Slum dog Millionaire. The term “dog” has different connotations for a westerner & an Indian. Much like throwing a shoe has for an Arab and the westerner. For a westerner the term “dog” is not big deal. In fact they name quite a few things suffixing them with “dog” (Top dog, Downward dog, they have furniture and restaurants suffixed with the term dog).It’s a different ball game in India. Referring to someone / something as dog is surely considered offensive.
India and Indians are trying quite hard to prove to the world that they are a progressive nation, with lot of plus things emerging. They are in search of symbols of pride. They want to be treated with respect and a sense of awe. Where as this movie show cases one of the things which India is working to improve before the world sees it, “the slums of India”. Not only does the movie portray India’s shame using modern movie technology but it also manages to drill a fine puncture into the balloon of pride which has just begun to swell in an Indian’s heart.
“Showcasing” the misery of third world through art, movies, & charity shows, is the way some sections of the elite of the world often feel “involved”. They derive great gratification and feel “connected” by discussing third world misery over champagne without being anywhere close to where help is needed. This movie is seen as another instance of that attitude.
Considering the fact that the British ruled India for 300 years, it’s like a double blow for an Indian, to see a British man come and make a film which shows the underbelly of India to the world. Not only have the British left the country in a wretched condition, not only have they torn the country into two by creating Pakistan, but now one of them comes back to make a movie which showcases the underbelly of India to the world? For Danny Boyle however it must have been like revisiting the colonial glory of his ancestors. His heart must be flowing with joy. He must have warmed many an old English heart and probably a few from English graves.
For the thirsty Indian movie industry, it was a thirst that was finally quenched. Oscar nominations and an actual award. Even being on the Oscar podium was a big thing which Mr.Anil Kapoor so animatedly demonstrated. For anyone in the entertainment Industry recognition is like an elixir and it doesn’t matter whether it comes through the front door or back door. Mr.Rahman tried to put across his glee in humble pattern though his speech did not reflect his own “Vande Mataram” spirit.
Sound designer specialist Mr. Resul pookutty’s speech was sincere. This is what he said, “I come from a country and a civilization that given the universal word. That word is preceded by silence, followed by more silence. That word is ‘Om.’ So I dedicate this award to my country. Thank you, Academy, this is not just a sound award, this is history being handed over to me.”
Indian poverty, underdevelopment, and a passive national religion have opened up windows for many a movie maker to help build their careers. Deepa Mehta (Water) Megan Mylan (Smile Pinki), Zana Briski (Born into Brothels) and of course the protagonist Mr. Danny Boyle (Slum Dog Millionaire). We do not know how successful these film makers were before they made these movies. So India, be prepared to encounter film makers armed with cameras scouring / pouring over the landscape looking for misery that can help propel their careers.
“Trusts” are another creation of the capitalistic world. There is a “Jai Ho” trust, and the funding (500,000 thousand pounds!!) given by the film makers of Slum dog millionaire to a Britain based organization called “Plan India” which has a stated objective of empowering Indian children. Wish the work of these trusts is as graphic as slum dog was of the slums. Considering the laxity of law enforcement in India, we may not really know the “other real work” of these and many similar trusts.
The least the film makers could have done was to build a home for the kids who acted in the movie. That way the world would have been spared the cat fight of the present and ex parents of the lively girl Ms. Rubina Ali who acted in Slum Dog movie. But as we said earlier, their task is completed once the misery is showcased. The misery has to continue so that another film maker can continue from where Mr. Danny Boyle has left.
The west seems to be unaware of the fact that their acts seems to hurt a huge section of the populace in the world. They are also not aware that they would be appreciated if the good in the developing and developed world is also showcased the same way the underbelly is highlighted. They seemed to have lost the ability to make friends. This movie has further strengthened the stereo types about India.
Oscars is a political entity. There is at least one Church inspired song as part of their ceremony. They also have their weaknesses. At time some movie catches their fancy and they end up giving many awards to the same movie. (Gandhi, Forrest Gump etc) They also play favorites. Cameron Diaz has been ignored by the Academy. There was couple of Oscars given to Indians earlier. Like “life time achievement” award to Satyajit Ray, Best Costume designer award to Ms. Bhanu Athaiya for the movie Gandhi. Notable Indian omissions were Mr.Shekar Kapoor for Queen Elizabeth and Mr. Night Shymalan for “Sixth sense”
On the flip side, we heard a teacher of a Toronto school saying this, “The movie shows how talented even slum kids in India are”. May be there should be a day coming where an Indian produced or Indian directed movie will win the Oscars for showing good things about India where pure talent free of politics is recognized. Even better if that movie is made by a kid from the talented slums of India.
In the meanwhile the Millionarie parties are over and the kids have returned to the slums.