Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slumdogs or Indian dogs?

A shocking defense of Slumdog Millionare

by Mr Rahul Singh, the former editor of the Reader's Digest and Indian Express,

is given below.

I have no credentials –either journalistic or intellectual – to comment on his article.

But my citizenship of this country is a sufficient credential by itself,

to allow me call his article as rubbish and the mind behind it as mean.

Looking from his own logic,

the film Gandhi was a hit with the West,

that made many foreigners visit India –

to see India that produced Gandhi and

to see the places that have been sanctified by Gandhi.

But now with Slumdog success,

we can expect foreigners to visit our slums and

even wish to see the country toilet,

in which the hero (as a boy) jumped in order to rush to see Amitabh Bachchan!

Does Mr Rahul Singh take pride in promotion of such 'slum-tourism' for foreigners??

The irony is that this film does not offer anything other than this.

This is in stark contrast to Gandhi,

that attracted tourists and earned a good name for India abroad.

Now look at his second admission.

But for the support of the then Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi,

Attenbourough's Gandhi could not have seen the light of the day.

Can he say or can anyone say that

Indira Gandhi would have given her support to Slumdog had she been with us now?


She could not have given any support for a film like this,

nor even allowed the film crew inside our India.

The MOST OBJECTIONABLE DAILOGUE of this movie says it all.

While accompanying a foreigner as a guide in the Taj Mahal,

the young Jamal is assaulted by a police man.

The young boy, quite hurt and outraged by the police man beating him up,

tells his visitors –

'you wanted to see the Real India? See this. (policeman beating him up)

This is the real India.'

This dialogue is highly objectionable

because this movie, created by the foreigners is meant for the foreign audience.

When we make a film with such scenes, to be screened for our audience,

we can call it realism and even hope to shape or shake the conscience of our people

by such depictions and dialogues.

But when a foreign director picks up such selective ones (throughput the film),

it must make us sit up and ask why this is being done.

But what follows this dialogue is the mother of all objectionable ones.

Seeing the young chap scream like this,

the foreign woman shields him from the police lathi (its natural, I don't object to this)

but says – 'now I will show you what the Real America is'

and hands over some dollars to him.

Hearing this dialogue, every American viewer would nod his head

– yes we will do, we will help this kid -

but it must put every Indian viewer hang his head in shame.

But that it did not is the way the so-called Intellectualism is shaping in this country

-calling it a reality and patting ourselves for the mature response!!!

Just imagine the impact this picture – or even this particular dialogue –

on the Western audience.

This makes them feel good about their sensibilities,

their sense of human rights and humanitarianism

But at what cost?

Should they get it at our expense?

At the expense of Indian sensibilities and Indian humanitarianism?

At the expense of 'reality' of our country and our 'maturity' in accepting it?

Are we non-humanitarian after all?

Does the film give any indication about our humanitarian side?

Even the anchor person of the Crorepathy show is shown in a bad light.

I think Amitabh can sue the director for the autograph scene and

the Anil kapoor depiction .

Amitabh was right in his comment that such ills of the slum are there

in the most developed nations too

-America not excluding.

But would any American dare to depict their other side

and show case in a selective way to satisfy the Third world countries?

This question must be answered.

The attention that AR Rahman is getting at the international arena

perhaps has blunted our sensibilities of self esteem and pride.

But a film that is cleverly made with a 'compare and contrast' depiction

to satisfy the ego of the Westerner,

deserves to be censured.

Its imperative that the Indian Public does not behave like the young Jamal

in jumping into the toilet-pool to score a satisfaction that we indeed had been noted!!

The elation that is witnessed now at the Slumdog success is in no way different from

the 'achievement' of young Jamaal in getting Bachchan signature on his photo.

That photo was lost for a few paise in the movie.

So too the Indian pride!


Related post:-


Touchy India grows up, embraces Slumdog


Rahul Singh (Former editor of the Reader's Digest and Indian Express)


INDIANS — AND I daresay Pakistanis as well — are touchy about foreigners commenting on them or their country, whether it is in the form of a film or a book.

Ironically, however, many of these very films or books have actually benefited India. I shall mention some (there are many) here to make my point.

The first is Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, a magnificent film now recognised as a classic, on the founder and moving spirit of the Indian nation, the saintly Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It was a huge critical and box-office success, winning several Academy Awards, including best actor for Ben Kingsley's riveting performance as Mahatma Gandhi. It was also a great propaganda for India (a film was also made on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, with the same intention, but it was not as successful).

