Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Why can't Brazil win the Euro cup?

The news of the Slumdog wins began trickling in as I got ready to leave for work on Monday. My heart did Danny Boyle like scissor jumps when I heard that Rahman and Pookuttyhad won.

The Indian media covered the Oscars through the day and, as expected, TV ratings went through the roof.

Of course, for every Jai Ho, there seem to be a hundred doubts, accusations and cribs. I felt some of these were out of place and uncalled . So I thought that I will put down some of the complaints and put in my two bits:

  • "Would it have got the same recognition if an Indian made the film?" No, it wouldn't because the Oscars are awards for American/ English cinema. Our cinema is not American. Barring Karan Johar perhaps.
  • "This is not Rahman's best work and he has done better?" Same logic. He hasn't composed for American/ British so was not eligible for his 'better' pieces. And what's wrong if he didn't win it for his best performance. The fact that he won for what was entered is what matters. As an aside, Russel Crowe won the best actor award for 'Gladiator' and not for 'A Beautiful Mind'. Wasn't the latter much better. Back home, Amitabh Bachchan won the National Award for 'Agneepath'. Surely not his best work!
  • "Why didn't Rahman mention Sukhwinder or Gulzar?" Give the guy a break. He won us two Oscars. That way you can say Pookutty didn't mention Rahman. I think this is a time to celebrate rather than spoil the party. By the way Gulzar keeps saying continuously that the entire credit goes to Rahman.
  • "Danny Boyle has exploited India's poverty" To start with Boyle was making a film and was not doing an ad film for India. Secondly the poverty shown was a part of the backdrop - they did show middle class India, restaurants, five stars, plush TV stations, etc. Thirdly Hindi films have often shown their protagonists as Slum Dwellers including Bachchan's Amar Akbar Anthony & Deewar, every second Mithun film and so on. Its just that they were shot tackily with no attention to detail. In fact by showing the squalour of slums, riots, beggar rackets, tourist harassment, Danny Boyle has reminded us of a hard reality which we would like to wish away. I guess it is difficult to take criticism. (People say I don't take to criticism well. All I have to say to them is, "Boo!")
  • "Why are we celebrating? This is not an Indian film" That's true we have adopted this film like its nobody's business. The truth is that the film is made by an Irish director. And completely rewritten by an America (?) writer. Simon Beaufont really deserved the best adopted screenplay award as the film is completely different from, and leagues ahead of, the book. True, the film was not made by Indians. BUT most of the actors and technicians were Indian. The film was as brown as it gets. Only the credits and Dev Patel's British accent were there to remind us of the origins of the film
  • "What's so special about the film? This is the same plot of a million Hindi films" True. The makers of the film have taken typical Hindi film idioms - separated brothers, destiny, love through ages, the vctory of the underdog - and packaged them in a world class way with some excellent cinematography, story telling and acting, especially from the children. Think of the master Rajus and Baby Guddis or that irritating girl of Kuch Kuch Hota Hey and then think of the child actors here. You will know what I mean
  • "Anil Kapoor went over the top with his dance steps and star gazing. He was not the main actor in any case" I don't think that most of us can even relate to his level of achievement. He has reached parts where no Indian mainstream hero has. One would have perhaps expected Bachchan, Amir Khan, Sharukh Khan to be shown on the screen when the Oscars were announced. Not good old Munna! And exuberance makes people do strange things. Remember Pat Cash climb up stuffy Wimbledon to kiss his girlfriend? Or a certain Mr Ganguly strip at the equally stuffy Lords? Or Halle Berry scream at the time keepers, or Michael Moore scream at George Bush at the Oscars? Cut the guy some slack. And as far as his not being the main actor is concerned, Anil Kapoor was a part of the team. And he didn't have a blink and you miss it role. That counts for something. Sunil Gavaskar didn't do well too well in the 1983 World Cup win. But he is still central to any World Cup memory and celebrations
  • "Why get excited about Oscars? They are not about our cinema" Why were Indians crazy about Levis, Nike, McDonalds, Toyota, Coke before they were launched in India? These are global brands and we like to see ourselves as global citizens

Can you think of anymore prominent objections?

