Sunday, March 1, 2009

The slumdog phenomenon

So amidst all the hype, Slumdog finally laughed its way to the Oscars, sweeping almost every award it was nominated for. The movie has truly proven to be the underdog movie of the decade, rising from a situation where its distributors backed out and Danny Boyle had to scout for a new distributor, who agreed for a limited release only. Rest of course is history.
Much has been written about what made the movie such a big hit. Whether it was the (seemingly unacceptable to some) unashamed portrayal of slums in India or the feel-good factor that the movie brought about in these depressing times, it is difficult to say what exactly made the film click. If you take my personal opinion, it was a good movie, but I am not sure whether it was really worth the 8 (or 9, I couldn't care less) Oscars it won. I think there have been several movies in the past which were much better than Slumdog, but probably it was the Slumdog phenomenon that blew everyone away. So much so that, even a movie like The Dark Knight, both a commercial blockbuster and critically acclaimed movie, totally lost its sheen to this year-end hype. Look at Jai Ho, which has turned out to be a phenomenon. Does any of the ARR fans believe this song would even figure in his all time top-20 compilations? No way! Same with Gulzar, of all the hundreds of masterpieces he created in his 50 year career, he just needed lady luck to smile on him for just an average song to get this award!
Back in India, the movie has created substantial hype, especially after the Oscar wins and the slum-kids going all the way to the Kodak theater for the for the red carpet. I have been reading some interesting developments including people protesting the term "Slumdog" and opposing the portrayal of the "other face of India". I guess rather than crying foul, the movie should actually be an eye-opener for we Indians. In spite of the advances we made in IT and manufacturing, in spite our professionals proving their mettle across the globe,in spite of the 9% growth rates, we cannot hide the fact that we are still a country that still has hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty, people who do not have access to even the basic of needs-housing, sanitation, health care and education. Why are we claiming Slumdog shows India in poor light? Is it not the true picture of a sizable population in India? It is high time we also looked at the plight of "Whining India" instead of just basking on "Shining India" and worked to improve the living standards of the people living in slums.
We Indians hate to look at the hard realities. The movie in no way criticizes the slums of India, it is in fact quite an outstanding portrayal of the hope that exists even among the minds of poorest of these people, but some people find this offensive. Some even accuse this will start a new wave of "Slum tourism"! Why are we so defensive? Why can't we accept the fact that our infrastructure sucks? Why can't we accept that almost 30% of our billion plus population still does not attend the school? Why can't we sportingly accept that we are a developing nation, and are getting there, and getting there very fast? We still need to bridge significant gap compared to the developing world, and if we are confident that we are on the right track to bridge this gap, we should not be ashamed of accepting the present. Else, we will be simply living in a fool's paradise without realizing the ground realities.


Chrysalis said...

True Vivek. I am one of thise who still has not watched the movie because I dont want to see the other India. Not because I do not believe it to be true rather I know it for a fact that its very real.
We are definitely a country of contradictions and we live in three different centuries at the same time.

Viv said...

Manu, go ahead and watch it. I think it is a well-made movie and we don't really need to read too much into the portrayal of slums or the "other India". Watch it for the sheer hyper surrounding it!!

Admin said...

Indeed, Slumdog caught the attention because of two things. One, It is about India and anything about India is great - (More and more Bollywood is being known to the world outside0 and the second thing is the reality (Reality whenever is shown actually is applauded by people when they can identify themselves or others to the story!) Good job vivek!

Bibs said...

This is what we can say.. a true "politically polluted" country. If we focus the political movements right after our independence, it has been just Atrocious to the fate of country.