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!
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.