Monday, January 26, 2009

P.Chidambaram on Slumdog success!



It made a mockery of moral sensibilities and self-esteem, to see our Home Minister Mr P.Chidambaram, getting carried away by the success of Slumdog Millionaire in the West, and to have advised the Financial institutions to focus their attention on the prospective business people from there. It reminds us of his earlier advice as Finance minister when he just stopped short of asking vegetable vendors to reduce the prices of vegetables to sell more as a way to tackle the slowing down economy!


The pathetic condition of the sprawling slums is a proof of deficiency of the Government.

What the slum kids need very badly are the safety of a home, good education and good food. The government is bound to give these basic facilities to these kids. Without realizing his responsibility in this matter, Mr Chidambram goes on preaching others what they must do where they can not do anything!


It is a shame that he could not understand the price India is paying to the Western world,  in the success of this film. The film has nothing to gloat about. It has only stripped the Nation naked on every conceivable sphere of activity. This film is fit to be banned!









Take cue from Slumdog: PC


Union home minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday urged bankers to take inspiration from the movie Slumdog Millionaire and provide loans to budding entrepreneurs from slums, which were humming with business ideas.

Speaking at the launch of the International Financial Corporation-Venture East Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (an NGO) sponsored fund to promote grassroots entrepreneurship, the minister cited the movie portraying the rags to riches story of a boy from Mumbai slum as an example to show that young boys and girls from slums were not lagging behind corporate India. "Please watch the movie, which has fetched the Golden Globe award for musician A R Rahman and won 10 Oscar nominations, after its release," he said. Recalling the success story of girl from a slum in Delhi who had set up a beauty saloon with a government loan, Mr Chidambaram said, "Today, most residents in that slum are her clients and she earns Rs. 5000 a month." "A slum like Dharavi in Mumbai is humming with business ideas and innovations and we have to reach out to such people also," he said and urged government and private lending organisations to help such people.

"A lot of young men and women in slums have the necessary qualities of being innovative and are willing to take risk to carry out a business venture," he said.

The minister said the Indian economy was experiencing a slowdown, not recession.





Some reviews on Slumdog Millionare.


Excerpts from Alice Miles' review in The Times (UK): Shocked by Slumdog's poverty porn

Like the bestselling novel by the Americanised Afghan Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Slumdog Millionaire is not a million miles away from a form of pornographic voyeurism. A Thousand Splendid Suns is obsessed with rape and violence against women, the reader asked to pore over every last horrible detail. Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn.

Here is the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) summary of the film. It judged it suitable for viewers aged 15 or over (I would add another ten to that): "Strong violence is seen in a scene where a group of Muslims are attacked and killed in the street - together with general chaos and beatings, there are some stronger and more explicit moments, such as the deliberate setting of a man on fire… We also later see strong violence that includes a knife held to a woman's throat as she's forcibly snatched off the street, an impressionistic blinding of a young beggar boy, and torture by electricity in a police station. The BBFC has placed this work in the COMEDY genre."

Comedy? So maybe that's it: I just didn't get the joke.

I wonder if India will, or whether, as with Aravind Adiga's Man Booker prize-winning novel, The White Tiger, people will feel more ambivalent than in the West. An editorial in, a Mumbai-based online newspaper, read: "The miserable existence of the average slum dweller, which we in India know so well, is novel to the Western viewer… The awarding of the Booker Prize to The White Tiger shows that the seamier side of the Indian dream continues to have a resonance in Western sensibilities. The White Tiger's victory left many Indians underwhelmed; who is to say that when Indian audiences finally see Slumdog they will not be equally put off?"

As a review on the same website by Vrinda Nabar, an Indian professor at a US university, put it: "Slumdog's eventual victory comes at a price. When the selective manipulation of Third World squalor can make for a feel-good movie in a dismal year, the global village has a long way to go."

Quite. The Mumbai Mirror dubbed it "Slum Chic", and notes that the term "slumdog" is not widely recognised in India: "It appears to be a British invention to describe a poor Dharavi kid in a derogatory way."

When we are suckered into enjoying scenes of absolute horror among children in slums on the other side of the world, even dubbing them comedy, we ought to question where our moral compass is pointing. Boyle's most subversive achievement may lie not in revealing the dark underbelly of India - but in revealing ours.




Excerpts from

by Saurav Basu



Back in the good old days when Satyajit Ray often made the most sublime neo-realistic cinema, one Ms. Nargis Dutt caustically charged him with selling Indian poverty abroad. Yet, Satyajit Ray"s films did not feature Calcutta"s slums but the villages of Bengal. There was an undercurrent of poverty in his major films like Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Pratidwandhi but there was human irony. No romanticizing poverty yet ultimately a resounding affirmation of human dignity.

