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വായന

23 February, 2009

It’s Slumdog Millionaire’s day – and India’s

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars, including those for Best Picture and Best Director, has catapulted three Indians, A. R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar, into the ranks of Oscar-winning movie celebrities.

Danny Boyle, Director of Slumdog Millionaire, with Rubina, a Mumbai slum child who was cast in the film, after he received the award for Best Director


Producer Christian Colson with the cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire after he received the award for the Best Picture


Danny Boyle and the Slumdog Millinaire team, including children from Mumbai slum, in a jubilant mood at the Oscar ceremony


A. R. Rahman (left) won two awards, one for Original Score and the other for Original Song, which he shared with Gulzar.

Resul Pokutty (picture below) shared the award for Sound Mixing with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke.

As Slumdog Millionaire took the world by storm, protests arose in India. There were noises of the sour grapes variety from Bollywood and criticism based on reasons other than cinematic from elsewhere. Some argued that the movie would give India a bad image.

Slumdog is, of course, not an Indian movie, but it is a movie about India. It is based on a work of fiction by an Indian author, and it was shot in Indian with Indians figuring prominently in the cast and in the crew.

The criticism that Slumdog shows India in a bad light is misplaced. It certainly depicts poverty, police torture, prostitution etc. But, then, they are not things which Danny Boyle conjured up. They are part of the Indian reality. Politicians and bureaucrats with censorial minds may want such unpleasant facts to be kept out, but the movie-maker must have the freedom to show them if his work demands it.

Slumdog is a well-made movie, and its overall impact is bound to be beneficial. For the message it conveys is a positive one of the triumph of the human spirit. As A. R. Rahman said, while accepting his award, the film transmits optimism and hope.

This message, which comes through strongly in the film, spread to the Oscar ceremony, too, when the film’s producer, Christian Colson, led the children from Mumbai slum along with the rest of the cast and crew.

Another Oscar winner was a documentary, Smile Pinki, which is in Hindi, and highlights the work of Dr Subodh Kumar Singh whose simple surgery turns poor children born with a cleft lip into smiling faces. It was produced and directed by Megan Mylan(picture on right), a San Francisco-based documentary maker.

2 comments:

sanjay said...

The criticism that Slumdog shows India in a bad light is misplaced.

It may be misplaced but it is also accurate. Gandhiji noted this ugly tendency of the West and called it drain inspection; even earlier, Swami Vivekananda noted something similar in his 1893 Chicago address. It cannot be denied that the West has a long & inglorious tradition of imagining India in the worst possible way.

It certainly depicts poverty, police torture, prostitution etc. But, then, they are not things which Danny Boyle conjured up. They are part of the Indian reality.

Red herring. There are many, often conflicting, Indian realities. Somehow, Boyle "conjured" up only the negatives from a broad range of possibilities. Why he did so, remains an unanswered question.

The population of Dharavi is between 6-10 lakhs and it is undoubtedly a reality of India. Is it the only reality in India? most certainly not, representing at most 0.08% of the population of India. Did Boyle choose a miniscule minority & (mis)represent it as the reality of India? sadly, in keeping with western tradition, it certainly looks that way.

Politicians and bureaucrats with censorial minds may want such unpleasant facts to be kept out, but the movie-maker must have the freedom to show them if his work demands it.

This is naive. No society gives carte blanche to movie-makers to make anything they want. This is why a society that allows freedom to artists also has the right to examine what personal demons, or other motives, drove the movie-maker to question, analyze & deconstruct the choices he did make.

B.R.P.Bhaskar said...

Sanjay says the West has a long and inglorious tradition of imagining India in the worst possible way. Such prejudice is not an exclusively Western failing. A longer and more inglorious tradition of such prejudice can be seen in India. It extended not only to foreigners but also to large sections of India's own population. Sanjay refers to Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address. Let us remember that the caste-ridden Indian society of Vivekananda’s time was not something that could be held out as a model for the world.

Sanjay is, of course, entitled to his views on Slumdog Millionaire, even if they are based on dubious grounds.

Responding to another post in this blog, bar paris says: “Slumdog Millionaire is really a great movie, i'm happy for the Oscar!”

Syed Abid Rasheed Shah of Srinagar, in a letter to The Hindu on the differing Indian responses to this film, writes: “What does Slumdog Millionaire mean to India? For some, it is an opportunity to smear themselves with self-praise and continue to live in a delusion of grandiosity. To the passionate Indian unwilling to tolerate any criticism, it is a conspiracy by a foreigner to throw some mud at the shining face of India. To the sensible lot, however, it is a mirror against their faces to stare at the reality. It is important to pick up the message behind the movie. The issues highlighted should be looked into with a view to solving them.”