In today’s Hindustan Times there is an article by Ms. Namita Bhandare about the much talked movie Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle. I wanted to provide you with a link to the story, but of all the newspaper’s website, Hindustan Times has the worst.
As far as my understanding of the article goes, she is trying to tell us that we should stop criticizing the movies which show India in a bad picture. She has given examples from past, how movies which depicted India in bad light and showed various social evils were banned. They were not allowed to be shot in India and were never screened here, etc etc. The article says “The way we react to Slumdog Millionaire’s depiction of India will determine how much we have culturally matured”. Then there is the reference to Amitabh Bachchan’s blog and his recent bashing of the movie; his comment on why the movie is winning awards, and on those comments, her comment “sour grapes” [meant for Amitabh Bachchan].
For all those who have not watched the movie [which means neither you bought the pirated CD/DVD nor you downloaded it; which is a good thing, as piracy is a crime. But I more often than not do indulge in this crime by downloading movies] let me give you a brief idea. This is the story of a boy [Jamal Malik] from Mumbai Slums who win 2 crore Rupees [20 million Rupees] on the famous Indian version of ‘Who Wants to be Millionaire’ i.e. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. The host of the show suspects a foul play and hands him over to police to find out how he cheated. Then Jamal explains how he knew answers to the question. The crux of the story is, throughout his life he struggled and during this fight for survival he learnt his lessons which helped him crack the show.
Overall it’s a nice concept and the movie is well made. I enjoyed watching it and am sure so will you. What all has been shown in the movie is true, life is a hardship here in India and there is a dirty and ugly face of our country. And we should accept this fact and the movies which are showing this ugly picture.
But something’s ain’t right about the movie. In the whole movie except our hero Jamal Malik none has been shown in good light. From the host of the game show to the cops; from beggar mafias to underworld don; from just another train passenger to the loving and affectionate brother, all are portrayed as bad mean people.
Picture this; a loving brother who is with him from the beginning turns into a monster one night. A game show host who has nothing to hold against him feeds him with a wrong answer so that he may not win. And after that hands him over to the cops. Cops are ruthless as always. A small boy stealing food from passenger is thrown out of the moving train. First thing their school teacher does is beat them. Infact only good character except Jamal and his lady love Latika is an American couple who gives him money in compensation; because their driver beats the shit out of him after half of their car has been stolen by his gang.
It is not bad to show things the way they are, but it is not just to show them in a blown up format. No doubt life is a struggle here, especially for the less privileged but this struggle is because of conditions and not because of people; and not everyone in this country is bad and selfish. In his entire life Jamal Malik never met one single soul in this country who is good and not mean. His whole life became worst from bad because of people living here.
The movie is talk of the tinsel town because it is winning awards. But why things which show the ugly face of our country only manages to win in these western award ceremonies? Why these foreign directors always make films about poverty and adverse living conditions in India? Why the movies which show poor and dirty India are considered to be original and good and not those which shows brighter and glorious side of things here? Why only these are well made movies and others just another Indian flick?
The answer to all these why’s lies in the psyche and overall perception of western world about India; which is highly skewed. This is all what they imagine when you mention India. This is all they know about us and what they want to see. If Slumdog Millionaire manages any Oscar nomination and wins, then it should be because of different storyline and good direction. Not because it showed India in bad light; to which they call reality.
Putting it in your words, Ms. Bhandare I don’t understand why “I take pride in a movie set in Mumbai with large crew out of India is sweeping the award circuit”, when it is made by some white guy? Moreover I should feel proud because it is sweeping western award functions. Are westerners better judges and I should feel proud that they approved the movie? No I don’t feel proud but I feel sorry that “it portrays an unpleasant though real aspect of India” in exaggerated form giving a wrong impression about the whole country. And if protesting against this wrong perception of India and movies strengthening this perception is considered to be wrong and orthodox then I have no problem in being called “culturally immature”.