        But contemporary film making seems to have appreciated little of these ground realities; instead we find a rehash of the old and improbable rags to riches story in an ultra-regressive style. A magnificent Mumbai slum, two Muslim brothers, a Hindu mob killing innocent Muslim women, criminally amputated children singing Surdas"s songs, Hindu policemen torturing an innocent Muslim boy and a diabolic Hindu game-show host who hands his Muslim contestant to his Hindu police which hates the Amnesty international, and voila, you have all the ingredients for a "secular" potboiler which is on the road to the Oscars! You might argue that it"s not realistic but only fantasy since there is greater probability of winning the jackpot on a lottery ticket without being abused by the police than winning the top prize on a quiz show with 15 unique questions.

        But then you can be kidding with the graphic depiction of blood curdling anti Muslim riot in which a Hindu mob slits the children"s mother, the Indian policeman electrocuting the Muslim suspect or the gory scene of the amputation of the street children by the mafia who are then forced to sing Surdas"s bhajans. The book by Vikas Swarup has the main protagonist named as Ram Mohammad Thomas who was conveniently transformed into a Muslim boy, Jamal Malik who lost his mother to a Hindu mob to make it sound in the author"s own confession more "politically correct."

        When was the last time in Indian History when an unprovoked Hindu population took to violence? For the record the Mumbai riots were incited by fanatical Muslim mobs in the face of the Baburi Masjid demolition. Moreover, it beats me how the consequent Mumbai bomb blasts triggered by local Muslim gangs can be disassociated from the Mumbai riots? And the much maligned Bombay Police recently lost sixteen of its bravest men while defending the city"s freedom of speech and expression against Islamist zealots who wanted to replicate in India, a 7th century Arabia.

        More disturbingly, you have the depiction of the blue bodied Rama whom Hindus consider as Maryada Puroshottam [the best among men] threatening to terminate the existence of the innocent Muslim children. To a question on with which weapons is Lord Rama depicted with in popular iconography, Jamal Malik the protagonist does not remember the grand Ram Lilas which happen across the country or Ram Kathas on televisions. Instead, a Hindu kid dressed like immaculately like Lord Rama stand in the mid of a slum in a threatening pose. And one cannot miss the hatred being portrayed in the face and looks of that young Hindu kid, younger than even Jamaal. Even a 5 year old Hindu kid is a communal bigot and Rama is responsible for all the communal crap. Muslims are seculars and victims by definition. And we need one white director to tell these things to the whole world. Not only this we have forcibly amputated children singing Surdas"s bhajan pining for a glimpse of illusory Krishna?

        This insensitive jaundiced anti Hindu view is reminiscent of Indian leftist cinema where Hindu male characters are black and Muslims white! Remember, Mr and Mrs Iyer where a Hindu mob was searching for circumcised dicks and didn"t even spare a Jew in true Nazi fashion! Never mind that in world history, Hindus are the only people who don"t carry an atom of anti-Semitism, but the director"s flight of "secularist" fancy won critical acclaim. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in his film Uttara shows a band of Hindu goons burning a Christian church made in service of the lord"s lepers and raping an orphan girl in the process. Expectedly, this rather original gruesome way of story-telling won him the national awards! In the Tamil hit, Dasavathaaram, we find an anti-historical situation fantasizing Shaivite intolerance against Vaishnavs where Ramanujam"s disciple is shown fighting Kulothunga Chola. Based on a solitary description of Chola antagonism in Ramanujam"s writings, we discover the Chola fanatic stealing the idol of Vishnu from Srirangam, ironically the same temple complex which was plundered at least five times by Islamic armies. Similarly, Kamal Hassan in his movie "Anbe Sivam", shows a pious Shiva devotee injuring the hero who is rescued by a group of benevolent Christian nuns. Previously, in the 70s when anti-Brahmana movement in Tamil Nadu was at its peak, we had Brahmana priests routinely paraded as rascals in Tamil movies.

        "Islamic" sensitivities have extracted book bans from both British and Congress governments. Girja Kumar in his "Book on Trial" has reproduced dozens of cases where Hindu books critical of Islam or the Prophet were banned, and the authors faced arrest or were killed. Salman Rushdie"s flight and Taslima Nasrin"s plight is well known. Lajja almost faced a ban because she had exposed the genocide against Hindus in Bangladesh. Movies on the state of Kashmiri pundits, victims of Islamic genocide against Hindus of Bangladeshis, the Hindu victims of the North East against Christian separatism and also the historical crimes by the armies of Islam and inquisitory Christianity are taboo in a "secular country" They cannot see the light of the day because they are inimical to communal harmony and hurt minority sentiments.

