Thursday, February 26, 2009

8 Oscars to Indian Poverty

Posted by Varun | Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Category: , , , , , , , , |

A lot has been talked and written about Slumdog Millionaire already but I would like to add a few cents of my own. I am mightily pleased that three people from India managed to win awards and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate AR Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty. All three of them richly and truly deserved their awards.

Coming to title of the post, I read this in one my friend's (Maneesh) Orkut status message and felt it was so very true. Why do you think the jury gave this movie an Oscar? I think it was due to the mass appeal that this movie was able to establish. Every person everywhere in the world somewhere dreams of winning that ten million in a day and hence related with Jamaal (Protagonist of Slumdog Millionaire) the very moment they saw him. It is not only a Slumdog who would want to win that money after all. And If we talk about the feel good factor or the romantic angle (Latika) of the movie, I have seen better movies that leave a lasting impression than this one. What could and would have turned the tide towards this movie is the portrayal of Indian poverty. Westerners have seen this movie as a guide to Dharavi.

As far as showing Indian poverty is concerned, don’t you think there are no beggars on the street on New York or London? Don't you think there are no petty thieves on the street of San Francisco? Leave alone thieves, there are murderers roaming in college campuses of UK and USA with a gun shooting any random guy or girl they see. Why not portray it in a movie and win an Oscar? Why only Indian Poverty?

Indian government somehow markets itself as poor and a country full of slums and makes it easy for people like Danny Boyle to come and show whatever he wants to. I have seen and talked to people in UK who come to India to only see its poverty. Take my word for it; Dharavi will soon become a hot tourist spot in Mumbai. Maharashtra Government has gone a step ahead by gifting two slum kids a flat each. Every second kid in Dharavi would now want to act in a Hollywood movie and get a flat. They would be ready to do anything they can to please a white person. This movie has ignited false hopes in all kids who live in slums.

Felt great to know that a movie shot in India and a movie which has Indian actors in it won so many awards but at the same time felt bad that it won these awards at the cost of poor people living in slums of India and portrayal of their life. I just hope Danny Boyle and his team don't forget the people who made this movie possible and help them if not to become a millionaire at least to lead a normal life.

This post is more of a rant and not a dig at anyone. And please don't get me wrong; I liked the movie!

Currently have 25 comments:

  1. I agree with you completely. After watching the movie, we find ourselves torn between the feeling of appreciating the movie but at the same time cannot help but acknowledge that this movie has taken the image of the country back to where we started from!

  2. I agree but take solace from the fact that there has been no glorification of the misdeeds that happen in the darkness of those slums. What has been shown actually happens. Sometimes I feel that such in-your-face depictions of the truth may light some candle somewhere and people will take notice and work for a better India. After all India is not gaining anything from the movies depicting a globe-trotting multi-millionaire Indian for whom life is a bed of roses. I hope India comes out richer from this, like Jamal did from his abject poverty.


  3. Very true...,This thaught has kept me away from watching the movie..
    The award is because of the english director and there is a strong lobby to support.

    we have seen films like Salaam Bombay all we get is nominations no awards in OSCAR.

    Hope the slum kids get a LIFE!!!

  4. Varun though I tend to agree with you but at some places I have a different view.
    Yes, Slumdog Millionaire itself an English title with Indian actors making the world go gaga about it is all about poverty tourism of India. But it also showed Hope does reside here!
    But after watching "Milk", "The curious case of Benjamin Button" and "The Reader" you would be mesmerized at the screenplays and the movies. And Slumdog winning those awards would seem to be injustice. This thus clearly shows your view that Dharavi is the next tourist destination. But from Shantaram to Slumdog Millionaire, you can not just take out the slums of Mumbai when one talks about it.
    Also, I feel that presenting flats to those two kids would make the future events turn the way you think (God forbid). But to be a optimistic which I'm not , still, I think it shows have some talent and be at the right place at the right time (Luck by Chance) does the trick isn't it? "The Simple case of Darwin's Theory"

    P.S.:- I have added you to my blog list.

    Luv 'n' Luk
    Arnab Chakraverty

  5. I beg to differ Varun. Yes, the poverty was shown. Yes, India attracts few who indeed wish to have a dekko of slums, beggars and poverty. But saying that it won because of the poverty shown would be a too harsh a statement for the actors and also for the makers. It was a movie based on a novel. So, what if the story has poverty and slums. But it was not limited to that.. .If poverty was shown, later in the movie same Indian people were seen speaking chaste English (call center).. same Indian people were seen driving expensive cars.. It was the story ranging from 80s to mid 2000s. It wasn't restricted to poverty. The movie won awards for its technical brilliance, magnificent performances, amazing cinematography, smart direction and ultimately beautiful music. It was a well-made package and it should be just perceived as a movie. Do not just credit the win to a small portion. The movie worked as whole.

  6. I have been posting this comment in every post which is going ga-ga over the oscars for Slumdog. It was not that great a movie even!! Have seen so many way better! I am so happy for the Indian winners....but honestly, ARR has had better compositions!!!
    I just don't get the following this movie has got!!!

  7. As per the film is concern
    what u say is not wrong..........

    But the person who are getting award especially AR Rahaman...... They recognize him thats pleasant to us.

