Monday, February 23, 2009

Shameful Day

One would want to rever the Academy, but it turns out that they have been swayed by the shit being sold by Danny Boyle, maybe because someone told them that the F18 hornets have a market in this subcontinent. The Indians have to be kept happy. And if you select one of their hundreds of silly song-and-dance fantasies and give it a bunch of Oscars (art for the economy's sake), the brown bastards will come out of their slums and do a jig a la Jai Ho. Did you, did anyone...see the mindless Bollywood dancers strutting their shit on the revered stage? And Rahman winning an Oscar for THIS shit? At least Masakkali from Dilli 6 would have been a better choice. Jai Ho? Rahman had become stereotyped and had lost it long back, but this is one of his WORST compositions, as everyone sadly agrees. An Oscar for that?

I mean, whom are you trying to please here? You think by giving away some Oscars to India for a B-grade, over-the-top movie you can have a market here? Maybe you are right. Like Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons, despite being utterly mindless, bags all the Oscars, at the cost of art. And you had a nice market warming up to you in China.

Yes, so you will probably give some Brazilian movie all the possible Oscars soon, or maybe you already have, and yes, I grant you this: you have been able to conquer all the markets. But, unfortunately enough, you have let down a world full of serious moviegoers by your judgment. You have lost your right to be at the judge's seat.

Indian commercial cinema has a long way to go, so the lesser said about that the better. We have had stalwarts in parallel cinema, but because their films could not make enough money at the Indian Box Office, we wrote them off as psuedointellectuals. We hailed the Raj Kapoors instead. So, the moment you base your judgment on the amount of money a movie makes, you are talking about a business. Not about art. And Slumdog Millionaire comes nowhere near art in any form. Like Aamir Khan said today, it is a little over the top. Like Bachhan and Arindam Chaudhuri slammed it, it should be written off as just any other movie. It definitely doesn't have what the other Indian nomination got: Taare Zameen Par. Poor Aamir Khan. He is considerably fair, but probably not as much as a Caucasian. And Aamir, lemme tell you one thing: you are not any bit poorer for not having won it for your masterpiece. If this is what the Academy judges are capable of, you can at least look forward to some kudos from the Europeans, the true keepers of art.

The Academy Awards? Thanks, but no thanks.


Anuradha said...

yup the most over rated movie in a long time.. btw. even the Europeans showered awards to this very film.. There have been so many better Indian films that never got any credit.. Do we really need world awards thats totally biased and can be bought prove that we are good enough !!!

addled said...

I sort of agree with you. Infact I wanted to blog on this myself but things are so diff now I didn't. Personally i loved the movie, gruesome reality presented very well. Everything was relevant and well done. The actors did a good job and the music was perfect for the kind of movie. I would give Rahman credits for that.

But even I found the hype at the Oscars to be very exaggerated. I cant believe that no other Hollywood/International movie was better. There is a definite bias that came across simply due to the fact that the poverty always seems exotic to the people of the west. I think thats ridiculous.

A good write up though...

Vantika said...

Very well said. It is like any other sensible Bollywood movie. Nothing great about it, at least not something to brag about so much. Moreover, we have our film awards and film fests which rate our movies. I don't understand why we Indians get SO Happy and Mad about winning an Oscar! It's their film awards, just like our Filmfare! We will never get over the "blue blood" phobia!

Lazyani said...

Correctly noted sir. I always felt that it was a market driven awards night, quite like the beauty contests of the nineties.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I beg to differ. Firstly you have placed the Oscars on a pedestal and then criticized it for not living up to your standards :). Well it was a competition among films and if you see the other movies nominated, slumdog was no lesser than any of the others (okay among them I am yet to see "Milk").
Second it is not an Indian film. It was a film on India by an English director and producer. It is us who have made it into an Indian film and then think we have been given an award because of our "market".
Thirdly Rehman may have given better music before. But the firangs I doubt have heard them. And Jai Ho is not 'bad music', its just that he has himself set very high standards and 'we' have heard better from him. If you consider music from other films which had been nominated, Jai Ho wins hands down.
Your last comment on "Taare Zameen Pe". It was our entry to the "foreign film" category. Not the main films. As I said again, slumdog is not an Indian film. You may have a grudge against "TZP" (I have not seen the other nominations) not getting the award but why curse slumdog for it.
And finally, once you say we get awards for being a large market, then you say we dont get awards for our brown skin. :)
Sorry I got a little tired of 'slumdog' bashing. Damn! It may not be a great film but it is a good film and most importantly equal to, if not better than the other nominations. Maybe this year 'good' movies were not made! Maybe the academy missed some great movie! Too bad - Life is unfair! But lets not slam slumdog!