        This ostentatious display of anti Hindu sentiment is of course lost on the jingoists or those ABCDs who go gaga over such pernicious cinema. Sincere critics questioning the dumb plot where a slum boy grows up into a sophisticated leftist JNU product with a flawless English accent are censured by appealing to the authority of the Golden globe awards. They keenly forget the film was precisely designed for that, appeal to the racial sensitivities of those who really matter! Therefore, even the liberation of Jamal is not through out of any indigenous worth, but through an internationally funded poverty alleviation game show [Kaun Banega Crorepati recedes into its international avatar, Who wants to become a millionaire].





Slumdog is about defaming Hindus

Kanchan Gupta (Pioneer, Sunday, January 25, 2009)

In keeping with American politics of the times, Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for as many as 10 Oscars and our deracinated media, which constantly looks for inspirational 'good news' stories that invariably revolve around Western appreciation of 'truthful' portrayal of the Indian 'reality', has gone into a tizzy. Saturday's edition of a newspaper published from New Delhi had a blurb on the front page that read, "The Slumdog story: How 'Danny uncle' and his 'moral compass' created the biggest 'Indian' blockbuster — and why you should watch it." Predictably, the chattering classes, who had been blissfully ignorant of Vikas Swarup's Q and A (as they had been of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger till its perverse denigration of India and all things Indian wowed the judges of last year's Man Booker prize) are now making a beeline for the nearest bookshop for a copy of the novel, whose title has been suitably changed to Slumdog Millionaire so that the book and the film are eponymous and both publisher and producer can encash the extraordinary hype that has been generated. Late last year, there was similar hoopla over AR Rahman getting the Golden Globe award for the music he has scored for Slumdog Millionaire. An approving pat on the back by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it would seem, is the most important marker in an artiste's career. Those Indian musicians who haven't got the Golden Globe are not worthy of honour at home just as Sahitya Akademi award winners are not worthy of finding space on our bookshelves, leave alone feature on news pages or news bulletins.

The larger point is not really about going gaga over an American award or a British prize, but how they are seen as India being admitted into the charmed circle whose membership is strictly controlled and is by invitation only. That invitation invariably follows a certain pattern; it's not merely the keepers of the gate chanting, "Eeny meeny miny mo, catch a tiger by his toe, if he hollers let him go…" Apart from the fact that the 'tigers' in this case are not hollering but salivating at the prospect of seeing themselves clutching a handful of trophies on Oscar night, the nomination process is far more rigorous than we would think, with filters to keep out those films and books that do not serve the judges' purpose or pander to their fanciful notions — in this case, of India. Aravind Adiga crafted his novel in a manner that it could not but impress the Man Booker judges who see India as a seething mass of unwashed hordes which worship pagan gods, are trapped in caste-based prejudices, indulge in abominable practices like untouchability, and are not worthy of being considered as an emerging power, never mind economic growth and knowledge excellence. Similarly, Danny Boyle has made a film that portrays every possible bias against India and structured it within the matrix of Western lib-left perceptions of the Indian 'reality' which have little or nothing in common with the real India in which we live.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Boyle's film is about a slum where extreme social exclusion, political suppression and economic deprivation define the lives of its inhabitants. He has made every effort to shock and awe the film's audience by taking recourse to graphic and gory portrayal of bloodthirsty Hindu mobs on the rampage — the idiom that defines India as it is imagined by the lib-left Western mind — laying to waste Muslim lives (a Hindu is shown slitting a Muslim woman's throat in an almost frame-by-frame remake of the videotape that was released by the killers of Daniel Pearl) and property. There's more that makes you want to throw up the last meal you had: Hindu policemen torturing Muslims by giving them 'electric shock therapy', street children being physically disfigured and then forced to beg, and such other scenes of a medieval society where rule of law does not exist and every Hindu is a rapacious monster eager to make a feast of helpless Muslims.

