OPINION

Amitabh Bachchan: Slumdog Millionaire Shows India as Third World's Dirty Underbelly

January 15, 2009
Aditi Nadkarni

Mr.Bachchan complained on his blog that India has been portrayed as the Third World's dirty underbelly in Danny Boyle's film Slumdog Millionaire. It is not good enough for Big B that the city be shown as it is. He wants "Westerners" to portray only the good and the glitzy and leave out the rag-pickers and street-children.

I totally see what he means. It is such bad PR for the whole nation, isn't it? Can you imagine what it would do to our international image if people saw that we have dirty railway stations and snotty street-children? Danny Boyle, should have, like most of us, rolled up the tinted windows of his car in the face of a five year old beggar and snoozed through the soulful renditions of Bollywood numbers by the precocious train-elves in Mumbai locals. Danny Boyle should have with his crew arrived at something like the lit up Eternity or Globus malls in Mumbai and shot his film near the squeaky clean neighborhoods of Colaba. He could've used sets instead of crowded railway stations where one can see the sweat running of off the citizens of this dirty underbelly. Danny Boyle should recognize that our patriotic sentiments are hurt not by the sights we see every day on the streets of Mumbai but by what he puts in his movie.

Slums? Who wants to see Dharavi, leave alone shoot film sequences there. Isn't this precisely why we have the Hiranandani Complex where Akshay Kumar and Govinda have danced. Instead in Slumdog Millionaire we have to see the filthy street children with their dirty, sun-tanned faces reminding us of traffic jams. Doesn't this Boyle fellow know that traffic jams are the number one reason why Bollywood stars arrive late at the Filmfare awards? And how could he show the the beggars! Oh, those beggars shoving their hands through the window and pushing their sooty faces against our polished cars. Why would anybody want to use those in a film about India? Look at our directors, do you ever see Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Karan Johar ever put these in their dance sequences or promos. Learn a thing or two about India will you? We are a nation full of angry Punjabi fathers, kanjiwaram clad middle aged women who quietly endure, sons who arrive in helicopters and daughters who dance around in towels just waiting to fall in love. Sometimes we all wear spectacular turbans and play members of a Rajasthani royal family. But mostly we are dancing on the mountains of Ooty and on the streets of Switzerland.

The truth is Danny Boyle is jealous. The whole of the West is just envious of our dazzling success. Therefore they are hell-bent on covering only what sucks about India: the snotty street-kids and ignore what is so great about India: beach-side bungalows of Bollywood stars. All those who assert that lives in the underbelly are more interesting should read Page 3 of Bombay Times (that is, by the way, where you would find a true portrayal of all things Indian). Slumdog Millioniare just makes us roll our eyes and wonder if Danny Boyle and his team just forgot to read that travel magazine on his flight to India where clear illustrations of Indian stuff are provided. Palaces in Rajasthan against the backdrop of a setting sun, beautiful women performing either Odissi, bharatnatyam or kathak, museums with marble walls, the backwaters of Kerala, the beaches of Goa and of course elephants...no, not the ones causing traffic jams in Mumbai but the ones decked up and paraded for entertainment. With all this cultural paraphernalia to pick from, all these Westerners found worthy of a film were street children and railway stations?

It was bad enough when Bimal Roy incorporated an emaciated Balraj Sahani in Do Bigha Zamin and Mira Nair included prostitutes and street kids in Salaam Bombay. This was Satyajit Ray's problem and Shyam Benegal's too which is why their films were routinely ignored by the panel selecting films to send for Oscar consideration. But the Academy still hunted Satyajit Ray down and gave that man an Oscar on his deathbed rewarding him for all the gloomy portrayals of India that catered to the hungry West. That is how much the West craves poor portrayal of India. You never see them giving an Oscar to Yash Chopra in spite of the magnificent boon he is to the Hindi film industry. What about Aishwarya's touching portrayal of a strong and opinionated girl in Bride & Prejudice? How come the Golden Globes ignored that? I mean the poor girl cried her eyes out ruining her make-up and all in Provoked. The West even had that "wife-beating Indian husband" portrayal to feed on in that film. But no awards whatsoever indicating a clear bias for street children, beggars and crowded Mumbai locals. The U.S has a dirty underbelly too. Who puts it in films? Pursuit Of Happyness does not count since Will Smith was wearing a suit throughout that film. Our homeless people don't.

The bottomline is if the whole issue is about realism and true portrayals then why cast Anil Kapoor as a host? Big B was the real host of Kaun Banega Crorepati and he wasn't even invited to give away an award like Shahrukh Khan was at the Golden Globes. If I were Big B, I would be so pissed. My ego would be throbbing and bruised. But a legend like him would never rant on his blog just because he was upset about something so petty, would he? Never!

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
Lee
January 15, 2009
12:40 PM

Did you even read Amitabh's blog to see what is really said? He did not talk negatively about Slumdog. He said people upset with the depiction of poverty in the movie should realize that poverty can be found anywhere and that Slumdog is just cinema.

What kind of researcher are you if you don't even get your fact right by verifying data for yourself? You are repeating from some distorted media report. Shame on you.

#2
Aditi N
January 15, 2009
12:51 PM

Lee: Here is an excerpt from Bachchan's blog which led to this satirical piece. In my article above I have not said that Bachchan spoke negatively about SM. So maybe its only researchers are expected to verfy data? Pls read this excerpt and you may (hopefully) see why I detected some bitterness in Big B's lines.:

"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"



As a side-note, although the title of this post would imply that the satire is directed towards Big B alone, its not. He isn't the only one complaining about SM being a Westerner's portrayal.

#3
Phillip WInn
URL
January 15, 2009
02:06 PM

Hilarious! I'm glad you pointed out the clear conflict of interest. As a foreigner, I never would have known. :-)

#4
kerty
January 15, 2009
02:09 PM

"He wants "Westerners" to portray only the good and the glitzy and leave out the rag-pickers and street-children."

Actually, SM goes to the other extreme - it portrays exclusively the ugly, evil and violent and leaves out all the positive and redeeming sides of Mumbai and Mumbaikars. It projects one dimensional caricature of Mumbai and than posits a false multiple choice for salvation, for a way out of slummy predicament - life of crimes as pursued by Salim, or winning a lotto game show, odds of which are as good as landing on a moon. The only person laughing his way to bank with millions is Danny Boyle. This is exploitation cinema at its worst. It does not even bother to dwell on underlying issues of urban slumification, yet pretends to offer escapism to its underdog protagonists. It uses children to craft sympathetic protagonists to concoct the implausible reality, a familiar cheap trick used by paddlers of propaganda.

#5
Aditi N
January 15, 2009
02:24 PM

Kerty: You have either not seen SM or wore prejudice-tinted glasses when watching the film.

The truth is most street-children and those who rise up from the streets of Mumbai have fascinating stories that not only make for good cinema but also bring hope...contrary to shallow suggestions that they showcase the ugliness and poverty. The ugliness and poverty stings us because we are ashamed of it. We rarely overcome the shame that the backdrop brings to then appreciate the beauty of the story folded into that backdrop.

I admit, I had a similar reaction towards Bhandarkar's Traffic Signal (I was overwhelmed by the ugliness and poverty depicted) but then last year I met a guy named Rafiq (I will never forget him). He grew up on the streets and now works for an NGO. He told us how he paid for all the kids to go watch that film because that one film had all the funny, sad, dramatic moments from his life. And I realized that the outcome and interpretation of a story depends on who it is that's watching the film.

Of all the fantastical and unbelievable tales that Bollywood weaves not many have the potential to make us feel the way SM will. I have seen so many heros that the story of the underdog is more entertaining to me now. Most of us are tired of the "hero" and are rooting for the underdog.

Kerty: ask a street-kid how he plans to become rich. He won't tell you that he wants to be the next whiz-kid in Silicon Valley. He'll either say he wants to be a Bollywood hero or win a lottery.

#6
commonsense
January 15, 2009
02:28 PM

AN:

"Kerty: You have either not seen SM or wore prejudice-tinted glasses"

prejudice-tinted glasses and kerty? naah, wrong guy! that's just not him!

#7
Ayan Roy
January 15, 2009
03:41 PM

I have not seen the movie as yet. If I am not mistaken, Slumdog Millionaire is loosely based upon a book called "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup which I just read a few weeks back.
It was a very good book - a quick, racy read; excellent storyline and a vivid portrayal of characters, and written in refreshingly simple English.

One peculiar aspect of human psychology I do not understand is: Why do 'royals' living in exquisite top floor penthouse suites get so peeved while watching the motely jhuggi-jhopdi clusters next to them portrayed in a foreign film or documentary, and yet why they don't bat an eyelid when they pass in front of these very clusters in their chauffer driver Mercedes Benzes??

#8
smallsquirrel
January 15, 2009
04:18 PM

kerty tried to argue that krap with me earlier.

I think it is sour grapes on AB's part. He's pissed his 300,000 movies were not overseas hits. that is why Big B cares about this. Otherwise why no brouhaha from him saying Monsoon Wedding should not have touched on the ugliness of pedophilia in India, or pre-marital sex...

aditi, really well written and well argued. Brava.

#9
Anamika
January 15, 2009
05:32 PM

Having watched both Traffic and SM, I have to say that I tend - in general terms - fall into that much reviled bunch of alleged patriots who are disturbed by Boyle's exploitative poverty porn.

The quote you used from AB is quite telling: Swarup's novel was poorly written and trite and Boyle used it as a launch-pad for yet another "poor miserable India" movie with the added protection of having a "desi" name for authenticity (Swarup).

The politics of this movie are not far from the surface, and its adherence to the Western dominant discourse is equally problematic. SM is part of the recent spurt of poverty/misery porn set in the third world: Kite Runner being another example.

A film like Traffic is very hard-hitting but there is a sense of ownership in terms of the narratives rather than the exploitation of the underprivileged other. And this particular power relationship of a white privileged male telling the stories of the "underbelly abroad" is just too familiar to go unchallenged.

Big B is right: the same film (or a film like Traffic) made by an Indian would not be hyped the way SM has been. I am reminded of Rushdie's essay on Gandhi when the very eminent director of that Oscar winner declared that he "was putting India on screen the way nobody ever had." Rushdie was scathing in his critique. Sad that 20 years later nothing has changed...

Unfortunately, too many desis in India are still hungry for any scraps of "success" the West can bestow on us. And too many desis living abroad are just grateful to have our stories on screen, regardless of how exploitative and problematic they are.

Reminds me of a brilliant talk that Gurinder Chadha gave at BFI about this topic a while back - and she had a very similar sense: that when she was growing up it was just a relief to see ANY stories with brown people on western screens, especially since Bollywood films were derided as "not good enough," "funny", "ethnic" and "backward." It creates a sort of silent complicity to ANY representation despite the problems created by that representation.

#10
Ayan Roy
January 15, 2009
06:12 PM

@Anamika - "Exploitative poverty porn"... hmm that's really interesting.
Now coming to think of it - as you put it - there will be more such "poverty porn" churned out as long as there is poverty - isn't it?
Reduce and eliminate poverty - poverty porn will reduce and go away. :-)

Also, I think the film (SM)is being appreciated more due to the emotional aspect of the TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT IN THE FACE OF TERRIBLE ODDS.
That's what I felt when I read the book. it's quite an unrealistic fairytale, but it's a very 'feel-good' book. I never once thought about the 'poverty' or backwardness being portrayed while I was reading it.

I really don't think sensible people, Indians or foreigners, really crave to see the poverty of India on celluloid (think Pather Pachali) so much. ("Wow, how dirty and stinky India is!! The people look like skeletons, awesome! Is it really this bad in the slums? Amazing!") NO. Poverty in these films is used as a baseline, a BACKGROUND, not as a main attraction. It's the struggle, human emotions, the myriad stories and hope which entices the audience.
I think sometimes we digress and focus too much on HOW a place is being portrayed rather that WHAT the story IS and how the characters play out!