PS Did you notice how Hollywood seemed to have looked to Bollywood for a change on Oscars night? Gone were the witty anchors of yore as Hugh Jackman sang and danced us through the evening. And of course the interspersed TV shots of Brangelina and Jennifer Anniston were as Filmfare'ish as they get. I was referring to the way they pan on Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan and Rekha when one of them is getting feted at Indian awards.


Serendipity said...

I completely agree with all said points. I find people who can only criticise others (when they themselves have not acheived any milestone to speak of) most annoying. Sour Grapes?

And one more question posed to Shabana on CNNIBN Asha Bhosale on Times now- "What has Slumdog done for Indian Cinema/Bolloywood/How far has it gone in bridging the Hollywood/Bollywood gap?"

Which gets answered automatically by # 1and #2.

The knife said...

@Serendipity - yes clearly sour grapes. As Anupam Kher said recently that some people are criticising this just for self publicity.

As for what it has done for India, it has shown the talents of Indian actors and technicians and locales in a world stage. So perhaps Westerners might shoot here since we are busy shooting at Thailand, Switzerland and New Zealand. Also they might not look for Thai or Bitish actors to play Indians the next time a Gandhi or a Jungle Book is made.

And why do we want to be seen as picture perfect? Slumdog Millionaire now and Shantaram recently have put Mumbai in the minds of the West. Neither portrays Mumbai as Mary Poppins land but both give a lot of character and edginess to the city. That's what would give it a unique character and interest people to come here. We should play to our strenghts rather than trying to be something we aren't

Rhea said...

Good post! I can now vent!! :-D

I completely agree with all the points listed by you.

Some websites seem to indicate that the two child actors from the slums were exploited in regards to their compensation. What do you think?

I seem to incline both ways in thinking it is right AND wrong. Right coz they were given a decent amount of money (for their standards) and their schooling has been taken care of. Also, there's talk of trust funds for them. Wrong, coz the movie made SO MUCH money, it wouldn't have hurt to pay them a little more. But yeah.. Fact remains that the movie was made on a stringent (??) budget of $15 million!! Noone had imagined that it would go on to become such a success.

Now I hear that those two have been given a house..?

Serendipity said...

Absolutely, Someone was telling me we shouldnt exult over this movie, since it shows us in such a poor light (westerners might think that India is only made up of Poverty and the likes) and I was of the opinion that what with India booming, (across fields - be it economy, Beauty, Science) it is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to pass us off lightly, or assume what SDM shows is the only India there is.

And even if there are people foolish enough to make judgements basis a movie, Im not interested in their opinion!

This is a brilliantly made movie, with crisp editing, fancy screenplay and a tight storyline that had us engrossed for each minute. and Thats why I love it, irrespective of Indian/Brit yadayada.

The knife said...

@Rhea: thanks for writing in. Yes, I read the exploitation comments. Everyone wants to jump onto something succesful. I believe that the film producers had made a trust fund. The problem with giving a lumpsum was probably the fact that their parents might not manage it or will spend it. Actually the budget is big by Indian standards but tiny by international standards. I thought it was really wonderful that they took the kids to the Oscars AND to Disneyland. Rahman said in an interview today that seeing the kids on screener gave him a bigger joy than getting the Oscar
@Serendipity: I agree that the film was not about poverty. It should modern India a it is. I saw Dev D yesterday which showed the steamy side of Delhi which is very different from Rajpath and Connought but is one aspect too.

I think we are living in denial when we speak of India being right up there. You and I live in the commercial capital of this 'dream'. I have been to some far eastern countries and Turkey recently. Not even the West. And we are light years behind, and we beat up women, so let's get real.

I agree that the film has been wonderfully shot and the story is fantastic. i read the original book recently. Not a patch on the film

Rhea said...

Cool beans! I thought so too (about them not being able to manage the money well, i.e.)..

I was thrilled about the Disneyland trip too! I was also stoked about seeing them walk on the red carpet. :)

There's a writer on MSN who's really pissed that "The Boss" didn't even get a nomination n some guy who no one here's heard of, walks away with an award and how this goes on to show that the Oscar panel of judges or whatever, don't understand music. It's okay. We get it! You're just jealous! :P

N yes.. I don't know any American here that's seen the movie and judging the country for everything (bad?) shown in it. They love it!

k said...

did u notice how rehman mentioned his mom but not his wife?
He might have got an academy award but he sure isn't getting any at home after this.
Just an observation:)