On my travels I have met many people whose main knowledge about India and Gandhi is through Attenborough's iconic film. And there are others who have come to India only because they liked the film. So, India should be thankful to Attenborough. No such luck. Believe it or not, Attenborough almost never made the film, such was the opposition in India to a "foreigner" depicting Gandhi on the screen. It was only Indira Gandhi's support for Attenborough's venture that saw the film through.

Ditto with Freedom at Midnight, a stirring account of how India got its Independence, co-authored by a Frenchman, Dominique Lapierre, and an American, Larry Collins. How dare a Frenchman and an American write such a book, said Indian "nationalist" critics, while picking all kinds of imaginary holes in the narrative. One reviewer even questioned the authenticity of the account in the book of how Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, slept with the airhostess whom he met on his flight to Delhi — until Lapierre pointed out that this was based on a report by the Indian police which Indian historians themselves had not bothered to read! The book sold millions of copies, was translated into several languages and brought tens of thousands of curious foreign tourists to India. If anything, the co-authors should have been honoured by the Indian government. Another book by Lapierre on Kolkata, City of God, got such a hostile reception from some Bengalis that it was almost banned, despite the writer having dedicated his royalties to help the city's poor.

We Indians — and I suspect Pakistanis too — are pretty ungracious and thin-skinned when it comes to outsiders depicting us, even sympathetically. Which brings me to the most recent controversy surrounding the film, Slumdog Millionaire. It is the biggest thing to happen to India since Gandhi won 10 Oscar nominations. Though the film's director is British, its subject is very much Indian: the country's financial capital and the recent victim of a terror attack, Mumbai. More specifically, it is Dharavi, the city's — in fact, Asia's — largest slum, a cesspool of poverty and crime, but also a beacon of hope for some.

Slumdog Millionaire, based on a book, Q&A, by Vikas Swarup, a diplomat who is currently India's high commissioner in South Africa, revolves around the popular TV show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It tells the rags-toriches story of a poor slumdweller Jamal Malik (played by UK-born actor Dev Patel) who overcomes adversity to become the winner of the quiz show. The female lead is Freida Pinto, a Mumbai-based model.

Apart from the film itself, it's the music that has created the most waves. The composer is the painfully-shy 38-year-old A.R. Rahman, whom Time magazine once dubbed as "the Mozart of Madras". His is a remarkable story. Born Dileep Kumar, his father, a film music composer, died when Dileep was only 11. The family was thrown into dire poverty, son and mother trying to eke out a living and Dileep dropping out of school. Then, a Sufi pir visited the family and their fortunes changed for the better.

When he was 21, Dileep and his family converted to Islam, he taking the name Allah Rakha Rahman. The same year, director Mani Ratnam commissioned him to write the score for his film, Roja. The music, with its magical blend of various influences (a major one being that of the late Pakistani singer and composer, Nusrat Fateh Ali) stunned Indians. A succession of successful scores followed. Today, Rahman is widely considered the best film composer the country has ever produced. More significantly perhaps, his music, with elements of pop, blues, African beats, jazz, Indian classical, hip-hop, rap, opera, sufi, Arabian sounds and folk, transcends national boundaries, making him universal. That is his true genius.

But there always has to be a spoiler in India and it came in the form of icon Amitabh Bachchan. In his blog, he said, "Slumdog Millionaire projects India as a Third World, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots", while adding, self-righteously, "Let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations".

Bachchan has since then backtracked, saying rather defensively that his words were "misinterpreted" and blown out of proportion. Even more surprisingly, very few Indians have supported Bachchan, an icon otherwise. I find that to be a positive sign that India is changing for the better. Some years back, the film would have been widely condemned, perhaps even banned in India. Today it is cause for celebration, "dirty underbelly" notwithstanding. Perhaps India has finally begun to mature.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

From Arindam Chaudhuri's

A phony poseur that has been made only to mock India for the viewing pleasure of the First World!!

The emperor’s new clothes! That’s “Slumdog Millionaire” for you… Five minutes into this celebrated patchwork of illogical clichés and you are struck by the jarring dialogues. The cumbersome delivery in a language which doesn’t come naturally to most of the actors sounds like someone scratching on walls with one’s finger nails; it ruins the possibility of a connection… Had this film been made by an Indian director, it would’ve been trashed as a rotting old hat, which literally stands out only because of its stench, but since the man making it happens to be from the West, we’re all left celebrating the emperor’s new clothes. The film borrows an undoubtedly interesting narrative style – from films like “City of God” – but then uses it to weave in a collection of clichés from the Third World’s underbelly for the viewing pleasure of a First World audience. The real slumdog in the movie is not the main protagonist but India as a whole… The makers and those celebrating this movie’s hard-to-spot brilliance are actually serving up India as the accidental millionaire, which in fact happens to be a slumdog… and like shameless fools we are gloating over its success without realising that it makes a caricature out of India.