The only point where I agree with you is the Indian director vs. the foreign director bias. For some reasons Indian filmmakers are ignored internationally even when they make pretty hard hitting films. That's one bias which should go..

#11
Aditi N
January 15, 2009
06:19 PM

"Big B is right: the same film (or a film like Traffic) made by an Indian would not be hyped the way SM has been."

It also may not have offended nationalistic and patriotic sentiments like this one does.

The ownership of narration that one saw in Traffic Signal could just be the nationality of the director. I'm not saying that's what it is. But its a possibility.

SM is just not "poverty porn" and people who see that in SM are not patriotic. They are elitists who are just secretly ashamed of our cities. Fact is, our cities do have dirty railway stations and snotty street-kids. So? We still love it and its still a beautiful, lively, happy city. The subways in NYC are obnoxious and filthy and in LA/ Detroit you can get mugged later in the night. Doesn't stop me from loving those cities.

Poverty does not have to mean desolation and unhappiness. SM showcases that. As someone from Mumbai, when I see the faces of streetchildren I am not ashamed or offended. I find those faces endearing. And in SM one can tell that in spite of not being either an Indian or a Mumbaikar, so does Boyle!

#12
Seema
January 15, 2009
06:28 PM

Here's what really gets my goat: I can understand if people were pissed if there were no street children/ beggars etc in Mumbai and Danny Boyle showed some just becoz say he were this evil Westerner trying to portray India in a bad light for whatever reason. But there bloody are street children in Bombay! What is so upsetting about showing a story involving them? Aren't they Indian citizens, no matter how poor? How is it offensive to patriotic people? If it upsets you to have street children in your city then do something to get those kids off the street. Ranting against "westerners" won't do you that.

#13
Chandra
January 15, 2009
06:59 PM

As much westernised as we think we are, our film-makers have not made a single movie that has had global appeal (like Croching tiger, inferal affairs etc). This is not my opinion alone. Almost all British papers are saying the same thing - Indian movie makers are incapable of making a movie like slumdog millionaire.

Also, I read AB's blog just now and I am unable to link the fundamental premise of the article with what he has written.

#14
smallsquirrel
January 15, 2009
07:20 PM

anamika, hmmm, not sure about the poverty porn bit. I feel like you are saying that any time any person of western decent makes any kind of movie depicting suffering in the east, it would then be "poverty porn"

#15
kerty
January 15, 2009
07:54 PM

My Comment from another DC thread on this movie...

I had heard so much about this movie, so I made it a point to see it in a theater rather than wait for DVD. The theater was only 1/4th full on Saturday 10pm show for its first week run. It was one of only 3 cinema halls showing it in entire Chicago region. I wondered why a movie so unanimously plugged by critics had such a limited release in such a lucrative market like Chicago. Barring 4-5 white couples, the audience was exclusively Indians. There were no applause or standing ovations during or after the movie. Audience chuckled at couple of funny scenes but audience otherwise remained grim and stunned throughout the movie. Acting from Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor stood out. But overall, the movie did not.

I found this movie to be extremely dark, depressing, over the top, manipulative, contrived, implausible, stereo-typical and typical fare western audiences have come to expect about India. There is hardly any redeeming value or ray of hope in the plot, characters or theme of the movie. There is nothing in the movie that we have not seen or read before in countless poverty-propaganda paddled over decades. It has no novelty except for people getting bored with India's new-found image as a nation making the big moves on all fronts.

There is not a single positive or uplifting scene, not a single positive or redeemable character in the whole of the movie. And this movie is teeming with characters, at their seediest worst and most violent to their core. Even hero and heroines are not spared. They are not your Bolywood type garden variety characters one could identify and sympathize with. I know I would not take them home. How can a Mumbai of such an immense size and scope not have a single person who has positive or redeeming character? And yet, how did our hero and heroine acquire so many middle class values and middle class ethics on which movie rests its plot and appeal to the audience? It is cheesy to use child protagonists to manipulate audience and exploit them to develop plots and characters that are highly implausible.

Here is a small sample of plots and characterizations that I found highly implausible.

(Jamal, our hero, and Salim are brothers growing up in the slums of Mumbai. Laita is their childhood slum buddy and adult Jamal's love interest)

1) Jamal, a chai boy, speaks fluent English with western accent. Most Indians would envy his english. How did he got that smart and literate to read and speak? They are shown attending a slum school for a brief scene (where they had no clue which way to hold a book) when they were no more than 6-7yo, but to expect that they somehow became literate within such a short stay in school in grade 1 or 2, stretches credulity.

2) How did Jamal acquired middle-class values and ethics - willingness to commit, sacrifice for love, fidelity, aversion to greed, aversion to crime, desire to be ordinary. There is nothing in the whole movie to suggest the plausibility of such values upon his character.

3) Jamal falls in love for his childhood crush, Latika, who is now a prostitute and mistress. Jamal has very casual attitude towards money, ambition and success. He does not care for them. He is willing to hang it up all for Latica whom he barely knew as an adult. Nothing else matters in his life except Latika. That is a typical Bolywood separated-at-childhood, lost-and-found, middle-class yarn that seems superimposed on most improbable of characters here. What would make a prostitute, who would otherwise sell anything including her body and fidelity for money without flinching, fall for a loser who has no money, ambition, status or security in life? And why would a guy, who can probably fall for any of the millions of women in Mumbai, would fall for a prostitute or value her commitment that he would risk giving up everything for her? How and where did they acquire these 'love-fidelity-relationship-sacrifice' values considering what movie tells us about their upbringing? When did their transformation as lovers ever took place? The movie does not make any attempt to make it look real or plausible. Director thinks Bolywood crowd would lap it up anyway, while western audiences wouldn't care about such things anyway.

4) Latika was a mistress of a local don and Salim. She had a comfortable, disco and party, good life. She had access to power and money of underground don, and protection from Salim. Why would a prostitute give up everything for a slumdog? From where did she suddenly acquire her wannabe-lovergirl-housewife values? Jamal and Latika grew-up together as children only for a short period, and there were far more powerful forces in their subsequent life to give both of them their own orientation and trajectory in life. Sentimental childhood crush of age 6 do not wash as plausible. It was not plausible for adult of them to seek each other and fall in love with each other. How and why they got transformed into lovers is glossed over by the movie. For a love story, it is a major flaw.

5) Salim turns into a right-hand man of a local don while our hero toils as a Chai boy for a call center, the modern temple of easy money. How could our hero avoid the lure of easy money and crime when his brother could not? Surely, there must be something redeeming in the environment around Jamal to transmit those middle-class ethics and values into his otherwise depraved slum upbringing. But we do not get to see any of that in the movie. Not even a passing glimpse.

6)The movie shows the transformation of Salim into crime-dog. He becomes a right-hand man of a local don. You don't rise to such powerful position by having soft values like remorse, compassion, kindness, guilt, lack of loyalty etc. Than what made Salim hang it all up at the end without any rhyme or reason? Why sudden suicidal remorse or guilt? The movie does not dwell on such transformation of Salim. It looks contrived and manipulative for the sake of plot's climax.

7) How and when did Latika, a slum prostitute, learnt to drive a car? Even many of the middle class Mumbaikars do not. But who cares for details? In the west, nobody would question the poorest of poor driving a car.

This is not Mumbai that Mubaikars can recognize. They see slums and kids all the time. But they know there is lot more to slums and their Mumbai.

Response to Comments received:
==============================

"you think love, humanity, kindness, etc are "middle class values""

These values do not grow on trees. Somebody in the society has to nourish, uphold and sustain them. Like religion can't be had on empty stomach, certain values are the province of well-fed class. Filthy rich class can afford them but they can also afford to live without them. Slumdog class badly needs them but most of them can not afford to have them due to daily grind for survival at sub-human levels. It does not mean no slumdogs can have them. Because in the city like Mumbai, all classes exist side by side and their world mingle on a daily basis - and people from any class or strata therefore can absorb values from their environment. However, this movie does not show values and classes mingling. The cosmopolitan environment, other than its physical landscapes, is missing from the script and characters. It paints a bleak one dimensional canvass of slumdog world in which no other classes, values or shades of characters intersect and yet protagonists acquire certain redeeming values as if by miracles. The movie failed to dwell on the source of their miracles, hope. It would have benefited all slumdogs, not just Jamal. All slumdogs are not likely to get invited on game shows to make it. Than why give them pipe dreams if you are not going to show them a way? Turn them into Salim, is that the final answer? This movie flunks the answer. That is why I called it a dark, bleak movie without any redeeming value.

"Do you actually believe that people cannot feel love or be compassionate or kind? these are really not values that need to be taught, these are innate human qualities. yes, sure, some people have them beaten out of them or lose hope but really, most people want to be good."

There is nothing innate or inevitable about values. We are not talking genetics or biology here. People are certainly not born with values. People absorb them from their environment. Environment makes them available to the people. Both positive and negative people and values exist in the environment. But it is redeeming values and positive characters found in the environment that create the source of hope, optimism, and triumph over the negatives and hopelessness. If you exclude them from the scripted worldview, than there is no
plausibility of hope left for the hopeless except perhaps equally impossible odds of winning lotto or game shows - winning the affections of prostitutes certainly looks plausible - but in all likelihood, it seals the fate down to the path of Salim that is not going to be remorseful as fictional Salim is in the movie.

I do understand the movie's POV - that we all are born with innate values but environment beats them out of people because of dehumanizing circumstances, and movie sets out to showcase exactly that - paint the environment as the villain thru its exclusionary, one-dimensional, bleak and violent take of the environment, people and their lack of values - and celebrates the triumph of spirit of Jamal and Latika. They won, we are told, because they already had it in them. Therefore, movie has no obligation to show anybody/anything else in a positive light or in a redeeming way. The movie paints a caricature of values, hope, luck, Mumbai slums and people in general. It is a different Mumbai, far opposite of mumbai of Salaam Bombay.

Artsy folks and critics circles usually dig this kind of trash. The movie producer wisely chose to take it directly to them to have them put in a good spin and buzz for the movie. He knows that the quickest way to become celebrity and win awards in the west is to peddle poverty and trash of India, and if one insults Indians or Hindus along the way, even India's i-am-so-ashamed-of-India elites would break out into triumphalist song and dance number.

#16
Aditi N
January 15, 2009
07:59 PM

Chandra: Big B essentially is implying that the global attention SM is getting is only becoz a Westerner made a movie about the dirty underbelly of the third world. Portrayal of pverty elsewhere in the world would not get such recognition. That provides the premise for the first half of my article.

Second, he voices what sounds to me like a complaint that commercial filmmakers have not received the kind of accolades from the west that the likes of Satyajit Ray has. The simple answer is that Ray made films which moved you, irrespective of where in the world one was. Commercial films are not made with the intention of generating worldwide critical acclaim. They are made specifically to earn the big bucks and like you said have no global appeal. So for AB to bring that up and compare it to Ray's work or to SM was just weird and kinda dumb.

He should also know that Golden Globes or Oscars are similarly dismissive of the commercial chick-flicks made in the US, not just those made in India.

I could've made these arguments better if this weren't a satirical article. But frankly, this whole "Westerners portray India in a bad light" crap is so old that satire is all I could give it.

#17
smallsquirrel
January 15, 2009
08:01 PM

clearly I meant descent and cannot type. LOL

#18
Lee
January 16, 2009
01:08 AM

Here is Amitabh's response in his blog:

What a colossal joke this is all turning out to be !! Without reading the text of my blog or the purpose behind mention of 'SlumDog' an entire machinery of abuse has been directed towards me.

