Sunday, March 01, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire / Crorepati

It’s become kinda ‘cool’ to comment on anything related to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Most of us appreciated and applauded the movie. Then Amitabh made a comment. Then many jumped the bandwagon and said negative things. Most negative comments came from India. Some said – ‘It shows India as a poor country’; ‘It give a negative image of India’. Some said ‘Life in Dharavi Slums is not like that.’ Some said when Indian Films went to the Oscars, they didn’t get awards. Some dumb ones even said ‘If some Indian would’ve made it, it wouldn’t have won the Oscar, leave aside getting nominated’. But of course, yaar! OSCARS is recognition of films made in Hollywood. And Slumdog Millionaire is very much a Hollywood film, made by a Hollywood director about a poor Indian kid with Indian actors. It’s their award and they can give it to whom they deem fit. Maybe it was a good and different film for them. It takes guts to make a movie about a different country with local actors. Take our ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ for example. When some Indian films went to the Oscars earlier, they went in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category. Only our Shekhar Kapoor actually made a Hollywood Film – ‘Elizabeth’ followed by another sequel to it, with an all Hollywood starcast.

I’ve seen ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and nowhere found it offensive to India. Nor does it talk about life in Dharavi. It is the story of a street kid, Jamal, who gets orphaned in communal riots and comes up in life the hard way. It is about how Jamal, with his personal experiences in life, is able to win the Millionaire contest and becomes rich overnight. We all have our own stories and no two people’s stories are the same. The same applies for people living in Dharavi or any locality, for that matter. Jamal and his brother move from Mumbai as kids and spend their kid-till-teenage years selling stuff in trains. Then Jamal even spends a few years in Agra as a tourist guide, before coming back to Mumbai to search for his childhood sweetheart, Latika. So its not even totally about Mumbai or Dharavi all the time. They had to show slums, they chose Dharavi. Its symbolic. They could’ve shot in some other slum area too. There are plenty of them. Some line the railway tracks too. If the communal riots shown in the movie as well as the ‘begging racket’ hurts us so much and worries us about our image on the globe, we should work towards making India better. Why project our hurt through criticism? We shit alongside railway tracks ‘coz there aren’t enough ‘Public Loos’. And most poor people cannot afford the few Rupees that these loos charge. We fight over trains at rush hours and do not show humanity in our anger. These are hard facts we face daily yet act as if they do not exist. This is the real face of Mumbai life.

If the Oscars’ nomination for Slumdog Millionaire didn’t appeal to some Indians, why don’t we work at making our own film awards better? In recent times, our Awards are mostly directed at appeasing the ‘film industry’. We try to make everyone happy by giving everyone some award in the name of popularity, sidelining the Real Awards to ‘Critic’s Section’. Categories have been added so that more people are accommodated/ made happy. Even some so called ‘popular’ awards nominations are shockers. No wonder then that Amir Khan keeps himself away from such functions. ‘Ghajini’ (an excellent movie) didn’t bag much awards apart from getting it’s actress the ‘Best Debutante’ award. Our Awards are mostly run by Film Magazines and who would want the Best Actor missing from the front page !?


sk said...

I really liked your comments on the Slumdog Millionaire, filled with underlying messages, and highlighting various aspects and controversies. Brilliant peace of writing!

This reminds me of two books which I read during my college days when I was struggling to find myself. These were:

“City of Joy” written by Dominique Lapierre

“No Full Stops in India” by Mark Tully (remember BBC)

I am really amazed with these writers, though not Indians, they seem to know more about India than most of us. Their books have given me many details and realities about India, which we Indians have taken for granted, or we simply tend to ignore and never care to find out. Their books talk about the realities of India, but they look like eye-openers to we Indians. Some day I would love to read more of Mark Tully’s books, to explore India with a perspective quite different from my prejudiced eyes.

So let us all see the real India and contribute with all our means to make it better….

Shagufta said...

Thanks for your appreciation!

Yes, you're right when you say that many non-Indians have studied India and understood it better than us!

We sit back and take things for granted. We shoo away a beggar, knowing that there is a gang behind him, but we never really got into eradicating such evil completely. It took a movie and a report in a UK paper to make a non Indian write to the Indian PM to open our eyes in shame!

We see corruption and a lot of inhuman and wrong things around us but walk with our eyes closed, blaming time and police and government.

Some days back, I saw an SMS being circulated making Congress responsible for poverty and slums in India! We just keep passing the buck! If we're okay, we don't bother for others. It's our attitude which keep pulling our country down even after coming up so much!