(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 01, 2009
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE AND EIGHT OSCARS
IN general, Indian films are hero oriented. These films portray the hero as having superpowers to eliminate the enemies of the society, single handedly. He fights hundreds of villains, barehanded and smashes all of them. Depicting the hero as a saviour of poor people from all evils in the society is a common feature in our films. Slumdog Millionaire is quite opposite to this popular notion. It portrays how the slum dwellers in Dharavi face untold sufferings by criminals, police, goons etc. It indirectly shows how after the Mumbai blasts, innocent poor people were attacked by hooligans at the railway station; how the Malegaon bomb blasts carried out by Hindu chauvinist group, made poor Muslims suffer untold miseries; how hapless unemployed poor North Indians and Bihari youths had to face the onslaught of Shivsainiks in Maharashtra, a regional, parochial outfit, which earlier unleashed violence against poor Tamilians, who work for the progress of Maharashtra.
It is set in Mumbai’s famous slums of Dharavi. It is about an underdog’s journey to glory and jackpot, through squalor riots, beggar syndicates, rough and tumble, criminals and deceit. All this is woven brilliantly into the format of questions and answers of prize winning talk show. It is truly classic in terms of cinematic merit-script, cinematography, music score, sound and rivetting performances.
So what’s the problem? India shining cannot digest the reality. The armchair, ivory tower intelligentsia, which has never come to terms with real concerns is appalled. Arindam Choudhary, the management guru to Amitabh Bachchan complains of marketing “poverty pornography”, “India depicted in a negative light” as if reality was different. The motives of criticism are suspect and driven by class consciousness. The plurality of India, producing Muslims like Allah Rakkha Rahman, Resul Pookutty is also probably infuriating to them.
Anil Kapoor performing the Shining Indians’ alter ego, may have disturbed the collective consciousness of the elite, eternally famous for its indifference to real issues and contempt for the masses.
And hearing the argument about depicting India in a bad light, one recalls Victoria Disica, one of the greatest masters of cinema, who produced master pieces like “Bicycle Thief” and “UMBERTO-D” set in the distress of depression of Europe. ‘JFK’ and ‘Enemy of the State ‘(Both by Oliver Stone) tears apart the conspiracy, cunningness and brutality of the American political establishment. Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Great Dictator’ lampoons Adolf Hitler and almost all his movies expose class oppression and paradoxes of the west. So the argument of negative depiction of our country is pure humbug.