Fact is. Some one mentioned the film on my blog. Some expressed opinion for it, some against. And yes they contained some strong assumptions. I merely put both of them up and invited debate. I have done this many times on several issues and there has been great involvement. Media, in India has taken the pros and cons of OTHERS, as MINE, built their headlines and put it safely out, thereby, causing the consternation. All the expressions that have been attributed to me are in fact the expressions of others. Or perceived impressions of others. Where is the indication that this impression is concretely mine ? There is none !! And now after having castigated me for something not attributable to me, it has made my real opinion on the film after seeing it, impossible. If I do not like it there will be greater abuse. If I like it, there will be abuse.

My apologies therefore, on this unfortunate and completely misguided occurrence. May peace prevail and prosperity follow.

It is the most convenient and easiest practice to twist and distort words, especially if they come from celebrities. The copy makes good reading. Media did just that and made a screaming headline - 'AB slams Slum'. Note the use of word 'slam'. It is nowhere in my blog, but has been deliberately put because it rhymes and reads well with the word 'slum'. Headline structured, editorial happy and to hell with its truth and authenticity.

http://bigb.bigadda.com/2009/01/16/day-267/#comments

Does anyone want to offer him an apology? I bet not since they will find some way to twist his words again or give some new interpretation.

#19
sanjeevani
January 16, 2009
01:10 AM

Hey Aditi , nice one if you liked the movie, try the book too its real good :)

#20
bob
January 16, 2009
01:27 AM

smallsquirrel #8 said

"He's pissed his 300,000 movies were not overseas hits. that is why Big B cares about this"

If by "overseas" you mean west Europe and the Americas then yes his movies were not hits. But he was successful in east Europe (no Hollywood during the Cold War), the Arab world, and Africa. BBC's actor of the millennium.

Anyways, I was hoping if anyone could enlighten us (or maybe someone already has in the previous posts) as to whether or not the movie will be re-edited for the Indian audience.



SPOILER ALERT!!

Someone told me that there were some grumblings about the portrayal of Hindu mobs killing Muslims in the film. Can anyone confirm this?

#21
blokesablogin
January 16, 2009
01:44 AM

Bob- yes indeed- and that can be aggravating. But then the brits do it so well- the way they enthuse about India and then set it up to "fail"- they have done it successfully for over 200 years and we continue to lap it up and get feverish in our "response"! LOL! exactly the "response they want!
We need to recognize instead that we are the only ancient civilization on the planet that still lives with its unique identity inspite the "invasions" and the conscious "attack" on its "culture" and "tradition"- whatever those words in quotations mean- to each one of us!LOL!
Great piece Aditi! I loved the satire- truly tongue in cheek.

#22
Deepti Lamba
January 16, 2009
02:17 AM

Frankly I think Big B wants to hide our poor relatives. Problem is there are so many of them crawling around that we have no space to hide them.

He seems to suffer fro inferiority complex about our nation.

Dunno why we are so caught up with what the West thinks of us. We are what we are; take it or leave it.

#23
Ritu
URL
January 16, 2009
03:45 AM

Aditi, if you remember Mrs Nargis Dutt had made a similar remark about Satyajit Ray. What Mrs Dutt missed and what Mr B (who is afterall her protegee) miss the triumph of human spirit and the celebration of life in these films. You can choose to see the crap covering the child or you can see the glint in his eyes when he gets (ironically)Mr B's autograph.

#24
Anamika
January 16, 2009
04:39 AM

Ayan: So according to that logic as long as there are human beings having sex, there will be "porn"? Just as sex does not equal porn, poverty does not equal poverty-porn.

Aditi, I am not trying to "hide" poverty. On the other hand, the cheerleaders for SM are silencing debate by suggesting any criticism of the film's politics is "elitist" and intended to hide poverty in India. It has - so far - as seen from even this thread proven an effective strategy.

I am simply pointing out that there is a built in bias on what gets qualified as "world-class" in favour of western filmmakers/novelists who represent the developing world through well established political and aesthetic filters, while equally great work of filmmakers from developing countries is ignored as "not good enough" or worse still "not universal" (even some comments on this thread have suggested this).

Same has been said about films on terrorism. And strangely enough, Maachis, Rang de Basanti, Roja are considered extremely hard-hitting examples of terrorism films by films scholars who are familiar with them. In fact most film students and scholars are stunned by Rang de Basanti (as was case at a film fest in London that had a discussion group attached) and the consensus at the end of the session was that "the West couldn't make a film that was so complex." So lets not simply dismiss 100 years of filmmaking in India.

Poverty porn is western tourists flocking to Brazilian favelas as part of the tourist trails. And poverty porn is exploiting in art the misery of a people who cannot fight back, and removing even a basic sense of agency. And SM fits that category very well, alongside films like Kite Runner and (in a different context) Blood Diamonds.

Film scholars Ella Shohat and Robert Stam have detailed how Hollywood "erases" specificities to artificialise ethnic/cultural identities, thus rendering the non-western other as a generic type (I wont go into the very complex argument and the 100 year trajectory of examples they use). Use of white actors to play "ethnic" types or the use of "wrong" ethnicities are two of the key areas in this debate. Funny then how Boyle relies on second generation Indians to play "slum" kids so his film can be "universal." Guess those pesky Mumbaikar accents wouldn't translate well into international awards!!!

Meanwhile, funny how so many comments are about how AB is bitter because his flicks aren't overseas success. Assuming that you step outside western Europe and middle America (and the mainstream press in these countries), AB is legend in places of the world that won't recognise Brad Pitt. His face is plastered on shops in Marrakesh, Timbuktu, Harare. And if there was someone who could have pointed out the inherent bias - and admittedly he didn't do it very well - it was AB.

One final point: Boyle may be a talented filmmaker, and may make "quality" cinema but it does not mean his films (and specifically SM) does not have ideological agenda or problems. To use his "talent" as an out-clause ignores the fact that DW Griffiths and Leni Reifenstahl are considered two of 20th century's greatest filmmakers, but no one would not take issue with the politics of their films today.

#25
Ritu
URL
January 16, 2009
05:06 AM

Honestly, SM is a fantasy with chunks of escapism. We should see the film from that perspective. I think we are reading as much into it because DB is a westerner. If it had been made by an Indian I doubt there would have been the brouhaha.

#26
Anindo
January 16, 2009
05:53 AM

"What Mrs Dutt missed and what Mr B (who is afterall her protegee) miss the triumph of human spirit and the celebration of life in these films."

Love it or hate it, let us not use these cliches in the debate.

Regards,
Aninda

#27
Ayan Roy
January 16, 2009
09:12 AM

I don't think there is going to be any consensus on this. I can't change anybody's way of thinking, feeling and perceiving things, and I won't force anybody to look at things the way I do..
I would rahter channelize my energies on trying my best to eradicate the teeming poverty in my country..

Let's just say that there are some people in the world who look at the glass half full, and try to find good in the most lowly, mediocre stuff; and there are some who look at the glass half empty, are supercritical of everything and try to find fault in everything around them (without actually doing something substantial to rectify the so called perceived faults).

I firmly belong to the optimistic half 95% of the time.

Love and peace to all,
Ayan

#28
Mrv
January 16, 2009
09:39 AM

Bachchan is right for once. I have nothing against portrayal of slums in movies. That is the reality and when portrayed in Indian movies it is a part of the national conversation to improve the life of Indians. But let's not be naive in thinking that that is what is happening in the case of Slumdog. I was in the theater yesterday and I walked away after the first half-an-hour because I was feeling a plethora of emotions - anger, frustration, sadness and most of all utter disappointment because Indian actors, the Indian government and the Indian industry participated in this horrendous effort to blast India back to the dark ages.

It is not a realistic effort to portray the situation with respect to poverty in India. It bombards you with a visceral display of the worst of the worst in the Indian slums. It portrays Muslims in India as being constantly ill-treated by Hindus, Indian policemen (again Hindus) as torturers, Indian families as abusive and unwilling to share even a roti with a poor child.
It is an underhanded attempt to influence world opinion against India and the Hindu religion expressly. You can expect that the next time there is a bombing in India, this movie will be used as an excuse. If such a movie had been made about Europeans or United States, not only would that movie have not seen light of day but the movie maker would not have been able to make another movie in his lifetime.

#29
Aditi N
January 16, 2009
09:56 AM

Anamika: Like Ayan said there will be no consensus on this issue. Its just a different philosophy. And we will just have to agree to disagree.

I can only say one thing that sums up the debate for me: when I see street-kids, I don't see poverty. I see endearing faces and interesting lives. Can you imagine how boxed up and compartmentalized our lives were when we were kids. At least mine was. There was no adventure. My adventure was through these kids on the streets in Mumbai who would some times join us during our gully-cricket games. While I sat with my parents in a nice little frock on a railway station, these kids brought us cutting-chai. They giggled, sang songs and ran around on railway platforms as if it were a playground. And I spent an entire childhood wanting to be them never being completely aware of how difficult their lives must've been. The crowded locals of Mumbai is where I spent a good part of my day commuting. I loved it. So when Danny Boyle puts these things about Mumbai in a film, they remind me of the good days. I just don't see it as "poverty/ ugliness". I see the film as true snapshots of a city I love. Most people from Mumbai will never see "poverty porn" in street children, slums and railway stations. Those are integral parts of Mumbai.

As for Lee: nobody owes AB any apologies on this thread. My article (if you've actually read it) does not say that AB slams Slumdog. It merely pokes fun at the obvious complains of "Westerner's perspective gets accolades but commercial films don't" that are glaringly detectable in Bachchan's blog.

#30
anon
January 16, 2009
10:09 AM

Great points anamika. I fully agree with you.

#31
Lee
January 16, 2009
11:29 AM

As for Lee: nobody owes AB any apologies on this thread. My article (if you've actually read it) does not say that AB slams Slumdog. It merely pokes fun at the obvious complains of "Westerner's perspective gets accolades but commercial films don't" that are glaringly detectable in Bachchan's blog.

You did more than poke fun at AB. Your commentary including attacks on him (and his bahu)which were uncalled for in my opinion. Now that you realized those were not his comments but a compilation of comments from people on his blog I see no backtracking from you which is typical. Never admit you are wrong and your opinion is always right.

#32
Lee
January 16, 2009
11:31 AM

As for Lee: nobody owes AB any apologies on this thread. My article (if you've actually read it) does not say that AB slams Slumdog. It merely pokes fun at the obvious complains of "Westerner's perspective gets accolades but commercial films don't" that are glaringly detectable in Bachchan's blog.

You did more than poke fun at AB. Your commentary including attacks on him (and his bahu)which were uncalled for in my opinion. Now that you realized those were not his comments but a compilation of comments from people on his blog I see no backtracking from you which is typical. Never admit you are wrong and your opinion is always right.

#33
Aditi N
January 16, 2009
11:38 AM

Lee: If you think these are attacks then you have heightened sensitivities as far as Bachchan and AR are concerned. You should not read my articles. You are just setting yourself up for more hurt. Also, the above post is not a commentary.

BTW there is no right or wrong as far as opinions are concerned. I won't apologize for my opinions just as I don't expect you to apologize for having your own very different opinions.

If you know that its very "typical" of me to not admit when I'm wrong, why do you waste your breath arguing?

#34
Anamika
January 16, 2009
12:18 PM

Aditi - I think we are talking at cross purposes here. Its what I said to Ayan earlier in a slightly different way so let me try again: sex does not equal porn, right?

Same goes for poverty. I grew up in a small town in UP and still work with disadvantaged kids in my region. I am very familiar with both rural and urban poverty. And I agree with you that seeing little kids playing on the street or working in the dhaba or fields is not porn. They have a spirit that is quite indomitable - that is really where you see ongoing "resilience" that gets talked about after every national tragedy on a daily basis.

However when that poverty is exploited in a novel or film in ways that are politically problematic as is the case with SM: ie, erasure of cultural/linguistic specificities of the actors, an authorial disconnect with the context, lack of agency in representation on part of those who are being represented (in this case, the "slumdogs"), and fetishization of cultural products and aesthetic norms, then that representation is porn. In this case, poverty porn.

