Saturday, February 7, 2009

Review of Reviews of Slumdog Millionaire

No. Its not about Aparajito.

I have not seen Slumdog Millionaire yet but reading the reviews have brought more entertainment value to me than I guess what the movie would be able to provide.

Here are some of the opinions I came across. (not using the exact words though)

  • Lot of people have praised the movie in terms of the starkness with which they have shown truth and also for the entertainment value that the movie provides through a nice storyline, great music score, direction etc
  • India has been shown in poor light while this is not the real India
  • We come up with so many films but our good movies always tend to get ignored while here we have a western director who takes a snapshot of slum life in India and aims to get an Oscar. These hollywood guys know how to pat their own backs.
  • Some have stated that movies where India is shown in sad light are always preferred for awards. They have remembered Ray and Mrinal Sen's movies in which many a times the director has tried to cover the dire state of people and how those movies got several awards
  • Jagjit Singh vents out his frustration on seeing Rehman getting an award for coming out with great music score for the movie. It was really in a very bad taste
  • Some people have criticised on why the director has projected that the victim in the movie was at the receiving end of Mumbai riots and why has he shown to be a Muslim particularly.
  • Some have stated that they should not have used the word 'dog' as it is derogatory

I will not talk about all perspectives here, but we as Indian viewers should admit that we really are not great promoters of really nice artistic movies. Somehow in the midst of drudgery of daily life, movie is only seen as a medium of entertainment which in turn has been crudely defined by songs, dance, comedy and drama. Anything which remotely tries to touch upon the finer aspects of human emotions, be it tragedy or serious themes, tends to go down in viewers category. And media doesn't feel like talking much about such movies after that.

We still see no brainer movies like Singh is King raking good moolah in the industry.

The great sign is that experiments in lateral themes have started and we are seeing some wonderful work emerging as well but in general as an audience we fail to see the beauty depicted by previous directors who were really able to successfully showcase strong human emotions through richly carved themes. The people who comment on poverty being glamorised are the ones who never go to watch Aparajito by Ray, Meghe Dhaka Tara by Ghatak or Dweepa by Kasravali because these movies have projected poverty. The thing is probably they havn't yet developed the eye or the sensitivity to understand what the director is trying to show. If we observe minutely, poverty is just the context. The lens is always on very subtle and profound human sentiments.

Thats the very reason why a movie like Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Mara which was an amazing depiction of the death of Gandhian values after his physical death by not just one person but by people at large. Or for that matter a movie like Khuda ke Liye from Pakistan which was brillliant on several accounts from the point of view of the pain of the director which drove him to make the movie to which he did phenomenal justice, music, cinematography and performance.

A movie like Tingya where the director had to approach over 23 producers after getting acceptance of one, failed to draw any footfalls to the theatre while the same won international recognition. Yes. The story was again based on a poor child from Vidarbha- an area in Maharashtra which is more in the news for the farmers who have commited suicide on account of harsh economic state. The performance of the child was amazing in the movie.

I don't know what the western panelists have in mind. Maybe they are biased or maybe not. But the point is, the question we should ask ourselves is, as a society have we been able to promote good quality movies based on rich stories, great performance which can appeal to the sensibilities of not just few people in a nation but viewers from across cultures. That is a hallmark of a great movie. Unfortunately one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world- Bollywood, can't boast of many such works since it has always catered to populist tastes.

Will a movie like 'Children of Heaven' by Majid Majidi get support from the audience?

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