Nita said...

Tired of hearing this already. Even people who haven't seen the movie are trashing it. It's posh to trash, isn't it?

Oreen said...

HUSH,nita! that i haven't seen the movie yet is our little secret!!

but it is definitely posh to trash. there are the elitists in india who listen to jazz and western and indian classical and always want some kudos from the whites. because, without a pat from a white guy, your life makes no sense basically. how do you care if some Narsimha Rao gives you a political award for your movie? it has to be from a white guy, and preferably, not a mainstream, commercial white guy. for example, a pat from Eisenstein. or a Legion de Honor from France.

i belong to that school.

but yes, one shouldn't comment on a movie before seeing it. but the songs and dances that I caught excerpts of made me run away from it. but a promise is a promise. will watch it.

and if i like it, i will change my opinion :). till then, let me sensationalize and try to belong. :)

Sraboni said...

Well its just a typical Bollywood movie that is over rated beyond words. I am trying to figure out the logic behind why it bagged so many Oscar awards but to no avail. My American colleagues ask me why this film is so special because to them it has been pretty predictable movie like a scene from a David Copppefield. I am at a loss. I do not have an answer. As an immigrant of Indian origin this film has shamed me of the portrayal of poverty. India is a nuclear power to reckon with these days. Why does Danny Boyle have to exploit India to win an Oscar?

Oreen said...

here's from someone a whole lot more researched and way more articulate:

Betraying India's poor
(If the two-dimensional portrayals in Slumdog Millionaire are what pass for gritty realism, what kind of fantasy do we live in?)

Jeremy Seabrook

The initial outcry in India against Slumdog Millionaire was about the "image" of India that the film projects to the world. Given the universally admired economic performance, the transformation of the public face of India, the rise of a high-spending conspicuously consuming middle class – does a film like this show the other side, the ugly underbelly of India? Does it constitute a betrayal of the carefully constructed work of modernisation and wealth creation that official India has been at pains to craft for the world?

These criticisms are ultimately trivial; and the emphasis of the criticism has now changed. The real charge is the cruel calumny and defamation of the living flesh and blood of the slums of Mumbai and other Indian cities, people who lead lives of quiet heroism, uncelebrated in this film, just as they are in the media in general. It offers a crude and reductive account of the lives of poor people, the vast majority of whom labour honestly, often for pitiful returns, to bring up their children with decency and a humanity that ought to be an object of admiration to those rendered callous by affluence. Of course misery and exploitation also exist in the slums, but these are more than matched by the hardened hearts and indifference to suffering of the possessing classes.

Part of the success of the film derives precisely from those whose prejudices are confirmed by every cliche about the slums, every hackneyed horror story with which the middle class regale each other, tales of the venality of servants, the viciousness of the poor and the violence of their lives, their conscienceless desire to steal from their employers, to snatch chains and murder elderly widows in their beds.

There is no sense of the life of the slums. The disjointed episodes in the life of the hero are simply schematic rehearsals of every prejudice that ever emanated from the ill will of those who blame poor people for their own suffering – there are scenes in which children are blinded by goondas to make them more efficient beggars; children are trafficked into prostitution; communal riots arise out of nowhere; the violence of gangs is matched only by the corruption and cruelty of the police (a point that will have some resonance with a majority of slumdwellers).

But for the most part, it is a reasonless detachment of spectacle from life; in that sense, it is probably closer to Bollywood than is generally admitted, but the sheer in-your-face two-dimensional portrayal of people without character, without antecedents, without origins is offensive. The great majority of people in Mumbai slums I have known for 20 years or more migrated reluctantly from their home village which, for one reason or another, could no longer supply them with a secure livelihood. While keeping alive a dream of home, they stay in places they have constructed themselves with their bare hands, on unsafe ground, dangerous hillsides, marshy swamps and arid expanses of land the ownership of which is often disputed, and from which they are liable to be evicted at any time without warning. Most must overcome terrible odds to create a humane life – women and girls waiting patiently for hours for clean water which comes in a trickle at unpredictable times, struggling to maintain the cramped hutment in neat order, placing the remainder of food in bags on nails in the wall so the rats cannot reach them.