I have followed SM for a few months now, saw it during its early outing on the festival circuit and continue to be disturbed by the way it has been portrayed by western media (and the director himself) as somehow "more real than anything Indians produce" and thus more "authentic."

I am also concerned by the way the critique of the film has been silenced by labelling it as emanating from the following dubious categories: "patriotic", "Indian middle-class or elites" and so forth.

This was one reason I found Alice Miles' article in the Times about the film so refreshing.

#35
Lee
January 16, 2009
12:37 PM

So now I'm too sensitive to read your blog. You were wrong about AB making negative comments about Slumdog and with your typical arrogance you refuse to admit it. Instead you are attacking me - a good Karl Rove defense.

I see you say "Personal attacks are not allowed." We would not want to hurt your sensitive feelings now would we? But public figures I guess have no feelings so we are allowed to makeup stories or put words in their mouth.

#36
Aditi N
January 16, 2009
12:53 PM

Anamika: Comment 35 "However when that poverty is exploited in a novel or film ....poverty porn"


The fundamental issue is who gets to decide if its being exploited or not? When presenting a story to a global audience, filmmaking 101 would demand that a story not be turned into a cultural crash course. If a filmmaker generously incorporates cultural details and sticks to linguistic specificities then he will do two disservices to the film: first, the plot gets lost if the film is overwhelmed by the context and the backdrop and second, he loses out on the international audience who may not be too keen on watching a foreign film w/ subtitles. So all in all a great story is reduced to yet another indie- film that failed to make its mark.

This not just Danny Boyle's or a "Westerner's" dilemma when it comes to filmmaking. A lot of filmmakers who want to showcase a story set in India but want a global audience to see it and relate to it, face this quandary.

Amu, The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding are all terrific films and are in English but we would not mete it the same criticism as SM because the filmmaker is Indian. Its just plain prejudice. You see Boyle's SM as poverty porn because you want to and because its Boyle. If it were Mira Nair, people would likely acknowledge the finnesse of the story-telling without being so miffed over linguistic and cultural specificities.

As I said, we will just have to agree to disagree.

Now regarding your statement about the "western media" and the director: I have yet to see Boyle issue any statements comparing his work with that of any Indian films. As far as "media" is concerned, it depends on whose stuff you are reading. I am not a westerner. As an Indian, I too feel that SM seems more authentic than a lot of the run of the mill Hindi films made every year. The later just lack global appeal. We can all just vehemently deny it and get all pissed about it but its true. Even our most critically acclaimed films are copies: Chake De (Miracle), Black(The Miracle Worker). Where is the originality and authenticity that we want to brag about so much?

#37
Aditi N
January 16, 2009
12:58 PM

Lee: If Amitabh Bachchan's feelings are hurt, let him write to us at DC and I will say something to make him feel better. Public figures do have feelings. Its just that in my arrogance I completely ignore ordinary folks who take it up on themselves to defend their feelings.

#38
commonsense
January 16, 2009
01:24 PM

AN:

"I have yet to see Boyle issue any statements comparing his work with that of any Indian films."

this issue is certainly at a Boyle-ing point now.

#39
commonsense
January 16, 2009
01:27 PM

Mrv:

"If such a movie had been made about Europeans or United States, not only would that movie have not seen light of day but the movie maker would not have been able to make another movie in his lifetime."

absolutely, totally untrue. need examples? too many to list, so do your own homework.

#40
Dee
January 16, 2009
04:27 PM

If slumdog was amde for an Indian audience, it would have gone unnoticed. Bollywood has the talent in it's actors, writers,producewrs and directors to produce SERIUOSLY good movies ( " Black Friday", anyone?)

Instead, we get fed the drivel and utter bakwaas of love triangles and pathetic love stores that 'feed' the masses of Indian cinema.

what a shame that the movies like " Black Friday" are over shadowed by an Indian film industry that produces for the main parft...uteer and complete garbage..and thats being polite.

As for Mr B's neghative comments, he is just sour that he had no part in Slumdog and that his own hollywood aspirations are literally over after the shambolic and laughable attempt to make a movie out of the wonderful novel " Shantaram".

The biggest tragedy for me is if some Bollywood producer makes "Shantaram" and then ruins it with BS singing and dancing every 5 minutes :-(

#41
Slime_id
January 16, 2009
06:34 PM

Slumdog! yes India has so many Slums and dogs . Gosh some of boys and girls are not even adults.

Does anyone in India care? We need more of these movies for people out in DC to start highlight the problem of hunger, pre-employment, education for these children who are immensely talented.

#42
Ruchika Muchhala
URL
January 16, 2009
11:16 PM

hey there.. I just wrote a blog about SM success as well.. please check it out on Channel 19 - www.ch19.org .. basically, I was talking about how its actually refreshing to see that a "foreign" director such as Danny Boyle has decided to bypass the images in the Travel magazine on the airplane (as Aditi referred to her in blog) and went on to show the slums, the crowds of poor people, the traffic jams. This is reality on screen and a fiction story was told in this setting.. which is rather refreshing.
It also depicts the lives of so many in India and its a perspective we don't really get to see.
Yes, why depict India as the place of the "underbelly" all countries have that.. but you know, someones gotta do it and I'm glad that this film can bring about more awareness of the people who are the majority in huge urban centers such as Mumbai.. these are the people who have some really interesting stories to tell, but no one listens. Please do check out the work of our community producers who are in Mumbai as well as other cities and villages in India!

#43
Ledzius
January 17, 2009
12:28 AM

Dee #22- "Dunno why we are so caught up with what the West thinks of us. We are what we are; take it or leave it. "

I agree. I don't care about this crap one way or the other.

#44
Mumbai
URL
January 17, 2009
12:36 PM



I saw Slumdog Millionaire today. Boyle has really done a good job with this movie. While the movie deals with the gory details of the underbelly of Mumbai, it doesnt really leave you with a sick feeling. The story feels like a commentary and at the end you just feel good about the whole movie. Very well done I must say.

The music score by Rehman is amazing, the actors who played junior Jamal and Salim were the real stars. They were simply too good.

#45
Just A Thought
URL
January 18, 2009
03:12 AM

I adore this satirical piece. A standing ovation ADITI NADKARNI.

And to all Bachchan Fans, one question: IF, INSTEAD OF ANIL KAPOOR, AMITABH BACHCHAN WAS STARRED IN THE FILM, WOULD HE (AB) HAVE RUBBISHED THE CINEMATIC CREDIBILITY OF SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE LIKE HE SO ELOQUENTLY DID?

Start reading psychology books, Mr. Bachchan!

#46
Just A Thought
URL
January 18, 2009
03:12 AM

I adore this satirical piece. A standing ovation for ADITI NADKARNI.

And to all Bachchan Fans, one question: IF, INSTEAD OF ANIL KAPOOR, AMITABH BACHCHAN WAS STARRED IN THE FILM, WOULD HE (AB) HAVE RUBBISHED THE CINEMATIC CREDIBILITY OF SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE LIKE HE SO ELOQUENTLY DID?

Start reading psychology books, Mr. Bachchan!

#47
kerty
January 18, 2009
01:11 PM

The only people raking in millions are no slumdogs, but makers of this exploitation cinema. If they have any human decency, they should donate the proceeds of this movie to improve the conditions in slums. BTW, Anil Kapoor has donated his fees for such a cause. Danny Boyle team should do the same. They already earned the name and fame, let the money go to real slumdogs. Lets see who is really cheating in this game of making millions.

#48
Aditi N
January 18, 2009
02:17 PM

kerty: "If they have any human decency, they should donate the proceeds of this movie to improve the conditions in slums"

Yes, because that is precisely what Bollywood filmmakers do every time their films "rake in millions". Right? I mean look at all our Bollywood stars. They routinely all donate fractions of their film proceeds to the benefit of street children! Don't they? :) Oh but wait, they don't make exploitative cinema...just escapist cinema which hides all the rags and street-kids. So they probably don't owe the street children a penny. Yeah, makes so much sense! :)

BTW there is no data to show the Slumdog is a commercial success. Directing a film that generates critical acclaim does not mean that Danny Boyle is now showering in gold. :)

Now most importantly, even though the director isn't the one who "makes millions" when a film succeeds (the producers and distributors are), Danny Boyle is still doing his bit:

http://www.looktothestars.org/news/1852-danny-boyle-gives-back-to-young-actors-in-india

#49
kerty
January 18, 2009
02:37 PM

"Danny Boyle is still doing his bit: http://www.looktothestars.org/news/1852-danny-boyle-gives-back-to-young-actors-in-india"

Most movie makers share the booty with their film crew. Paying school fees for handful of child actors used by Danny is hardly doing his bit.

Anil Kapoor on the other hand has donated his fees for Delhi based NGO working for child development.

Here is PTI report about Anil Kapoor's gesture:

"I have been associated with Plan India for the last three years. The NGO is involved in creating awareness about birth registration, working against child abuse, trafficking, education and rehabilitating deprived children," Kapoor told PTI., 49, told PTI here today.

Kapoor said that he had decided to donate his entire fee for Slumdog Millionaire to the NGO much before the film was released and appreciated.

"I think it is the good wishes and blessings of the children that were instrumental in the success of the film."

#50
Aditi N
January 18, 2009
02:46 PM

So we really are beggars then? We do need the "West" to pay us if at all they exploit our street-children and our poverty. We definitely cannot do it on our own. Our government, our NGOs, our actors, our film industry doesn't do it/ cannot do it. So Danny Boyle should do more. After all there has to be a price for exploiting poverty, no?

I agree with you kerty. Danny Boyle should pay up for "using our poverty".

Its a good thing Boyle got the realism right. Beggars galore.

#51
kerty
January 18, 2009
03:38 PM

Deepti

"He seems to suffer fro inferiority complex about our nation."

Unfortunately, some people derive their own self-worth, self-righteousness and moral superiority by showcasing the gutters and underbellies of India. Miss Mayo's school of yellow journalism, which Gandhi labeled as Gutter inspectors, has since descended in the literary and filmy Duniya as an exploitation genre, and the awards and recognitions from the west usually descend on them, and our anglo-Indian psycophants simply lap it up and wear it as a badge of honor. In the end, it is all about power and politics, not about poor, poverty or slumdogs. We have seen leftists talk about poors and poverty for decades while poverty kept multiplying many fold and so did their power over national discourse and polity. Anybody who dared to criticize exploitation of poverty got self-righteous spanking, like the ones we are getting on the wake of slumdog. As Danny boys romp thru tinsel towns in tuxedos, collecting trophies and cool millions, can we not wonder who really won the final answer and what have they got to do with slumdogs of India?

#52
kerty
January 18, 2009
04:45 PM

"So we really are beggars then? We do need the "West" to pay us if at all they exploit our street-children and our poverty."

In the colonial script, we get fake millions, they get real millions. We get pipe dreams of becoming millionaires, they get to be millionaire for real.

Why sudden fascination with Indian poverty in the west? At the bottom of it is the power politics of vying economic models and their supremacy. As both socialism and capitalism have come to the brink in the west, they both are seeking to revive their mandates in the west and in India.

If you recall, when India was struggling to determine its economic model during post-independent India, Satyajit Ray was elevated to a demi-godhead and the poverty propaganda had found a eager forum in the west. Satyajit Ray and his exploitation cinema was merely a tool of global power politics.

When leftists needed to transplant hope to the hopeless violent slums of Latin America and elsewhere, suddenly Indian slums had found a positive uplifting focus.

When western forums focus on India's poverty, be always be wary, for the focus shifts on it only when west needs to preempt something, when it is seeking to usher in something self-serving and exploitative. West is worried as global movements of socialism and capitalism falter in the west, that India and china might lead an exodus of all other nations to create their own independent economic paradigms, hence west desperately needs to revive and regroup traditional western ideological allies to checkmate and preempt the alternatives that would not serve western interests. The crowning of slumdog is a rallying cry for unifying the stooges and allies for the challenges ahead as their messiah takes the rein of world. The movie opens with a battle cry sung by MIA, who specializes in rap lyrics in support of revolution, terrorism and political upheavals and the movie ends with triumphalist 'Jai Ho'. This is the track that won best music awards. Its rich symbolism is not lost on us poor folks.

