Thursday, January 29, 2009

Liquid Dance

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,

"When the West wanted Indians to embrace them and their companies to come to India and capture the lucrative markets, suddenly we had all the Indian women, some very beautiful and some not necessarily so, winning all the Miss Universe and Miss Worlds. Today, they are in a crisis and India is looking unstoppable despite its slums and poverty, and they are losing their businesses to us. Isn’t it the best time to paint India as the Slumdog Millionaire?? All in all, the film is nothing but an endorsement of an erstwhile imperial mindset of the West and its blinkered vision of India. An English master has made an Indian slumdog. Don’t even waste your time watching this film in the theatres. It sucks and there is nothing great in it as a film too."

The whole article can be found here.

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. :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Re-union

My name is Payne. Max Payne. They have killed my wife and my newborn daughter. With a double Uzi in my hands, I walk stealthily into the enemy's den. My health bar is nearly empty and I have got just 1 painkiller. Suddenly, I hear a loud noise, like the ring of a mobile phone.


Its Sunny.I reluctantly pick it up.
"Hi wassup?", said an excited voice.
"Hey Sunny, I am into the final stage of the game man. I had really gotten into the character. You better have some good news."
"Hell Yeah. You know whats day after tomorrow?"
"I dont know. Sunday?"
"Day after tomorrow is school reunion, dude. Everybody's gonna come."
"What the... You made me pause Max Payne for a damn reunion. Are you...Hey wait, does that mean,does that mean she's gonna ..."
"Yeah man. She's coming. I confirmed. Thats why I called you."
"You are the best, Sunny. But hey we are still in school. We arent gonna be invited. How..."
"Thats what YOU think." and he cut the phone.

I shut down the computer. Max Payne wont mind. He will understand. I went to my cupboard, took out the small red briefcase. On the top was a card , a Valentine's Day card. In clumsy handwriting, it read, "To Amrita". Yeah, she's the She in the story. But wait, let me just tell you guys about me, the He.

I have just passed my board exams. Yeah tenth boards. No, the results arent out and I am not quite confident they will be good either. I play basketball but my own teammates snatch the ball from me if I keep it for than 5 secs. I tried to get into tennis but they just made me pick up balls. Not quite good on the girl front either. I havent had a girlfriend since...well forever. Girls dont usually come near me. They think its my socks but the guys know its just bad breath.

For a best friend, I have got Sunny. Who in his convoluted way, thinks he is always right. Interestingly, I remember we became good friends over a fight. We were watching some English movie at a friend's house. There was a sex scene by the fire.

"Hey wassup with the guy. Why is he hiding his organ? He shows his ass but he clearly doesnt wanna show his weenie. I guess he is just small. Hell, if I had been in his position,which is a nice one actually, I would have shown the whole world what a big pee-pee looks like. I am large. Ha"
"Thats what YOU think." We stopped talking for a month.

So, the gist- I'm just average in everything. Well, its still good to know that half the guys are below you.

Coming back to Amrita, she was three years my senior at school. And she was really the most beautiful woman I had ever seen man, live ofcourse. Her shining black eyes never resting at one place, her dark hair bouncing as she climbed down those stairs, her wonderful smile as she laughed with her friends.

The briefcase contained every thing I possessed of her. The V Day card which I had never given her, a stack of detention notes signed Volunteer Amrita, her photos taken on a school picnic by Sunny, pretending he was taking my pictures while I gave funny expressions, her poems from our school magazine and many such small things. But below everything was a slam book. It was no ordinary slam book, my friends. Every page of the slam book was different but they were all signed by one person - Amrita. I had to ask all of my friends to get a slam book page signed by her. It wasnt easy. 29 different slam books were filled by all outgoing seniors, just to avoid suspicion. And among all those slam book pages, I chose the ones signed by her. The rest were ofcourse thrown away. So, this slam book I had was a compilation of all those pages.

I had never seen her for over a year. I had heard she was pursuing Medicine, learning more about the ventricles rather than the emotions. I always hid from her, thinking that she would hate the average me. The only time I had faced her was on the Farewell Day, when I gave her a red rose and fled away. But now the time has come to confront her. To say to her how much I like her. Ofcourse I have a definite advantage. I knew her fav color 29 times over. I know what she would do if she were God. This was going to be my day- the day of The Reunion, our reunion.

Fiction. To be continued.