If you visit any slum in the grey humid dawn of Mumbai, you will see thousands of people walking, emerging from the squalor, models of cleanliness, dignity and self-respect, crowding the buses and trains, travelling long hours more to service their "betters" who are so ready to condemn them, as servants, cooks, drivers, security guards, vegetable and fruit vendors, small traders, cleaners, child-minders, nurses and dog-walkers. No one has provided either shelter or work for them. Both they have produced for themselves out of their own inventiveness and ingenuity.

The faith that a majority of parents have in education is also deeply touching, the more since in government schools the problem is teachers who may or may not make an appearance before their pupils, and when they do, set them tasks of profoundly unimaginative and repetitive tedium, calculated not to awaken the curiosity of children but to put it sleep; so that a new generation is schooled to servitude. Yet the vibrancy and energy of children in the slum – and this is reflected in Slumdog – are immensely touching; but there is no trace here of their devotion to learning and self-improvement.

This misjudgment of poor people is not just a question of image. The exaltation of the eponymous hero is greeted by the community as though it were their own triumph. The fact that "one of their own" has become rich elicits a vicarious outburst of joy, and here we are at the heart of the ideology that teaches that it can happen to anyone. Anybody can rise out of the misery that is slum life; but it is only by chance that the boy knows the answers to the questions. There is no sense of the years of endurance of women, the stoicism of working men, the labour of children that goes into the success of the hero: he is plucked arbitrarily out of the masses as a symbol. It is a celebration of the culture of the dice, the casino, the lucky ticket, chance.

There have been thoughtful and beautiful films about the poor of Mumbai – Anand Patwardhan's Mumbai Hamara Shaher and Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay; but they didn't get the big-time treatment or the adulation heaped on Boyle. But then, they were only working with the reality of people they depicted with such loving attention. One can only wonder at the social, economic and artistic fantasy in which we are living, if Slumdog Millionaire passes for gritty realism; and what kind of awakening lies in wait for those who collude with these delusions.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it: one can't stoop so low as to watch a mainstream commercial flick and waste time. So, I think you shouldn't waste your time watching it either. I like Jeremy Seabrook's article. In a country where there are filmmakers like Mira Nair, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalni, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Gautam Ghosh, you don't need to watch mainstream Bollywood. And this movie is not even technically Bollywood.

It is indeed sad that the Academy has selected this film. Whoever is proud of such a portrayal of Indian talent (the mediocre music by a slumdog who knows nothing about what background scores are supposed to be like; for that one needs to be educated in music) is mediocre himself, and wants to remain a parochial Indian. Forget them.

I like your take on this being a market-driven approach. But this is not an original idea. Many have talked about this before. And I do agree with you about that. It is more a market for Hollywood in India than a market for F18 hornets, I would say. Indian culture is driven by films and we worship actors. Except for in West Bengal, where there has always been music apart from film music, most of India thinks music is synonymous with film music. Imagine the market for that? Imagine how much money a Slumdog CD will rake in?

I would say it is a clever marketing strategy. Indians would lap it up. Yes, till this remains in public memory, we may need to cover our heads in burqas when we go abroad or call ourselves Latinos instead of Indians.

yours, Kunal

Anonymous said...

Funny.. I heard someone say Slumdog is a Brit movie coz the Producer & Director are Brits.. by that count Maruti 800 is a Jap car!! And Citibank (partly - owing the director bit) is an Indian Bank.. as much is Pepsi!!

Bottomline (cliche?).. Shit has no race or religion - Indian or Brit.. And that movie is shit...

And if you thought Shit does have color.. you must be racist enough to console that Goody woman by her deathbed...

ATANU said...

Believe it or not, awards for a movie is directly dependent on the amount of money that it makes. It has no relationship with cinema asthetics whatsoever. While I perfectly undernstand your concerns, (as a matter of fact I agree to that) its also true that TZP did not do a global business the way Slumdog did. So the takewaya from this Accademy Awards is that the movie marketing guys has to play/focus more on the global arena rather than the domestic market

Mampi said...

Well said. Incidentally I watched it the day it 'got' the oscars. Nothing inside me was happy and I felt, somehow, unpatriotic. But now, after reading you, I dont. Thanks.
Yes, comparing it to TZP does bring up a lot of stuff that was not worth the hype that oscars create (if at all they are to be believed to be the world's movie standards). However, I liked the technique of putting forth the story.