#53
Just A Thought
URL
January 18, 2009
11:57 PM

ADITI, you're just great in answering all of KERTY's unintelligent questions.

KERTY, if Danny Boyle needs to pay all those "real slumdogs" is it not fair enough for every Indian director to pay all those people whose lives they portrayed in their own films? Good example done by Anil Kapoor! So, let's say, Abhishek Bachchan giving a portion of his pay to the Ambanis for portraying the lead role in Guru? Did he do it? Did Bhansali pay every blind individual in the world for having been honored for his movie Black? If he didn't I would say, you considered Bhansali a cheater and exploitative of others? OR you would admit that your idea of exploitation is it just plain stupid? Now, who's been blinded in his/her opinion? Amitabh Bachchan did a derogatory remark about Slumdog Millionaire because he is human after all.

I just wonder what would have been Mr. Bachchan's critique of Slumdog Millionaire, had he been given a part in the movie (instead of Anil)? Would he have said what he said about Slumdog Millionaire if he was strutting like a peacock on the red carpet at the Golden Globes and rubbing elbows with the who's who of Hollywood? A VERY POSITIVE REMARK FROM Mr. Bachchan, perhaps? Something like, "It was one of the best films I've had the honor to be in. Maybe all the stars are smiling down on me to be this fortunate in life."

KERTY, it's a simple logic about human beings. And everybody understands it.

#54
Lee
January 19, 2009
10:43 PM

The people on this forum are educated fools. You are castigating Bachchan for comments he DID NOT SAY. Apparently none of you bothered to read his blog but feel comfortable bashing him for a false story because then you can feel better about yourselves. Pathetic

#55
Just A Thought
URL
January 19, 2009
11:55 PM

Is that so, LEE? Just because Mr. Bachchan retracted after he received many unfavorable comments from his readers, you quantified that as "comments HE DID NOT SAY"? That's so funny 'cos Mr. Bachchan did not eloquently say so, that the derogatory remark's that of other people's making when he first published his blog entry about SM. Considering how eloquent he is!

So, answer my question, what would have been the reaction of Mr. Bahchcan on SM, was he given the opportunity to star in it? OVERLY FAVORABLE, perhaps? Now, who's fool enough to believe him? How about his questioning of the credibility of Cannes, Berlin, and Venice Film Festivals? I suppose that didn't come from him, too?

I am a fool and I feel good about myself after I castigate Mr. Bachchan for COMMENTS HE DID NOT SAY. ROFL!

#56
Lee
January 22, 2009
08:06 PM

The comments were quotes from people posting on his blog which if you read his blog on a regular basis you would know. But since you only want to bash him although he has not expressed a comment on the movie, carry on with your self-righteous comments.

For your information, Bachchan gave Boyle permission to use his name and image in the movie. So obviously he does not have a problem with the director.

BTW, he did not question the credibility of those festivals. That is your interpretation of the comments posted. You are projecting onto him what you think he believes. Obviously you are a Bachchan 'hater' so you will find or create an issue where none exists.




#57
Aditi N
January 22, 2009
10:23 PM

I would really like people who read this satirical piece and enjoyed it to read this following article. Very well-written and gets the point across by turning the tables on the whole "Western portrayal of India" argument:

http://www.livemint.com/2009/01/22214857/An-open-letter-to-Amitabh-Bach.html?h=B

#58
kerty
January 23, 2009
01:37 AM

India has made tons of movies. It is a home of second largest film Industry in the world. Though most of its movies are formulic and pedestrian breed but many are not, and some them have been definitely far better than SM, but international critics have rarely blinked at them even when Indian critics have lauded these flicks at high pitch. So when out of the blue, a flick like SM is put on a lofty pedestal, few questions naturally arise. What has made SM stand out from all other good movies? SM too is a typical Masala flick. What is so special about SM which other movies did not have?

When one cuts thru all the BS about BD's SM, only two things stand out:

1) That it is made by westerners.
2) That it showcases India's underbelly in a most gratuitous manner.

There is no other compelling explanation or reason for SM's astounding recognition at international level. None of these issues would have arisen if SM had come and gone like countless other good masala movies. It would not have raised so many questions and eyebrows. But those who chose this movie over other movies and chose to put it on high pedestal tried to make a statement. People are scratching their head, trying to figure out why this particular movie, of all the movies. Its like when you are running for small time office, people are going to overlook a lot, but same people would raise tough questions about you when you are running for the highest office. SM is now facing the critical glare in India because SM has been singled out and put on an international pedestal. The only plausible answers that stare in the face is that SM is made by foreigners and it successfully exploits India's underbelly. There is not other explanation for its exulted status over all other movies. Many people find that to be very offensive. Many people find SM's content too to be offensive no less, but that is a separate issue I had addressed in other posts.

#59
Deepti Lamba
URL
January 23, 2009
02:33 AM

Kerty regarding Comment#51 that wasn't me. I always comment under my full name.

#60
kerty
January 23, 2009
07:29 AM

Deepti

#51 was in response to #22

#61
kerty
January 23, 2009
07:35 AM

Deepti

#51 was in response to #22

#62
Deepti Lamba
January 23, 2009
08:46 AM

Kerty, Dee can be Deepika, Deepa, Deepali etc. Till the time we have it clear it wasn't me its of little consequence:)

#63
anon
January 23, 2009
08:47 AM

I agree with kerty. About time we Indians stopped looking up to the West for recognition. SD Millionaire is good but not extraordinary. One other reason could be because we don't send our best movies to the Oscars. There is a lot of politics and lobbying involved and regional language movies sometimes get sidelined for Bollwood trash and even good movies within Bollywood don't get a chance because of biased selection.

#64
Deepti Lamba
January 23, 2009
08:47 AM

Oh! my bad!

#65
Aditi N
January 23, 2009
09:55 AM

Anon: "I agree with kerty. About time we Indians stopped looking up to the West for recognition. SD Millionaire is good but not extraordinary. One other reason could be because we don't send our best movies to the Oscars"

Do you think that maybe the best films are not sent for Oscar consideration because just like you, the committee too thinks we should stop looking to the West for recognition and as a snub just submit crappy films for Oscar consideration? Maybe the first part of your comment is the rationale for the latter half.

Because if you look at the films sent for Oscars, its almost as if they were trying to not only snub Oscars but get the last laugh out of the whole thing. They actually sent Jeans to the Oscars. That has to be a joke. :)

P.S The term "extraordinary" is subjective. Besides, when Bollywood gives us "good" are so thrilled with it and so grateful that a 20 crore set brought us the semblance of a storyline. So after numerous cliches and plagiarized plots manufactured in Bollywood, just "good" will do for us. Like someone here said our masses are not picky.

#66
commonsense
January 23, 2009
10:00 AM

"Anon: "I agree with kerty. About time we Indians stopped looking up to the West for recognition."

Ironically, this is an underhanded way of looking up to "the West" (whatever that means, ie. Switzerland, Sweden? Ireland? Italy? Spain? Greece?) for recognition, even though it is mis-recognized as something else.

#67
Just A Thought
URL
January 23, 2009
10:11 AM

KERTY,

Let us be specific. How do you categorize a film as "made by westerners"?

Now, I would like to point out that your notion that SM's recognition's solely based on the fact that it was made by a white man is GRATUITOUS. The movie has merits that deserve to be lauded by international critics. It has substance and depth that maybe, the "many people who found it to be very offensive" did not see. SM is not an exploitation of "India's underbelly" but a portrayal of a simple man's zest to survive in a world that is far from perfect. It is a story of a TRIUMPHANT STRUGGLE of a boy to better himself in society. If it is anything, the movie is a universal story of courage, piety, and love THAT HAPPENS TO BE SET IN INDIA. It is not the actor nor the setting nor the director that truly defines a good movie. The substance of the story is what that truly counts.

Try to watch and analyze CIDADE DE DEUS. It was not made by a white man, but it was a critically accalaimed movie. The plot has similarities with SM but no Brazilian was offended in any way. Maybe, the people from Brazil saw something remarkable and inspiring in the movie that's beyond what's superficial - a story that transcends geography, race, religion, social status...

Belittling the cinematic credibility of SM on the reason that it was made by a white man is no more than being racist yourself.

#68
Just A Thought
URL
January 23, 2009
12:00 PM

LEE, 'self-righteous comments' and 'Bachchan hater', eh?

Now, has this argument turned into personal attacks on me?

Seems like you faithfully read his blog ON A REGULAR BASIS, will you be so kind to give me the page where I can find those people whose comments Mr. Bachchan so creatively put together for his Day 265 entry? I perused the comments for Day 264 (the entry before the controversial Slumdog Slamming), but it seems I can't find those people responsible for the derogatory comments about SM. Is it because Mr. Bachchan "interpreted the comments" posted by his readers? If that's the case, the entry for Day 265 was technically Mr. Bachchan's words?

LEE, you better start posting your proofs that Mr. Bachchan has nothing to do with those comments about SM 'cos I found one interesting "Bachchan Response" on that blog site of his that could have prompted him to write the Day 265 entry on SM.

You are just an overly emotional BACHCHAN SUPPORTER who is blinded by your adulation to your idol. I understand. This is critical argument and calling me a 'BACHCHAN HATER' without even knowing me personally, and branding my comments as 'SELF-RIGHTEOUS' are indications of desperation to salvage yourself from being called a fool. Ran out of ideas that you resulted to personal attacks instead?

LEE, your dirty tactic of naming calling is rather amusing. Would Mr. Bachchan be thankful to such a virtuous ardent supporter? As Indians always say, "CHILL, YAAR".

#69
anon
January 23, 2009
01:03 PM

Sure, Jeans is a crappy movie. No one disagrees with that.It got selected only because it was a commercial hit. I'd like to add Devdas to the list. :)
As I said before, SM is a good movie just like so many other movies made in India, in Hindi as well as the other regional languages. Good movies but nothing remarkable about them the same way SM is. But they would never get the recognition that SM got.That's my point. And poor selection by our film committee is not the only reason for that. Kerty has explained those other reasons very well.
Why aren't all movies at these Awards functions not put to the same standard? If "good" was enough for the jury, then why reject so many good movies coming from this country but shower a movie like SM with so many nominations and awards?
Haven't other Indian movies focused on slum and poverty? Is this the first time someone's talkiing about Indian slums? There are so many other gripping Indian movies which have focused on these very same issues in a much better way than Boyle. But they will never get the recognition that SM got. That is why I repeat Indians should stop looking up to the West for recognition and stop considering the Globes and the Oscar as a standard for world cinema. Because they are not.

#70
Aditi N
January 23, 2009
01:36 PM

anon: "If "good" was enough for the jury, then why reject so many good movies coming from this country but shower a movie like SM with so many nominations and awards?"

Like which ones? Care to list some examples of movies that were sent in from India which were realistic and "good" and that was ignored by the Oscar for completely illogical, seemingly sinister reasons?


simple answer is, SM was not submitted in the "international film" category. if it had been made and sent in as an international film, it would've not been allowed submission by the indian committee for consideration citing the age-old reason: We stop westerners portraying India in a poor light.

"Indians should stop looking up to the West for recognition and stop considering the Globes and the Oscar as a standard for world cinema. Because they are not"

Filmmaking is a universal language. It does not have borders and as such our filmmakers should ideally evaluate whether their stories and detail have global appeal especially if they are expecting critical acclaim. If you are urging Indian filmmakers to stop considering Globes and worlwide acclaim in making films, you should stop worrying. They already don't seem to care. Most Bollywood filmmakers don't care about any kind of critical accalim, worldwide or local. They just look for the big bucks.

