean, the director is British, but the actors are Indian, location is Indian, music is Indian, technicians, assistant directors and half the crew is Indian. The story is written by an Indian. That makes the movie pretty Indian to me. If we were to solely go by who is directing the movie, then “Sixth Sense” would be a Tamil film. Even if you are a purist, then we can at best call this an Indian-English movie. And really, why should anyone be upset because we are cheering any movie for that matter? It all boils down to personal taste right?
Then, there is the issue of why we are cheering for Oscars so much? Agreed, The Oscars is not truly an international movie award. It caters to Hollywood and has just one measly category for foreign films. But undoubtedly, it is a fact that it is one of the most glamorous and publicized movie awards in the world. Anyone winning the Oscars gets a lot of attention, and that brings subsequent plump assignments from international film makers with it. Now, this does not mean desi cinema is not good, but it would take an idiot to refuse good work for a hefty sum of money and some international acclaim. No wonder Anil Kapoor was milking every minute of it. We need to suck it up and realize that Filmfare awards are simply NOT as famous as the Oscars and stop giving our fellow countrymen dirty looks when they are gushing about how happy they are that A R Rahman won.
And finally, the movie itself. Yes, it shows the slums of India. It shows corruption, underworld and prostitution. Infact, so many movies about the underworld by our very own Ram Gopal Verma and they were all very well appreciated by our public. No one thought India was being depicted in a bad light then. Is it the fact that the movie was made by a British guy and the whole world gets to watch it that gets our goat? Or is it the uncomfortable feeling that we cannot really deny many of the things that are shown in the movie jabbing at us? Many of my fellow desis start making excuses about India whenever a non-Indian mentions that they watched the movie. And the most common grouse is – “Why show only the slums? India has so much else going on”. Well, this was a movie based on a story, not a documentary about India. If Danny Boyle told he had made a documentary about Mumbai, maybe there could be some justification for the indignation, but this is a story – a fairytale. And seriously, if we feel so much for our country, maybe we should dig our heads out of the sands and look around. And do something. Instead we are sitting in a country far far away and acting like we are the governament appointed ambassadors whose sole responsibility to protect and maintain the image of India.
As for myself, I thought it was a very cleverly made movie, the story itself may not have been credible, but the cinematography was beautiful. And it was worth the one time watch. I am happy India won at the Oscars (yes India – A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty are Indians, remember?) because it gives the Americans a chance to know that there is a world out there outside of the USA. And why do I care so much about the Americans? Because I live among them.
Entry filed under: Random Banter.