Thursday, February 26, 2009

It’s Dog, dawg!

I saw Slumdog Millionaire on the day of Christmas with my husband and few non-Indian friends (I’ll talk about the significance of “non-Indian” a little later). In these past couple of months, I have come across innumerous blogs on the movie—mostly all emotion-laden. I wanted to wait until the Oscars, the epitome of commercial accolade, before I shared my two cents. Believe me, not expressing when I have a myriad of ideas circling my brain, is a Herculean task for me:-)

Let me preface my opinions with one unswerving sentiment: I liked the film. What I appreciated was that the movie captured the true Indian emotion. Aside from the urge to hurl my insides when the little boy swam through human excrement to get a glance at Amitabh Bachan, I liked the unfussiness and untainted outlook of the film. Actually, maybe my eyes couldn’t, but my heart could relate to the sentiment behind the “poop swim-up.” We, as a nation, are all about loving, being happy-with-the-smallest-of-things, smoking reverie, and hero-worshipping.

Talking to desis, I realized that a lot of them were humiliated and affronted by the movie. Slumdog displayed poverty, focused on the under-developed socio economic strata of Bombay’s society and the crude third world challenges it still faces. They thought the movie was another exhibit of Caucasian supremacy. To each their own, but I didn’t feel that way at all. Slumdog made me grateful for the privileged life I have had and empathize with people who don’t, but not mortified at all. Every big city in the world has its rough and “untouched’ patches--be it London, Paris, Chicago, Detroit etc. My native New Yorker friends never have and never will see certain parts of Bronx, but they do acknowledge that it exists. As one of them said, “I am proud of the entire package—be it good or bad parts of NYC.”

I wasn’t happy to see the gruesome begging-related scenes either. But, by the same token, begging isn’t an alien concept to any of us. It’s heart-wrenching, and it exists but not just in India. In fact, NYC subways and streets are full of people asking for alms. Being pretentiously oblivious doesn’t mean situations or people or things don’t exist.

My other question is that how many of us do anything about the ghastly rackets (be it bribery or prostitution or child exploitation) back home? I don’t think the movie exploited India; it hurt the Indian pride because it reminded people of the crude reality. Face it; it’s not the India a lot of Indians want the foreigners to remember. I digress, but isn’t that why the Indian media got a lot of heat after the Bombay attacks? The core coverage was of mayhem at the luxury hotels but VT, the packed commuter train station used by unrich Mumbaikars, was completely ignored. The poor lives didn’t matter because they won’t look good on a postcard.

Few of my Indian friends thought that an Indian producer/director couldn’t have made a similar movie due to lack of vision. I think over the last decade, Indian cinema has evolved to cater to every strata, tastes, and brain. Our filmmakers create intelligent movies, and we have a talented crop of actors, who are at par with their western counterparts.

Would Slumdog Millionaire have won these many awards if an Indian guy had made the movie? I don’t know, but I don’t question the talent; it’s the color that I am hinting at. But again, even though I liked the movie, I couldn’t deny that few of its contenders deserved the Oscars more than Slumdog Millionaire. Come to think of it, I feel that way every year.

End of the day, I don’t care whether Slumdog Millionaire was hyped or over-appreciated. I am on cloud nine that Indian talent won global recognition. So what if a British guy made the movie? The impressive awards were won by INDIANS. When AR Rahman graced the Kodak Theatre with his unassuming, unpretentious, super-Indian accent and desi personality, my heart swelled with pride. I loved every moment of his nonchalant confidence when he quoted the dialogue from “Deewar.” He embodied the true Indian culture. At least he was candid unlike other Bollywood celebrities who develop an American accent the minute they get their visa.

More until next time.

Copyright © 02.26.2009

"If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India"—Max Mueller


Anonymous said...

nice. liked it.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with your perspective and the unnecessary bashing the movie has been through. Jai Ho!

Anonymous said...

honesty in writing this one is amazing. good job.

Anonymous said...

Very well said...even i agree with the fact the Indian talent got International acclaim and recognition.Iram!

Rujuta said...

Very true... Very well written.

Anonymous said...

My problem with how this movie projected India was that it perpetuated the image Westerners have of it. Do you think a similar movie, handled by as competent a crew (Indian or otherwise),showing a new age/urbane/posh & equally real India, would have received a similar response? As long as the movie gels with their existing image of the country it works just fine. Just wondering how it would have played out otherwise.

bc said...

I fully agreed with the views expressed in this blog and hence the response.The film has only resurfaced the reality on silver screen which many of us try to shun our eyes away.This is typical Ostrich type thinking. If we have something-good or bad- we must accept it to br the least, even if we can not find ourselvrs capable enough to make noticieable change.