#71
Just A Thought
URL
January 23, 2009
06:49 PM

ANON: ...Indians should stop looking up to the West for recognition and stop considering the Globes and the Oscar as a standard for world cinema.

SM is categorized as a BRITISH DRAMA FILM. It was recognized as such by the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and the Academy Awards and all the other 'WESTERN' award-giving ceremonies. So, why would it matter to Indians, if it was highly recognized in the 'WESTERN' hemisphere? A BRITISH FILM that's set in India can hardly be called an INDIAN FILM! Why bother comparing it to Indian ESCAPISM AND FANTASY movies?

The Killing Fields was a highly acclaimed BRITISH FILM DRAMA in the international circuit. It tells the story of a Cambodian journalist caught in the perils of the Khmer rule in Cambodia. Now, let me ask you, did Cambodians made a huge fuss over the movie because it's a highly regarded film - more recognized than any other film made out of Cambodia? Did Cambodians fight tooth-and-nail with every critic, the director, the producer, and anyone who appreciated the film because the movie portrayed Cambodians (the Khmers) in a bad light?

Danny Boyle made a wonderful adaptation of an inspiring Indian novel. But unfortunately, it was not well received by 'MANY' Indians because it 'GOES TO THE OTHER EXTREME - IT PORTRAYS EXCLUSIVELY THE UGLY, EVIL AND VIOLENT AND LEAVES OUT ALL THE POSITIVE AND REDEEMING SIDES OF MUMBAI AND MUMBAIKARS' (Kerty #4).

One advice: STOP WHINING OVER SOMETHING THAT IS NOT YOUR OWN. If you question the credibility of 'WESTERN' award-giving bodies, stop sending your films. SM doesn't count as your own! After all, one country won't be missed out. The rest of the world still believes in the honor handed out by the Oscars, the BAFTA, the Golden Globe, the Cannes, and every other 'WESTERN' film festivals.

The 'WEST' found something wonderful about DB's film; and they want to honor him for that!

Even Mr. Bachchan would be strutting like a peacock faster than the TGV, were he ever given the chance to be recognized by these prestigious award-giving bodies. What was he doing at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 anyway?

#72
kerty
January 23, 2009
10:35 PM

Mr. Beaufoy's own words on how the word 'Slumdog' came into existence.

The writer said "As part of my research, I was wandering in the slums. I was very intrigued by the cats and dogs wandering around there, who dared to be asleep in the sunshine. Though they do look carefree from the outside, they are watching everything from the rims of their eyes.

It is exactly like somebody who is apparently not worthy of an existence but is actually looking at everything and eyeing everything out. Just like the boy in the game show who knows everything not through intelligence but through experience. So, I just made up the word".

"A man from the slum is looked upon as someone who wants nothing and in order to say that, it is expressed in this kind of harsh way to make him feel like nothing. The film is not trying to say that a man living in a slum is a dog". This opinion was put forth by Loveleen Tandon, the co‑director of the flick.

Brits have long used "Dogs' as a slang for Indians. So it is natural for Brits to come up with the movie title that calls slum dwellers as 'slumdogs'. These guys are so cheap they did not spend on professional actors to play the kids, but rather exploited the slum kids on the cheap. Now that the movie is a commercial hit and in the media glare, the BD has come forth to pay for kid actors' schooling, as if it is the lack of school fees that keep these slum kids off the schools. Even after starring in this movie, the slum kid actors were still found sleeping in garbage dumps. After using them, they were dropped off right where they were found from.

#73
Aditi N
January 23, 2009
10:59 PM

Yes! That is what the film is! A British conspiracy to keep belittling Indians by calling them dogs! What villains...they made a whole film that too using a plot by an Indian writer just so they could call us "dogs". Damn those Brits.

And how dare they use our street kids? Only we get to use those. I mean who will polish our shoes and run to get our cutting-tea or wait tables at Udipi restaurants in Bombay or sweep local trains. This is the beautiful young age when they should be selling stuff at traffic signals and begging. Their dreams of acting in a film should not be realized because you know what that does...it only makes them hopeful. Cause all India has to offer them is "garbage dumps".

Boyle should've used professional actors so that we could then criticize him for not giving the poor street kids a chance.

We are so lucky to have you figure these things out for us kerty you shrewd shrewd fella you. Where would we Indians be without the likes of you? Or maybe we are where we currently are in the world because of the perennial freedom-fighters like you through whom India's independence struggle continues.

#74
kerty
January 23, 2009
11:44 PM

"Their dreams of acting in a film should not be realized because you know what that does...it only makes them hopeful. Cause all India has to offer them is "garbage dumps"."

And slumdog millionaire offers them a hope to win millions in a game show. What an uplifting feeling they should break out in Jai-ho item dance! Now that is hope millions of slumdogs can take home to their Latikas, nay, to their comfy garbage dumps, where BD promises to drop by again as a Messiah to save them out of slums with school fees.

India appears freed from western people, but not from western ideologies which continue to transform India into slums and Indians into dogs, albeit faithful ones, who are expected to wag their tails whenever western masters give out calls to fetch. This multiple choice bonanza of hope offers two destinies - slum dogs and running dogs. And some people have balls not joining the Jai-ho victory lap

#75
bharati
URL
January 24, 2009
02:57 AM

Interesting , not my forte area .However it is true that westerners are more comfertable interacting with poor of india then the middle class of India.

I had an experience in France of the similar type where a westerner was continously talkign of something called as true india and I said MADAME merely becuase I very weel have food to eat does not mean I am not true indian

I mean when will a Oscar accpet that story of middle class indian also tugs there heart stings

#76
sarah islam
URL
January 24, 2009
04:41 AM

I watched Slumdog last night. Although I can't say that the film blew me away but I have to say that the energy and hope was absolutely amazing!

I know now why the film has caught on so well with world audiences: it takes a heady story and shows it well! You tend to forget yourself while you are watching it and the characters are very real and you actually feel for them. Excellent casting!

I do not agree with people who say India's poverty is being exploited. Hello! we have poverty and there is nothing wrong in showing it. I think it's middle class folks like us who are kind of embarrassed by it. Dharavi has been shown with all the life, slime and energy that it has anyway.

Way to go! Looking forward to Resul and AR Rahman coming home with uncle oscar:-)Next year hopefully it will be another lot of Indians receiving the honours!

#77
anon
January 24, 2009
07:35 AM

If someone wants to read a different take on slumdog its here. No, I did not write it.http://greatbong.net/2008/12/29/slumdog-millionaire-the-review/#more-623

An excerpt from the review:


"Let's say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win "Beauty and Geek".

Even though each of these incidents have actually happened in the United States of America, I would be accused of spinning a fantastic yarn that has no grounding in reality, that has no connection to the "American experience" and my motivations would be questioned, no matter how cinematically spectacular I made my movie. At the very least, I wouldn't be on 94% on Tomatometer and a strong Oscar favorite."

#78
kerty
January 24, 2009
09:27 AM

Danny Boyle: "Whatever you call it, Mumbai or Bombay is not a city that can be manufactured on a set, It is not distinguished by its architecture, but by its atmosphere, its noise. "Slumdog Millionaire" captures all of that, though because it is a movie, it misses one thing that truly distinguishes Mumbai, the way it smells: part drying fish, part human waste"

So Mumbai is a human waste and its people are dogs. The movie maker wears it as badge of convictions and his movie wears it as badge of honor and world now wears it not as stereotypes but as solid reality that is backed up by non-morphed non-scripted images, and Indians are simply elated and grateful because the world has finally nodded in approval, and taken them to the highest recognition and accolades India has ever received. Oh, what Indians wouldn't do for Oscars.

#79
Aditi N
January 24, 2009
10:04 AM

Boyle has described the smell perfectly. Its astonishing that in Shantaram, Roberts also mentions this smell. I love that smell...drying fish and human waste. In Goregaon, its the cow dung from tabelas and in Byculla, on some streets its the smell of goat meat. In Dadar market, its the smell of rotting veggies. The whole coast of Bombay smells like dried fish and when traveling through the trains you can smell the garbage especially if its monsoon. Its an odd mix but when I come out of the airport and that smell greets me, I feel like I am home. :) I'm not embarrassed by it. Would I like cleaner roads and better smells in the city? Sure. But I don't expect Danny Boyle to come do it for us as we continue to let our government fail.

It is sad that while those who call themselves Indians are merely embarrassed by our "poverty", people from outside come in and manage to take in the essence of the city and are able to put it in words and cinematography without being apologetic about it and instead realizing that the uniqueness of a city does not lie in its tall buildings.

#80
Ledzius
January 24, 2009
10:20 AM

When we Indians start becoming so desperate that we start romanticizing all its filthy smells, I don't know what to say.

And yes, we wouldn't all be proud of being Indians if all the skyscrapers weren't merely a backdrop for all those sidewalks peppered with human waste.

#81
kerty
January 24, 2009
10:32 AM

Excrepts from Anand Girdhari's review in NY Times:

"It isn't about cows or cobras, a wedding or outsourcing; it isn't about gurus or Gandhi. "Slumdog Millionaire," in fact, may be the first world-traveling film about India in a generation to discard the old, smudged lenses for seeing this country."

It seems back to lenses of Satyajit Ray and looking India from the prism of its underbelly.

"But the film's freshness lies not just in how the West sees India. It lies, too, in how Indians see themselves. It portrays a changing India, with great realism"

So slums are changing face of India? No. that is what westerners would like India to be. That is not how Indians see themselves. There is lot more to India than slums. There is lot more to Slums than tin roofs, dirt and grime. There is lot more to slum dwellers than being caricatured as dogs and criminals.

"The director, Danny Boyle, shows us the many clamps on Indian selves. The arbitrary power of the police officer toward the citizen and the gangster toward the slum dweller. The schools where teachers throw books at students and lessons consist of choral echoing of the teacher's words. The slum where cooking and child-rearing and defecation are semi-public activities, and where it would be hard to develop the mental independence to question an arranged marriage or abuse by the better-born."

Self-respecting individuals and honorable families and cohesive communities are forged even in those tin roof habitats. They are no stray cats and dogs. However, people can be reduced stray dogs when nation fails to forge committed families and cohesive communities to take care of their own. Slumdogs happen when those habitats fail to evolve as communities to take care of their own. Slums happen when nation fails to decentralize development, thereby forcing the population to be emptied into few urban centers.

"him; even the game-show host, feigning goodwill, deceives. In India, hierarchy rules. But Jamal treats the mighty no differently from the meek, does not cower even before the police. He is that rare, but increasingly less rare, Indian creature: a man all his own.

"The old restraints were formidable: family, caste, religious fatalism, Byzantine bureaucracy."

Fortunately, that is what has saved India from becoming a sea of slumdogs. They create the support system that give people the ability to deal with realities - not phony escapism of game shows.

"It is roots and linkages that many Indians now seek to shed, and many Americans now seek to reclaim. And that may be the silent allure of "Slumdog Millionaire.""

There is always been a section of Indians alienated from their roots and linkages. They have always dominated the national discourse. They have always won the national lotto. Nothing new there.

I am not sure what are the roots and linkages which Americans are supposed to reclaim. It certainly does not appears to be going back to Judeo-christian heritage, family values, racial legacy, puritanical certainties or euro-centric roots. It probably means closing borders, shutting the immigration of outsiders, removing the outsourcing in order to take care of their own, connecting people to common welfare schemes and to a big daddy government, and reliving the hip 60s.

#82
Aditi N
January 24, 2009
10:34 AM

Ledzius, I'm from Bombay. I wish there was someone here who is from Bombay and would tell you that for us those smells were a part of our daily lives. They simply don't offend us and in fact remind us of our beloved city. I love those smells. They are the smells of my city. As I said above, could things be better, sure...but a filmmaker shouldn't be the one lifting our nation out of poverty.