    Do u think Slum dog all songs good compare to Roja, Rangeela, bombay ..... NO is it right?
    We already recognize him but they recognized him now thats it..........

    Some time award we need to consider as per his life time achievement not for a single instance........
    See even though if Sachin Tendulkur scored century now and he breaks all the record.... But we like the game which he played earlier rather than present one.....

    anyway Once again congrats all awarded people.........

    Sometime winning is important than how u won.....


    Read this...

  9. I have to disagree with you Varun.

    I personally did not like SDM, but thats my view. Certain scenes were disjoined and the entire movie was not worth the hype. But I really dont know why are people being so negative about a movie? Treat it just like a movie. Now if a movie that portrays slums as its backdrop wins a handful of awards, whats wrong? If Taare Zameen Par won awards at the Oscars, would people criticize too saying Indian kids are dyslexic or most of them are physically or mentally handicapped? The movie has a lot of optimism -- from rags to riches story, about experiences of a person making him literate enough to be a millionaire, true love triumphs,etc. I think we should concentrate on all those instead of pitting a movie against its backdrop. For crying out loud, its just a movie. and treat it like one.

    and regarding the music, you cant expect Rahman to give Roja or Rangeelas kind music to every movie. His songs were apt for the situations in the movie according to me. and if he has done better work than this, whats the issue? He deserved the award and he won it. That is all what we need, right ? why is there a thought beyond that? The contenders for the award were too weak when compared to Rahmans compositions. Of course, ARR had better compositions, but this movie didnt require it. and as usual, he has done his best for this movie.Period.

  10. hmmm....

    though i didn't like it very much but it was watchable but love the song "Jai ho..."

    I don't feel like commenting too much on the subject since a lot of things already have been talked, dissected and written. :)

    But in a broader sense i agree with Vimal!

  11. Well written blog that has made people sit up and react. Obviously the reactions swing between extremes.It is really good to see three Indians getting the Oscars but the hype - especially in the visual media - was a bit too much.I haven't seen the movie but have read umpteen number of reviews/comments about it. Being poor is not a crime but cheating with poverty as an excuse is. I understand there is a scene of tyres being stolen and the comment is - this is India! It is these things which hurt but well one might call it dramatic license !! I, personally, don't like such things.But all in all SDM has made the west take notice of Indian actors/technicians/subjects and that augurs well for the industry which craves and thrives on recognitions.

  12. Hey..I liked the movie too...yes...but then there was something that irked me..I dont know if it was the portrayal of the poverty...or the unbelievable British accent of a slum boy..
    or even the fact that I had read the book last year..and to me,movies always spoil the book:)..
    but then...the movie has won oscars,so there really must be something appealing about could even be the humongous mass appeal it created...
    but I am really happy for AR Rahman..he has much better music to his credit...yet,his winning the award is a feel good factor..that man deserves everybit of it..and even more:)...

    nice blog u got there...ur blogrolled too!

  13. Hi Varun, how are you?

    I am following up on the Bangalore Indiblogger meet this Saturday at Microsoft campus It is at tomorrow 3:30 PM. Just a gentle reminder. Looking forward to meeting with you there.

    anwin at indiblogger dot in

  14. I know what you're talking about. Same sentiments pretty much. Some people are even speculating that the 8 oscars may have been politically motivated, given how everyone wants to score points with India now!

  15. i agree completely .,.,
    the movie had nothing to get oscars we had better movies in the past ..nly thing different was that was from bollywoodand this one is from hollywood ....I felt cinematography was good ,infact awesome ..

  16. agree on every point. infact, i think the movie won oscars mainly because the diro was not an Indian. a lot of movies like Taare Zamin Par wud have deserved oscars much more than this movie.

  17. Good post, dude... I think it's kinda relative, how ppl look at our country... For the brits, I think Dharavi was the most obvious thing :)

  18. Hi Aparajita,
    Great to see you comment on my post and thanks a lot for agreeing with me.
    That is exactly what I didn't like about the movie too.

  19. I haven't seen the movie yet so dunno whether it is worth the awards or not!!!

    But yes we are creating loads of hoopallah about the movie. Congress is showing it as their achievemnt, I guess for letting the slums thrive.

    Has it taken our image for a nosedrive?? I don't think so....and nor do i think that it is getting the acclaim as we are shown in bad I won't agree on that. Then what worked for it? May be the movie was plain lucky!!

  20. Call it coincidence. But there was an article in Hindustan Times on the 28th of Feb by Barkha Dutt. Following is the link to the page. You will have to register though to view it properly.


  21. Don't know why but the link did not appear properly. Just refer to Page 10 and look for the article "A Reality Check" in the Mumbai edition of the paper for 28th Feb. Happy reading.


  22. It is kind of strange - this movie was not even that good. A R Rahman and Gulzar have done far better jobs. Look at Frieda Pinto, she has hardly any role in the movie but she is giving competition to Angelina Jolie now! I sometimes feel perhaps there is something wrong with me that I have not been able to connect with the movie in a way so many people, the world over, have been able to do.

  23. Hi P&P,
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! And if you feel so, you can add me to that list of yours :)

    Some people are born lucky and Freida is one of them :)

  24. Great 8 Oscar Indian poetry and it's such a very useful for people...I am really impressed with is..

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