Just saw ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.. I was disappointed… It ‘craftily’ translates, onto the Screen, a host of negative Indian Images entrenched deeply in Western Minds !

This Saturday afternoon I saw the highly acclaimed ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, winner of Four Golden Globe Awards and just nominated for the Oscars in Ten categories. It was released in Mumbai just yesterday

The Movie did not tug at my heart like ‘Taare Zameen Par’ which was not shortlisted in the Oscars in the Foreign Films Category… I was disappointed.

Amitabh Bachchan’s Blog http://bigb.bigadda.com/2009/01/13/day-265/ raised controversy as media played up that the ‘Big B’ slammed the Film for portraying poverty…. ‘Big B’ accuses the Media and especially two Delhi based Indian journalists of the Gaurdian, Uk for their incontinence

Relevant Extracts of  what Amitabh Bachchan actually blogged from Paris on January 13, 2009, for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ are as below:

A couple of hours, a few damp smelling minutes of those under the English Channel, self mobile operated pictures, early morning French countryside and PARIS..!!

The Salon du Cinema team meets me at the entrance to Paris-Nord station and after an exchange of greetings and flowers and video and stills, out into the wet and cold Paris streets, chased by a huge group of women, who scream and shout and clap, making you wonder what it is that I may have done to receive such an enthusiastic welcome in a country that hardly knows who I am. But, Fouad my driver and sincere personal guide during all my recent visits to the city, gathers me quickly into his car and drives off. They are migrants or asylum seekers from nearby or distant country and are begging he informs me. My ego brought into place I am saddened by their plight. Conditions the world over are so similar. Perceptions differ, but the reality of life and existence, unchanged.

On blog, comments for the film ‘SlumDog Millionaire’ and the anger by some on its contents, prompt me to say the above. If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. Its just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not.

The commercial escapist world of Indian Cinema had vociferously battled for years , on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray at all the prestigious Film Festivals of the West, and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass oriented box office block busters that were being churned out from Mumbai. The argument. Ray portrayed reality. The other escapism,  fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice. But look how rapidly all that is changing. 

Mr Bachchan, I read your subsequent and eloquent letter on your Blog addressed to the Editor of The Gaurdian, UK to register your strong displeasure for the two articles that twisted and connocted what you had blogged as above

Well, Mr Bachchan you did state you have not yet seen the Movie… Well you should and you may just retract your apologies for any misunderstandings to the Director, Danny Boyle !

I saw ‘Slumdog Millionaire’…… expecting it to be an inspiring tale of the Spirit of the underdog in Mumbai… as ‘Kabir Bedi’ opined on ‘Times Now’ as a panelist on the Debate on Slumdog Millionaire, provoked by the Debate raised on Bachchan’s Blog… I disagree with him completely

I was disappointed. I know my Mumbai very well… was born in Mumbai forty six years ago and owe a great deal to this great metropolis… I’m well acquainted with the Sights and Sounds and Smells of Mumbai, it’s underbelly et all…… I am truly blessed to be born an Indian and to live and feel and breathe India and Mumbai….. so it’s not as if I’m in any sort of Denial Mode about any sort of Mumbai Reality

Although based on a book by an Indian, Vikas Swarup, the Direction  by Danny Boyle and the Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy masterfully and craftily (pun intended) weave a love story with a popular game show as the backdrop to bring out on screen a whole host of negative images of India that have for long been etched in the Westerner’s Mind

This is my strong View that Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy have played up :

  • Police Apathy to Muslims… The Muslim slum kids run to a Police Van when their Slum is attacked, only to be shooed off
  • Police Brutality…. The Game Show Host actually calls in the Police to arrest ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, Jamal Malik, played by Dev Patel, as he felt Jamal was cheating… Police uses third degree methods, including electric prods to extract the truth from Jamal
  • Rioting Hindus that burn up Muslim slums… the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’,Dev Patel who plays the lead role of a Muslim, Jamal Malik, when in the Hot seat, even recalls how he had visualised a Blue Lord Rama when his Slum was burned down…. This is his inspiration to answer a question asked on the game show as to what does Lord Rama holds in his Right Hand !… a Bow and Arrow !
  • Gun Toting Local Mafia and their Gang wars and their Molls
  • Dark face of Innocent and helpless Girls being forced into Prostitution… Freida Pinto plays ‘Latika’ whom ‘Jamal’ loves from childhood and who traces her to a Brothel.
  • Actual Showing of a Slum Child’s Eye being gauged out by a Burning Liquid to portray Deliberate Deformation of the Human Body by Beggar Syndicate Lords
  • Incorrect Accents and Inadequate Knowledge of Call Centre Personnel operating in India who serve as Helpdesks for Corporates in the Western World 
  • Depiction of Taj Mahal and Dhobhi Ghat in Uttar Pradesh and how Touts steal and fleece foreigners
  • Stealing … whether it’s Footwear at the Taj or Food in a Moving Train 
  • Dishonesty and Manipulation of even TV Game Shows by the Host
  • Obsessive Addiction to the Game of Cricket
  • An Abusing Male… played by a gangster ‘Don’, who mentally and physically tortures his moll and drinks and plays around with other molls
  • Inhuman Living and Sanitation Conditions… Slums and Slums and Slums…. Open Air Defecation…. Only a Westerner could have shown a Slum Child deliberately falling fully into Defecation in his excited attempt to catch a glimpse of his Idol, ironically, Big B,Amitabh Bachchan himself !… Does, or would, any slum child really do this !.. I bet no Indian Director would have even thought of this as this simply overshoots on reality !
  • Begging God for Forgiveness for Sinning… but continuing to sin !..’Salim’ is ‘Jamal’s’ gun toting gangster brother who even misbehaves with ‘Latika’… ‘Jamal’ spies him doing his ‘Namaz’ and begging God to forgive him for sinning
  • Discrimination and Inequalities…. The Game Show Host,played by Anil Kapoor,is condescending,insulting and rude initially to ‘Jamal’ the ‘Chaiwalla’ and even gets him arrested on suspicion of cheating in the Game Show
  • ‘Slumdog’ Knows the Dollar Note but not the Indian Rupee Note…. even a Blind Beggar Boy, who had his eye gauged out, as he could not escape as ‘Jamal’ did, guesses it’s a Hundred Dollar Bill and that it has ‘Benjamin Franklin’ on it which he reveals to ‘Jamal’ who had presented him with the Bill…. Our ‘Jamal’ does not know that ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ features on our 1000 Rupee Note but answers this ‘Benjamin Franklin’ Question on the Game Show recalling what the Blind Boy had told him !