The film does not have the sincerity and honesty of a “Salaam Bombay” or a “City of Joy” and nor does this slime covered fairy tale have the integrity or the rootedness of the above mentioned scripts, or even a “Shantaram” for that matter; the soundtrack and the performance of the child actors are the only bits in the film which live up to the hype. The real slumdogs who’ve hit the jackpot after wallowing in acres of human waste are the makers of this film who are now raking in millions while those court jesters who’ve critiqued the film and showered tributes and awards need to ask themselves why, scores of years after our independence, they still feel the need to suck up to the gora sahibs. It’s not a question of xenophobia… it’s definitely a well cinematographed film… but the film has no soul, especially after little Jamal has jumped off the train and become a teenager… The rest of the film is just a modern version of the West’s view of India where slums, slumdogs and Bollywoodian clichés have replaced the elephants and snake charmers. It’s a well made caricature of a country and a caricature can never be a Mona Lisa, for a masterpiece can’t be one dimensional juxtaposition of sadistic extremes… and that’s my grouse with the celebrations…

And I say all this not because I don’t know what is India. I know its poverty and the real statistics around it a little better than most others – especially the Indian film critics who have given “Slumdog…” an average of 4 to 4.5 stars! But the fact is that the film’s entire narration seems like the germination of a terribly sadistic and complex mind with the sole aim of satisfying the western idea of India – and its new found growth instincts at their cost - and it is done through a combination of illogical happenings in order to show everything in a disgustingly negative vein. Not that it doesn’t exist, but it surely doesn’t exist in this fictitious manner. While “Salaam Bombay” had realism, “Slumdog…” is just every scrap of dirt picked up from every corner and piled up together to try and hit back at the growing might of India. And the awards almost seem like a sadistic effort to show the world – look we knew that this was India, and these are the slumdogs we are outsourcing our jobs to. It stinks of racial arrogance and it’s such a shame now on second thought to see the Indian faces – including that of the undoubted master, AR Rahman - celebrating its success. There is nothing positive about the film and it seems that a deranged sadist has painted his insecure negative self in each and every character of the movie. It illogically shows every negative thing about India happening in the protagonist’s life... slums, open-air lavatories, riots, underworld, prostitution, brothels, child labour, begging, blinding and maiming of kids to make them into ‘better beggars’, petty peddlers, traffic jams, irresponsible call centre executives… everything apart from western pedophiles roaming around in Indian streets!! And its winning of so many awards and nominations only goes on to prove strongly that the paradigm of cinema and recognition of films are in the hands of a few retarded imperialistic minds. It’s a crying shame that our media hasn’t seen through this ruse and is touting “Slumdog’s” nominations to claim that India is shining at the Oscars, while in fact it is lauding a film that mocks and ridicules the idea of ‘India’, pigeonholing its identity into the straitjacket of depraved poverty for a global audience.

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. Amitabh Bachchan was spot on when he said that Bollywood has made far better mainstream films. Take out a DVD of one of his old films instead…

Anonymous said...

it's horrible .!!

remove this post

better for u .!!!

R.Sajan said...

"'you wanted to see the Real India? See this. (policeman beating him up)"

Hypocrisy has for long been noted as an Indian trait, especially after the Missionary values were imposed on us. Anybody that has had anything to do with Indian Police would agree with the comment about it in the Film. Retd. Justice VR Krishna Iyer's oft-repeated comment that the Indian Police is the most criminal force in the country might be remembered here.
Does the Film show the cop searching the victim's pockets and pocketing the coins in it? That would have been more realistic.

R.Sajan said...

"Can he say or can anyone say that
Indira Gandhi would have given her support to Slumdog had she been with us now?"

Ms. Jayasree might know that the content of a movie does not come into permissions at all. The right amount's greasing the palms is the only criterion.
Objections occur when other palms have been greased by competitors to raise objections.

R.Sajan said...

" "Let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations". "

It might be the patronising tone of the movie that most object to. Amithabh Bachan's above comment reveals it.
Among the many anti-American-society movies that we have enjoyed, let us now view at least RAMBO 1 again, as we fume against Slumdog.