Nor is it surprising that Boyle should have cunningly changed the name of the film's — as also the book's — protagonist from Vikas Swarup's Ram Mohammad Thomas (a sort of tribute to the Amar Akbar Antony brand of 'secularism' which was fashionable in the 1970s) to Jamal Malik. The name implies a Kashmiri connection, and we can't put it beyond Boyle suggesting a link between Jamal's travails — it is his mother whose throat is shown as being slit by a Hindu — and the imagined victimhood of Kashmir's Muslims who, the lib-left intelligentsia in the West insists, are 'persecuted by Hindu India'. Asked about the protagonist's name being changed, Swarup is believed to have said that it was done to "make it sound more politically correct". There is a second hidden message: The Hindu quizmaster on the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' show has doubts about Jamal, who gets all the questions right, not because he is a 'slumdog' but because he is a Muslim; so he sets India's Hindu police on the hapless boy. Swarup did not quite put it that way in his book, but the film does so, and understandably the critics in Hollywood who sport Obama buttons are impressed.

The last time depravity was portrayed as the Indian 'reality' was when Roland Joffé did a cinematic version of Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy. In that film, the Missionaries of Charity were shown as the saviours of an India trapped in filth, squalor, poverty and Hindu superstition. Some two decades later, Boyle has rediscovered Joffé's India and made appropriate changes to fit his film into the Hindu-bad-Muslim-good mould so that it has a resonance in today's America where it is now fashionable to look at the world through the eyes of Barack Hussein Obama.

In her review of the film, "Shocked by Slumdog's poverty porn", Alice Miles writes in The Times: "Like the bestselling novel by the Americanised Afghan Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Slumdog Millionaire is not a million miles away from a form of pornographic voyeurism. Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn." Commenting on the BBFC's decision to "place this work in the comedy genre", she says, "Comedy? So maybe that's it: I just didn't get the joke." It's doubtful whether most Indians, Hindus and Muslims, would get it either if they were to watch Slumdog Millionaire.




by Sanjay Mehta.



All in all, all these make for a fascinating story, and an enjoyable 2.5 hours in the seat.


Yeah, there is always a 'but'!


  • The expectations that I carried were more than a good story, well rendered. I was looking for exceptional scenes, exceptional acting, inspirational ideas. I did not really see them.
  • I was looking for some incredible music compositions for warranting 3 Oscar nominations for A R Rahman. Well, there was good music, but I have obviously heard so much better stuff from A R Rahman.
  • I was looking for material justifying TEN Oscar nominations. No, I really did not find that here.
  • Acting of Anil Kapoor, Madhur Mittal has clear flaws. Dev Patel's is also a good debut, but that's it. I presume Danny Boyle might have also set out to make a 'good movie' and may not have had any pretensions of the kind of fame that the film has ultimately got. If he had any clue that he was working with Oscar-level material, he would have gone for a better actor than Anil Kapoor, or at least take few more takes from him, till he got it right!
  • Some of the characters could have been developed a bit more. We see the pain in Freida's eyes at the end. But we do not get much of a glimpse into her mind. Anil Kapoor's character has his sense of jealousy with respect to a chai-wala going on to win so much, in his game. He is sarcastic, and even goes to the point of misleading him. Why does he do that? Why is he carrying such a strong feeling against the hero? That's left to our imagination. Wish some of these could have been developed a wee bit.

So why did the film receive the extent of acclaim that it has done? My takes are:

  • That it was probably a very ordinary year for Hollywood, otherwise. Maybe there was no exceptional cinema (or not much, anyway) that came out this year. And so, one likes the few that make the basic cut. And Slumdog did that. For example, if I glance over some previous Best Film winning movies, I cannot see Slumdog having much of a chance, as a comparable film also, against the likes of Million Dollar Baby, Chicago, Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, Titanic, The Last Emperor, Gandhi, etc.
  • That western audiences have about had it, with the sci-fi, fantasy bits, pedalled about, for long, as good cinema. I have never been fascinated by the utter make believe in the name of science fiction. And I have questioned whether writers have completely run out of story ideas that come from real life, the kind that we can identify with, and understand? Well, Slumdog offers that kind of a story, and perhaps people want those back now!
  • That India remains the flavor of the day. Where earlier, the snake charmers and the elephants are what the western world knew India as, today, with the increasing relevance of India in the global economy, there is a curiosity in the western world, about "what the real India is like"? And surely, it could not have become as good as a western country ('it has not'!) in terms of lifestyle and all that jazz. So what is that real India like? Danny Boyle gives it to them, and the curiosity of the western audience ensures large success.

All this of course, is my speculation, as I try to understand the success of Slumdog Millionaire, and specifically, the EXTENT of success, what with 10 Oscar nominations and all that!

Well, some people struggle for success, others have success thrust down their throats :)

Sorry, I am being uncharitable. At least I can say that Slumdog Millionaire was lucky to be in the right place at the right time!! JAI HO… !!


No comments: