Friday, January 23, 2009


After a long time, I watched a fantastic movie about India by a Britisher. It's strange how we only appreciate things written, made about us by foreigners. "Gandhi" too was made by a Britisher and we liked it more than any of the films that we did on any of our founding fathers. That's how it is. We like foreigners talking about us.

Let's come back to Slumdog Millionaire. It exposed the darker side of India, India's underbelly. We always wish to show our glittery side, the tech parks, New Delhi, nowadays Bombay's Taj. Danny Boyle exposed the other side and he didn't seem to have even a hint of hesitancy while he did that. If you watch this movie with a foreigner and if you had painted a very rosy picture about India in his mind, you would stand exposed. I bet you can't see him eye to eye. Because he will know you lied or you did not tell him about India's underbelly, deliberately.

The film shows people stand in queue to shit, the place a makeshift wooden platform with a hole. It shows orphans lured with false promises, and gruesomely blinded by crudely scooping their eyeballs with a spoon. It shows small girls dragged into prostitution.   It shows communal violence. But I, personally, did not feel bad about any of these things that the film showed, because I cannot deny any of these. All these things happen in India.  I cannot do anything but feel sorry at what is happening, to say the least. One side of India is rotting. But we successfully hide it from the world like the other side of the moon that we never get to see.

Nothing that reflects truth can offend a reasonable thinking mind. All the above instances are true, so if you get offended, you are unreasonable. You are a pseudo-reasonable. You are cheating yourselves.

However, I did not like one particular thing in the movie. It made me reconsider my decision to watch the movie. I felt like walking out of the hall. I hated the director. For I thought it was the age old British thinking molded by their observation of the behavior of their Indian coterie, their chelas. World, real India is not bad as Danny Boyle portrayed it, atleast not bad at its heart like shown in the movie.  Wondering what I'm talking about?  It's that part of the movie, the often repeated ridiculing of the "Chaiwallah".  If it was shown as someone's personal comment, I would ignore it. But the way was shown - the host of the show ridiculing Jamal because he was a "chaiwallah" and the whole audience expressing its consent by a killing giggle, is something that I couldn't accept.  On screen, it translates as something reflecting the sentiment of the public, in the movie. Well, if Boyle intended that, he's not exposing but lying. This is not India and you shouldn't amuse the world by ridiculing a nation.  When the audience and the show host laughed at the "Chaiwallah", I coudl hear the whole world laughing at India.

Apart from this, as I told you earlier, I liked everything.  The casting was apt. Dev Patel was a refreshing face.  Freida Pinto's suddenly a star.  Irrfan Khan is now the official Indian face for Hollywood.   Rahman's "Jai ho" can make the whole world dance. 

I saw a white man sitting across the aisle watching this song not even blinking his eyelids even once and with an unintended, involuntary smile on his face.  The world likes India.  Irony is, if you show the glittery side of India, its malls, metros, expressways, tech parks, the world isn't interested. It has seen better such things in the West. The world, unfortunately, seems to like to see India's underbelly, our darker side. Let's see how things change.



Blogger isthmus said...

The movie is definitely a welcome break from the usual sights of the Swiss Alps, exotic mansions, dazzling jewelery and of course the breezing chiffon sarees..I would not call the movie "Fantastic", but yes, the movie definitely gives a bird's-eye view into the woeful plight into the murky world of Mumbai's poor street children, who call the gutters of its filthy streets home. After all, filth and poverty are undeniably part of the reality of India.The question is if this "filth and poverty" have become the USP of the Indian Film Industry?
Let's also think about this, how many times have you heard of someone grown in that background to cross the line and make it? Its better to be close to reality
Irony is probably none in the slums of Mumbai would have known about this movie or the awards it is bagging

10:45 PM  

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