Slumdog Millionaire- A lot has been said and written about it. I am probably the last one to join the party.
A recent article by Arindam Chaudhri made me write this post. It reads,
Q) Is SM really a great movie?
Ans) A simple story, wonderful cinematography, breathtaking shots, enthralling music, great acting. If these are the ingredients of a good movie, then yeah SM is one. But then its far from great. Beyond its glossy package, its basically a typical Bollywood movie. Orphan brothers, hapless girl in difficult circumstances, evil-brother turning-good-at-end and even a Bollywood dance number. Its filled with cliches. But then the way Boyle has presented all of this is incredible. Within all the violence and adventures, theres one thing that binds this movie. Hope and Love. I watched it twice. :)
Q) Does SM distort the image of India in any way? Does it stereotype all Indians as Slumdogs?
Ans) No it doesnt. The protagonist of the film is from a slum. What do you expect to see? The Raj Bhawan? If I were to make a film on call girls in Florida and show their life throughout the film, it does not mean Floridan girls whores. Perhaps the racy cinematography, much like the City of Gods, makes SM feel like a documentary, but then its not. Its just a work of fiction. Yeah the violence in the children's life was too graphic but then we are not new to violence in slum films are we? Satya, Comapny anyone? As cliched it may seem, India is a diverse country.Where poverty and opportunities live side by side. This film is just about the dark side. If there was no objection to Mira Nair for making "Salaam Bombay", why then the dissing of SM. Is it because an "Westerner" has done so?
Q) If SM had been made by an Indian director, would it have gained the same appreciation?
Ans) Now thats a hypothetical question. I dont think any present Indian director would have been able to do justice to the story. When directors are cash-happy making movies like Golmaal and CC2C, I dont think any Indian director would like to venture towards making a film like this. And we cant blame them, can we? But considering that some exceptional Indian director had made the movie, I dont think the movie would have got all the international acclaim it has got now. But then isnt it natural? I mean, a movie is always made with a select audience in mind. How many regional films have you seen this year, even if they were mind blowing. None? Well, thats because they were not made for you. Similarly, a film by an Indian director would have been made for an Indian audience. Films like Children of Heaven are so popular inspite of being foreign language films because they are that good.
Q) Does the West love to see India as a Third World country? And was this film made to satisfy this morbid pleasure of theirs?
Ans) I dont think so. Yeah, there will be always be some stereotyping. Dont we stereotype the Americans as sex obsessed and morally weak? :P But again, the world has come a long way from seeing India as a land of snake charmers, elephants and slums. I remember a joke I once read on an American website. It read.
"Earlier when my kids didnt eat, I said to them, ' Eat kids, think of the million Indian kids who dont get a morsel'. Now when my grandchildren dont eat, I say, ' Eat kids, think of the million Indian kids who will snatch that morsel from you.'"
Only no American laughs at that joke now.
No reviewer has stated that he loved the movie because it showed India in a poor light. Its a "feel good" film, thats it. And its a shame that people like Arindam are so biased that they not delved into the underlying theme of the film and are just floating at the surface - Slums.
Q) Should we celebrate SM's success?
Ans) A lot of film personalities like Mahesh Bhatt have voiced that we should not celebrate SM's success because it is "their" film. Well I differ. As I said before, SM is basically a Bollywood film at heart. Danny Boyle has done a tremendous job in telling an Indian story in an universal way. A R Rahman has been nominated for 3 Oscars. Nearly the whole cast of the movie is Indian. Freida Pinto, an Indian model is getting worldwide recognition. Many Indians have worked for the movie. Lets celebrate for them. At a time when we brighten up everytime Aish is on the Cannes carpet and everytime Shahrukh rubs shoulders with Tom Cruise, why not celebrate SM's dream run. Atleast I would be the first one to clap if it wins the Oscars. :)