If you don't get why I would love the smells of my city then I understand. Not everybody feels a connection with what is considered waste and rot unless you are born into it and grow to associate it with "home". But pls don't insult my intelligence by saying that I am romanticizing it simply because I am "desperate". What would I be desperate for? Its not my film.

I have described several smells above for each area in Bombay and I can say with complete confidence that another person who has lived all their life in Bombay can tell you the exact smell of every gully (alley) in Bombay and how much we love each one of those :) It makes me nostalgic even thinking about it.

P.S: Next time, if you don't know what to say, leave it at that. From your comments on Dc I can tell that when you don't know what to say and still comment, you can be pretty mean.

#83
anon
January 24, 2009
11:32 AM

"It is sad that while those who call themselves Indians are merely embarrassed by our "poverty", people from outside come in and manage to take in the essence of the city and are able to put it in words and cinematography without being apologetic about it and instead realizing that the uniqueness of a city does not lie in its tall buildings."

Ofourse they are not apologetic about it! Why would they be? They consider these things exotic,they romanticize poverty and they love the filth here because they will never have to deal with it in their own countries, they would never be affected by it the way an average Indian would be.Poverty is a harsh reality for most Indians, not something that they want to enjoy and savour.

Danny Boyle would never have to wade through shit in his own country, nor would his children have to beg in trains. These filmmakers don't identify with India, they share no love for this country, they are outsiders for all purposes and they certainly don't feel the pain that an average Indian feels for the sad state of affairs in his country. Indians are embarassed about their poverty, sure, what do you want them to be? Be proud of their third world status or their slums? Romanticizing poverty is the last thing on the minds of most Indians, because poverty isn't something exotic for them, its something that stares at their face every morning they go to work.

"I love that smell...drying fish and human waste.
It makes me nostalgic even thinking about it."

Where are you living right now? If it is in the U.S. of A I can understand why you're feeling nostalgic about it. You certainly wouldn't feel nostalgic if you had been born born in one of those slums, if your life had been a daily struggle, if you had lived between life and death, disease and poverty and an uncertain future like those slum kids, charmingly captured by Boyle. You would have wanted to run away from it. And rightly so.


#84
kerty
January 24, 2009
11:35 AM

"a filmmaker shouldn't be the one lifting our nation out of poverty"

No. We only expect him to make money off it. Like like so many others who have done it before it and made fame and fortunes from it. So why is SM held to higher standards? Why not treat his movie as just another masala movie where poverty, cruelties and hope are mere movie props used to make the movie work? But it was not meant to be a run of the mill fare, soon forgotten. It was singled out as a special movie, nay, the best of the best, on global stage. It has no actors with significant roles or outstanding acting in it nor prior name recognition. The movie itself is the message. The backdrop behind the characters is the main character. Its a poverty porn. Who is fornicating whom does not matter in a porn. It is meant to deliver a payload, which is to shock and offend. Higher it is elevated, more it offends.

#85
kerty
January 24, 2009
12:25 PM

The real Slumdog Millionaires: Behind the cinema fantasy, mafia gangs are deliberately crippling children for profit
By Andrew Malone

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1127056/The-real-Slumdog-Millionaires-Behind-cinema-fantasy-mafia-gangs-deliberately-crippling-children-profit.html

From now on, Indians shall be known as slumdogs. Nothing India does or achieves shall shake off this image of India as land of snake charmers and slumdogs and beggar Mafias. India, thy shall be known by thy gutters.

#86
Seema
January 24, 2009
12:31 PM

In reading some of your comments I'm starting to think that some of you have already made up your minds (possibly about a film you have not seen). OR are just engaging in the instigation/ vexation tactics traditionally used by trolls.

You seem to not even know the basics of film-making where a director is just a guy putting together the cinematic detail of a story controlling its pace and technical detail. In this case the visual details and story were already written up in Vikas Swarup's book. Boyle has not used sets to create a false picture of Bombay. He has used the city as is. It's a sorry disgrace that Indians are so ashamed of their cities.

Kerty I just can't tell if you are upset that poverty has been exposed or that Daniel Boyle "made money" by making the film. Its just bizarre that you would be so upset that a filmmaker "made money" after working on a film the script for which was based on a story written by an Indian.

Why aren't more of you upset at Swarup? Cause he's Indian? Very typically "Indian" of you. :)

#87
kerty
January 24, 2009
12:33 PM

Correction #85

India, thee shall be known by thy gutters.

#88
Seema
January 24, 2009
12:40 PM

Kerty: "From now on, Indians shall be known as slumdogs. Nothing India does or achieves shall shake off this image of India as land of snake charmers and slumdogs and beggar Mafias. India, thy shall be known by thy gutters"

True and pretty sad. Maybe this is what happens to nations whose rich and educated class moves on and never pauses to look at the less fortunate or consider lifting them out of their misery. Maybe its a harsh lesson for a nation whose progress forgot to take with itself these beggars and slumdogs. They were left behind, their plastic shanties and patched huts and hungry babies, ignored by your lavish malls and glass walled offices as they sat right across from the street where you shopped, snacked, munched popcorn, ate lunches, partied and sipped coffee.

So this is retribution for leaving those "slumdogs" behind. I'm really glad that it stings so much to have a "westerner" expose you. Good.

#89
kerty
January 24, 2009
12:53 PM

"Boyle has not used sets to create a false picture of Bombay."

How can camera ever lie?

Camera is only expert at painting a small part of the big canvass. You get to see only what frame of the camera can capture - it leaves out all else. So the real story is not what camera reveals, but what it chooses not to reveal, what it chooses to hype and what it chooses to conceal. Camera can create a virtual reality out of limited reality by what it captures in its small frames. Its no consolation that real setting is used instead of artificial sets. It can still distort and manipulate.

#90
kerty
January 24, 2009
12:58 PM

"Boyle has not used sets to create a false picture of Bombay."

How can camera ever lie?

Camera is only expert at painting a small part of the big canvass. You get to see only what a frame of the camera captures - a frame would leave out all else. And what it leaves out can be a lot more than what it is able to capture. So the real story is not what camera reveals, but what it chooses not to reveal, what it chooses to hype and what it chooses to conceal. Camera can create a virtual reality out of limited reality by what it captures in its small frames. Its no consolation that real setting or artificial settings. Both can still distort and manipulate equally effectively.

#91
Seema
January 24, 2009
01:03 PM

"Camera is only expert at painting a small part of the big canvass. You get to see only what frame of the camera can capture"

Nah, not a canvas, kerty. See with a canvas one has to incorporate images that weren't there. You know what you should compare it to? A mirror. Some times when one has a big painful zit on the nose and they look in the mirror the day before a party, all they see is that zit. And it gets them sad and embarrassed.

Your own perception is what distorts your vision, not the mirror.

#92
kerty
January 24, 2009
02:36 PM

Seema

A mirror can't show anything beyond what is reflected in it. A smiling face in a mirror could be buck naked wearing no pants, sitting pretty on a loot, next to a murdered body, getting ready to rape, scheming to scam the innocents, having a devil's mind but the mirror wouldn't show none of it but a zit on a face. What is shown in a mirror can distort perceptions too.

#93
Seema
January 24, 2009
04:37 PM

Yes kerty and that's why its up to that face to make sure what the mirror reflects is pleasant. The mirror cannot change appearance only reflect reality. Your country needs to change itself if its so upsetting to see poverty. If you feel naked, cover yourself up.

#94
kerty
January 24, 2009
05:36 PM

Seema

"Your country needs to change itself if its so upsetting to see poverty."


Would it be ok if rape or violence is depicted with gory details and criticism is silenced on the ground that if it is so upsetting to see it, one should try to remove them from the society rather than from the media?

What is upsetting is not poverty, but exploitation of poverty and predictable discourse that flows from it. We have had 5 decades of national discourse flowing from exploitation of poverty, from Garibi Hatao to Aam Adami. And we know it had nothing to do with poors or removing poverty. It only aims to breed unaccountability and corruption where all one has to do is to hide behind platitudes and propaganda about poverty and other societal sins to secure blank check of power and fortunes.

#95
Seema
January 24, 2009
05:50 PM

kerty: its really funny that you would say this:

"Would it be ok if rape or violence is depicted with gory details and criticism is silenced on the ground that if it is so upsetting to see it, one should try to remove them from the society rather than from the media"

Cause the answer is YES. Not only is it OK, that's how it should be done. A rape scene in a film should be a rape scene and not a mushy love making scene in a film in order to avoid "criticism". If a rape scene is too umm "gory" for you, here's the thing: don't watch it.

This is starting to get really funny

#96
Seema
January 24, 2009
05:56 PM

Also kerty I'm starting to get the feeling that I may be feeding a troll here by responding to u.

So no more responses from me to you kerty. We obviously have different philosophies; you want rape scenes to be portrayed in an appealing manner.

#97
kerty
January 24, 2009
06:11 PM

Seema

I am not sure other women would share the same spirit of anything goes when it comes to glamorization of certain crimes against women. BTW. Not only is actual rape outlawed, but depiction of rape is also prosecuted as obscenity, even in the countries where pornography is not considered obscenity.

Sorry to digress from the thread.

#98
kerty
January 24, 2009
08:18 PM

Chidambaram says slums are buzzing with biz ideas
Agencies
Jan 24, 2009

"A slum like Dharavi in Mumbai is humming with business ideas and innovations"

"Besides, formal education was "not necessarily" the yardstick to measure success"

"Lot of young men and women in slums have the necessary qualities of being innovative and are willing to take risk to carry out a business venture" he said.

Read the article
http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/PC-praises-Slumdog-says-slums-buzzing-with-biz-ideas/414836/

#99
kerty
January 24, 2009
08:59 PM

Slumdog is about defaming Hindus
Kanchan Gupta

In keeping with American politics of the times, Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for as many as 10 Oscars and our deracinated media, which constantly looks for inspirational 'good news' stories that invariably revolve around Western appreciation of 'truthful' portrayal of the Indian 'reality', has gone into a tizzy. Saturday's edition of a newspaper published from New Delhi had a blurb on the front page that read, "The Slumdog story: How 'Danny uncle' and his 'moral compass' created the biggest 'Indian' blockbuster -- and why you should watch it." Predictably, the chattering classes, who had been blissfully ignorant of Vikas Swarup's Q and A (as they had been of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger till its perverse denigration of India and all things Indian wowed the judges of last year's Man Booker prize) are now making a beeline for the nearest bookshop for a copy of the novel, whose title has been suitably changed to Slumdog Millionaire so that the book and the film are eponymous and both publisher and producer can encash the extraordinary hype that has been generated. Late last year, there was similar hoopla over AR Rahman getting the Golden Globe award for the music he has scored for Slumdog Millionaire. An approving pat on the back by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it would seem, is the most important marker in an artiste's career. Those Indian musicians who haven't got the Golden Globe are not worthy of honour at home just as Sahitya Akademi award winners are not worthy of finding space on our bookshelves, leave alone feature on news pages or news bulletins.

The larger point is not really about going gaga over an American award or a British prize, but how they are seen as India being admitted into the charmed circle whose membership is strictly controlled and is by invitation only. That invitation invariably follows a certain pattern; it's not merely the keepers of the gate chanting, "Eeny meeny miny mo, catch a tiger by his toe, if he hollers let him go..." Apart from the fact that the 'tigers' in this case are not hollering but salivating at the prospect of seeing themselves clutching a handful of trophies on Oscar night, the nomination process is far more rigorous than we would think, with filters to keep out those films and books that do not serve the judges' purpose or pander to their fanciful notions -- in this case, of India. Aravind Adiga crafted his novel in a manner that it could not but impress the Man Booker judges who see India as a seething mass of unwashed hordes which worship pagan gods, are trapped in caste-based prejudices, indulge in abominable practices like untouchability, and are not worthy of being considered as an emerging power, never mind economic growth and knowledge excellence. Similarly, Danny Boyle has made a film that portrays every possible bias against India and structured it within the matrix of Western lib-left perceptions of the Indian 'reality' which have little or nothing in common with the real India in which we live.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Boyle's film is about a slum where extreme social exclusion, political suppression and economic deprivation define the lives of its inhabitants. He has made every effort to shock and awe the film's audience by taking recourse to graphic and gory portrayal of bloodthirsty Hindu mobs on the rampage -- the idiom that defines India as it is imagined by the lib-left Western mind -- laying to waste Muslim lives (a Hindu is shown slitting a Muslim woman's throat in an almost frame-by-frame remake of the videotape that was released by the killers of Daniel Pearl) and property. There's more that makes you want to throw up the last meal you had: Hindu policemen torturing Muslims by giving them 'electric shock therapy', street children being physically disfigured and then forced to beg, and such other scenes of a medieval society where rule of law does not exist and every Hindu is a rapacious monster eager to make a feast of helpless Muslims.