As Bachchan blogs “let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations”

Revolting Crime, Child Abuse, Drugs, Discrimination, Religious Bigotry and Racisim are fangs that are embedded in developed nations too

Methinks strongly that all the above negative images of India was the starting base and most of the Game Show questions were then created to reflect all of this… Sorry, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy… your motives in making this movie are clearly suspect and you have used your craft pretty ‘craftily’

This is not a ‘Feel Good’ Movie for me at all !… Oh ! Yes !..it’s going to be a ‘Feel Good’ Movie for Most Westerners and many Indians in India and overseas too!…… This Movie is surely going to play ‘Mindgames’ with the Indian Psyche and fuel a colonial hangover of ‘Divide and Rule’…. In that, it truly is a Masterpiece…. It’s my strong personal view that this has been the intent all along by those who created this Movie….. The story is purely incidental 

I’m aware contrasting views would revolve on this movie showing the Spirit, Street Smartness and Survival Instincts of an uneducated Slum child in Mumbai, who despite facing innumerable and seemingly insurmountable odds, rises from rags to riches by entering in a TV Game Show and Winning Maximum Prize Money of Rs 20 Million in it… just for his Lady Love ‘Latika’  

Welcoming Grace is A R Rehman’s Music Scores in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.. He has ofcourse better scores like in ‘Roja’, ‘Guru’ and ‘Lagaan’… that the Oscars never recognised….. I hope he wins the Oscars in both, the ‘Best Original Score’ and ‘The Best Original Song’  that he’s been nominated for… In fact he has two ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ songs ‘Jai Ho’ and ‘O Saya’ nominated in  ‘Best Original Song’ category…… He’s a True Genius

Thank God at least Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy did not think of depicting the cliche that “India is a Land of Snakes and Elephants”… that’s because they may have realised that Mumbai is most definitely not this !….. if they had,it would have raised as much hell as the title itself did ‘Slumdog Millionaire’… why not ‘Slumboy or Slumchild Millionaire’!?… It was amusing to hear Anil Kapoor on media channels recalling his ‘Mashaal’ dialogues to explain this title reality of ‘Slumdog…..’….. ‘Gandi nali ka Keeda’ or just plain ‘Kutte ki Aulad’ are common curses to the poor and downtrodden children who live in slums… ‘Slumdog’ reflects this reality

It’s ‘Taare Zameen Par” for me anytime !

  

4 thoughts on “Just saw ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.. I was disappointed… It ‘craftily’ translates, onto the Screen, a host of negative Indian Images entrenched deeply in Western Minds !

  1. There are tons of Hollywood movies that depict negative images of the US. In fact just last night, I watched a 1994 Harrison Ford movie where Ford plays a Senator that stands up to a corrupt President and a corrupt government that is secretly dealing with the Cuban drug cartel for personal gain. I don’t think this movie was made just to portray India in a negative image. In fact most of the world looks at India fondly despite the negative images in this movie because of our culture and the good nature of the common Indian. For too long Bollywood has allowed Indians to escape from reality! I think it is good to see movies like this which are closer to reality than the 3 hour cheesy romantic dramas that 90% of the industry churns out. No denying that Taare Zameen Par was equally good and forceful in bringing up another issue and portraying the lack of family and social support afforded to special kids in India.

  2. Very well said Arzan,though I still hold on to my premise that the Negative Images of India was the starting point and the base and story and TV game show questions created to show these…what was the Director and Adapted Screenplay writer trying to convey when they showed the ‘Slumdog’ deliberately falling into Human excretion and being fully covered by it from Head to Toe just to get an Autograph from ‘Big B’ !…Ridiculous !Believe me ,no Indian Director would have enough thought in such unreal lines !….I can only say,we can respectfully agree to disagree…It’s not a ‘Feel Good’ Film for me at all

  3. I was kind of taken aback by this first ever “negative” review of SM, but I do see your point. However, there are unmistakable hints that you have been excessively biased in more places than one. Cinema is after all an art-form, depicting the director’s interpretation of the subject. Neither is it always realistic to the core nor is it meant to be. Moreover, a lot of the issues shown out there are ones which our society actually faces.. why not come to terms with that fact? The bigger picture of course shows the triumph of the Indian spirit over those evils and I think that is what matters.

  4. Thx for your response Abhinav…I just did not get that ‘Feel Good’ Factor that a lot of you out there seem to have got after viewing SM…there is no denial mode of Mumbai’s realities…..I normally don’t comment on Movies,but so much “Oooh la!la! was being made for SM,a sense of which escaped my senses that drove me to comment……let’s leave it at that…Cheers !

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