Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and other issues

Tonight is Oscar night and most of the Indians wish to see Slumdog Millionaire(SM) winning Oscar in all ten categories. I see great excitement over this film and several true SM stories in Internet.

Frankly speaking, I think the film is not extraordinary. The storytelling is good but the film looks unreal because of its use of English and Hindi. In India English is a foreign language and a slum dweller is not supposed to speak in English. I think the director could have justified more to the reality if he tried to make the film in Hindi with English subtitles. The music is just OK considering the genious and potential of A R Rahman(although I wish he wins the Oscar; it would be like Einstein getting Nobel prize not for General Theory of Relativity but for Photovoltic Effect equation). I think one of the reason the film has received so much attention in western press is because of its link to famous production house and director. India has made many great films such as Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par which could not make to the Oscar. I think the reason is that these films were more Indian in form and type with lot of music and dance, which was not acceptable to western critics.

The reason I wanted to discuss this film is something different. We have seen a lot of protests against this film. See the details from wikipedia.

"Following its release in India, the film faced criticism from various members of the public alleging that the film fuels western stereotypes about poverty in India and that it peddles "poverty porn" and "slum voyeurism".[47] Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, a representative of a slum-dwellers' welfare group, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the film's music composer A.R. Rahman and actor Anil Kapoor, alleging that slum-dwellers were depicted in a bad light which would be a violation of their human rights.[101][102] Vishwakarma's lawsuit alleged that the name of the movie is derogatory and he was particularly displeased that Indians associated with the film did not object to the use of word "slumdog."[101] Nicholas Almeida, a social activist working in Mumbai, organized a protest against the film on the grounds that it intentionally exploited the poor for the purposes of profit, and that the title 'Slumdog millionaire" was offensive, demeaning and insulted their dignity. The protesters were slum dwellers in Mumbai, holding posters like "I am not a dog"[103] who objected to being dehumanized as "dogs" in the film title.[104]
Protests against Slumdog Millionaire have extended beyond Mumbai to other parts of the country. Slum dwellers in Patna, the capital of the Indian state of Bihar, have intensified protests against the movie. Activists have reported that slum dwellers will continue to protest till the film's director deletes the word 'dog' from the title.[105] Protests in Patna intensified on 26 January 2009, when "protesters tore down posters and ransacked a movie theatre" screening the film. The following day, the police in Bihar tightened security "outside theatres in the state to thwart any further attacks."[106]
Hindu Janjagruti Samiti has protested against the film for its allegedly inappropriate portrayal of the Hindu God Rama.[107][108] The activist group believes that the portrayal of Rama is derogatory and "hurts the sentiments of Hindus". Writing for the conservative Daily Pioneer, Kanchan Gupta reiterated the objections of the activist group that the film provides a one-sided portrayal of the complexities of religious conflict in India, and that the film depicts Hindus as "rapacious monsters".[109]"

All these criticisms may be true from their own perspectives. But I see some missing points in all these criticisms. The truth is that most of the Indians are still very poor. India still faces lot of socio-economic challenges like extreme poverty, human exploitation like child labour and prostitution and religious riots. As the truth seekers press and the movie-makers have all the rights to make stories on these themes. And I think Freedom of opinion actually helps to improve the existing system in a free pluralistic modern society. Our(most of the Indians) problem is that we are not open to critism. We don't prefer to accept the critism and improve on that and rather try to attack the critic evenif we know that the fact is true. We know we live like dogs(in all possible inhuman conditions) but we get upset if someone says that. We are much more discussion oriented and much less action oriented.

We get excited about our glorious past and that is good. India is one of the most fascinating country in the world having rich culture and traditions of music, food, science and phylosophy. We should be proud of this tradition and do our best to promote this to the world. At the same time we should be open to other cultures and learn from their experiments with truth. As a nation we should become more confident in accepting the fact that we are not perfect. We have problems and we are open to learn from our own mistakes and other's experiences. We need to stop arguining whether we are 'slumdogs'. But rather we all should aspire to be 'millionaires'. We need to stop cheap day-dreaming but start dreaming big. You know that Dream is not what you see when you sleep;dream is something that doesn't make you sleep.

1 comment:

Kumarika said...

Very true!!! I did feel proud as an Indian to see SM bag those awards. But we are better than that.

Also,I believe that the movie was hyped. Probably because of the international connection in the technical team of the movie. Anil Kapoor, Irfan Khan are much better actors and could have performed better. May be the script did not demand that. Secondly, the movie was very inadequately sub-titled. I wonder what made them(international audience) like the movie so much. May be it was the music and the scenes. Or may be they just watched the movie with a biased view as portrayed by the critics. Finally, I feel, if the movie would have shown the slum-dwellers talk in Hindi, SM would have to compete in the Foreign Film Category and would not have won the accolades it did.

These are just my opinions and I am no way against the movie. I feel proud of the movie's achievements and wish to see more of Indians in the Oscars. :)