Nor is it surprising that Boyle should have cunningly changed the name of the film's -- as also the book's -- protagonist from Vikas Swarup's Ram Mohammad Thomas (a sort of tribute to the Amar Akbar Antony brand of 'secularism' which was fashionable in the 1970s) to Jamal Malik. The name implies a Kashmiri connection, and we can't put it beyond Boyle suggesting a link between Jamal's travails -- it is his mother whose throat is shown as being slit by a Hindu -- and the imagined victimhood of Kashmir's Muslims who, the lib-left intelligentsia in the West insists, are 'persecuted by Hindu India'. Asked about the protagonist's name being changed, Swarup is believed to have said that it was done to "make it sound more politically correct". There is a second hidden message: The Hindu quizmaster on the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' show has doubts about Jamal, who gets all the questions right, not because he is a 'slumdog' but because he is a Muslim; so he sets India's Hindu police on the hapless boy. Swarup did not quite put it that way in his book, but the film does so, and understandably the critics in Hollywood who sport Obama buttons are impressed.

The last time depravity was portrayed as the Indian 'reality' was when Roland Joffé did a cinematic version of Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy. In that film, the Missionaries of Charity were shown as the saviours of an India trapped in filth, squalor, poverty and Hindu superstition. Some two decades later, Boyle has rediscovered Joffé's India and made appropriate changes to fit his film into the Hindu-bad-Muslim-good mould so that it has a resonance in today's America where it is now fashionable to look at the world through the eyes of Barack Hussein Obama.

In her review of the film, "Shocked by Slumdog's poverty porn", Alice Miles writes in The Times: "Like the bestselling novel by the Americanised Afghan Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Slumdog Millionaire is not a million miles away from a form of pornographic voyeurism. Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn." Commenting on the BBFC's decision to "place this work in the comedy genre", she says, "Comedy? So maybe that's it: I just didn't get the joke." It's doubtful whether most Indians, Hindus and Muslims, would get it either if they were to watch Slumdog Millionaire.

#100
kerty
January 24, 2009
09:45 PM

Desi shame, videshi fame?
Dil se: Meenakshi Rao

Ten Oscar nominations for Slumdog Millionaire just the other night was touted as an Indian success story.

No doubt, the movie is stunning in the way it has evolved from scene to scene. Beyond that, it is a story we as Indians have often been told and shown through the media as much as through our very own live experiences.

Who doesn't know the travails of our streetchildren? We have been abusing them at traffic signals for disturbing our commuting peace. Who does not know of the regular maiming of this unfortunate lot by beggar gangs? We all have periodically spilled tears over a crippled child seeking alms, forced amputations, gouging out of eyes, so on and so forth.

Yes, we all know everything there is to know about Dharavi, Mumbai's iconic slum which carries its fearful reputation way beyond the Indian borders.

It has been the backdrop of Bollywood crime thrillers over the decades. Documentaries have come a dime a dozen on it and the breed it breeds.

Meaning to say, the subject of Slumdog Millionaire is no breaking news. Yet, it is on its way to becoming a global smash-hit.

One wonders why. The so-called "patriotic brigade" feels it is not good to hog on India's dismal inadequacies, especially if it comes from a firangi director like Danny Boyle. Even the biggest of them all -- the Big B -- doesn't feel comfortable about India being shown in such bad light.

Then there is this raging debate over the movie which has become fashionable to talk about in upscale drawing-rooms where poverty porn is the most salacious timepass for the chatterati. The debate is about how right or wrong it is for us Indians to serenade a subject which may not have gotten a second glance from the Indian or the world audience if a so-to-say local had made the movie.

Come to think of it, the book on which Slumdog Millionaire is based, Q&A by foreign service officer Vikas Swarup became an Indian must-read only after the Boyle hype went into hyper boil. Incidentally, the book was published in 2005 but became an anthem only in late 2008 when rave reviews of Slumdog started hogging world headlines and several prestigious awards and nominations like the Golden Globe and the Oscars followed.

Slumdog's most yucky scene is of a slum child jumping into a pot of human shit in his haste to seek Amitabh's Bachchan's autograph. Of course, this would have been too much for an Indian author to include in his book, so it has been cooked up by the screenplay writer (he has an Oscar nomination) in the name of artistic licence. Anil Kapoor, the film's lean-mean quizmaster defends this, saying Bollywood has done this for years and that there is nothing wrong with such cook-books as films are meant to do business and sell dreams as voraciously as nightmares.

Kapoor may have a point. Indeed, film directors are no social activists. They are mere spikes in the big wheel of social change that gets churned out by the films that they make. That is the distinction Irfaan Khan has been making, when he says "remember, this is not a documentary but a fictional slice of life."

So, should Boyle's piece of art be applauded, criticised or merely taken in our stride? I, for one, loved the film and found little fault with it in any section of cinema-making -- be it story-telling, screenplay, music, editing or direction.

My problem emanates from the fact that Slumdog shows me and you up as double-faced Indians. We live in the midst of the rot and are often party to it. But if a foreigner tells us that through his movie, we hate it. But then, that does not stop us from celebrating -- after all, our very own A R Rahman and Gulzar are going to get an American honour. It is not Filmfare. It is the Oscars and that's how colonised our minds still are.

#101
kerty
January 24, 2009
10:42 PM

Slumdog Millionaire is just a masala film
Sumit Bhattacharya

"..I do have a problem with a story that pretends to be real when in reality it is just a masala film -- the kind we churn out by the dozens in Bollywood."

"Yes, Slumdog Millionaire is just superficial fluff, mainly because of its gaping plot holes. It should have been much better researched..."

Read whole review
http://www.rediff.com/movies/2009/jan/09review-slumdog-millionaire-sumit.htm

#102
anon
January 24, 2009
11:15 PM

"True and pretty sad. Maybe this is what happens to nations whose rich and educated class moves on and never pauses to look at the less fortunate or consider lifting them out of their misery."

Really? Don't tell me the rich and educated class now has to assume the role of the govt. How are middle class Indians supposed to lift slum people out of poverty? When has the rich and educted class of any country for that matter lifted people out of poverty? How are they supposed to do it? Any ideas?

"I'm really glad that it stings so much to have a "westerner" expose you."
It stings not because a Westerner has exposed us but because the said Westerner has chosen to selectively expose certain aspects of society in a very illogical manner just so that it feeds on the pre-exisitng ideas and prejudices that Westerners have about India.That India is a land of filth and waste teeming with unwashed people.What if I made a movie on America by incorporating all the negative sterotypes that Indians have about Westerners -drug addicts, pedophiles,broken homes and promiscuous people. Would it be considered a portrayal of real America? That is exactly what SlumDog is to most Indians. The "real" India is not the one in which I or my friends live but only that of the slum dogs. The rest of us Indians live in a false India.

Alice Miles : "It's doubtful whether most Indians, Hindus and Muslims, would get it either if they were to watch Slumdog Millionaire."
Yeah, me too.

#103
anon
January 24, 2009
11:30 PM


"the nomination process is far more rigorous than we would think, with filters to keep out those films and books that do not serve the judges' purpose or pander to their fanciful notions -- in this case, of India."
I agree. These nominations are biased to suit the perspectives and prejudices of the jury who are invariably lefty liberals.


Anamika made a good point sometime back:
"I am simply pointing out that there is a built in bias on what gets qualified as "world-class" in favour of western filmmakers/novelists who represent the developing world through well established political and aesthetic filters, while equally great work of filmmakers from developing countries is ignored as "not good enough" or worse still "not universal" (even some comments on this thread have suggested this)."

#104
Just A Thought
URL
January 25, 2009
02:55 AM

SEEMA, I COULDN'T AGREE MORE TO YOUR COMMENTS! YOU JUST HIT A RAW NERVE ON SOMEBODY! LOL!

KERTY: I am not sure other women would share the same spirit of anything goes when it comes to glamorization of certain crimes against women.

GLAMORIZATION OF CERTAIN CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN is not filmmaking! DB did not glamorize crimes in SM. He simply captured a story that could hopefully inspire. KERTY, if you consider DB's depiction of poverty as glamorization of crime that is so sad. DB depicted poverty; and poverty's never a crime. If India and its people find its reality (and the existence of poverty) too embarrassing and offensive, go on with your nonsense escapism and fantasy movies.

SM is not an INDIAN FILM. IT IS A BRITISH FILM BASED ON AN INDIAN NOVEL AND UNFORTUNATELY SET IN INDIA. If adapting and making profit from it is a crime, then sue all the directors who made a film and profit from it. Start from suing Steven Spielberg for making Schindler's List. THIS IS PATHETIC!

#105
commonsense
January 25, 2009
12:25 PM

Kerty:

""Slumdog is about defaming Hindus""

Ha Ha!! What putrid tripe, delivered by the usual suspect troll!!

#106
commonsense
January 25, 2009
03:59 PM

All jokes aside, I hope Kery will spear-head a movement to ban this propaganda, disguised as movie, from India.

Kerty-jee sangharsh karo, hum tumharey saath hain!

#107
livelife
January 26, 2009
01:42 AM

SM is a movie....... u like such story lines see it u don't ,, dont't see it.. as simple as that...
Cinema has its independence and if the poor kids on the streets of mumbai touched Boyle's heart (or maybe he thought its an ingridient to earn money :P.. who knows :P) he made a movie on it.. big a deal......
well some also point a finger at movies with palaces and royal lives and singing and dancing and happily ever after theme movies.. far away from hard core reality...may be they are trying to encourage us of what we can make of india ( or another ingridient to earn money ??? :P)
What I feel is, they all are here to earn money :( its we who get affected by there comments and statements,, Mr. B will be Mr. B... Boyle will be Boyle.. we will sit discuss and fight and few days down the line page 3 headlines "Boyle and Big B signa movie" :P....
No one is a saint in the industry making movies for the masses to inculcate values or to enlighten them with something.. they all are here to warm their own pockets by using emotion either through the sentiments of riches or poverty.... :(

#108
Chandra
January 26, 2009
03:16 AM


I liked parts of SM particularly with the little kid playing the role of Jamal. Dev Patel did not appear suited to play the role. Also, Jamal's ability to repeatedly find Latika sounded more Bollywood than Hollywood. In fact as we left the hall, the common refrain was that there have been other bollywood movies that have been better. The Hindi version has been a major failure as this movie is not targetted at lower socio-economic groups. The average middle class can go through a guilt trip for a few days and then revert back to normal. Hopefully somebody benefits at the end (apart from the crew that is)

#109
Chandra
January 26, 2009
03:19 AM


I liked parts of SM particularly with the little kid playing the role of Jamal. Dev Patel did not appear suited to play the role. Also, Jamal's ability to repeatedly find Latika sounded more Bollywood than Hollywood. In fact as we left the hall, the common refrain was that there have been other bollywood movies that have been better. The Hindi version has been a major failure as this movie is not targetted at lower socio-economic groups. The average middle class can go through a guilt trip for a few days and then revert back to normal. Hopefully somebody benefits at the end (apart from the crew that is)

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