Saturday, October 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Hi All,

The title tells everything. As in most of my posts which always carry a twist in the tale, this post has no such. It is a straight opinion of mine, not just mine but from many people that I know and a part of public opinion too. Don't think I have carried a survey to write this, but I certainly followed the poll. Don't wonder why after so many days of the movie's release this post has popped up on my blog...the lines below will tell u the reason.

Coming to the actual opinion that I wanted to share,...I was never excited to watch Slumdog Millionaire from the day of its release. I cannot remember any reason for this, it wasn't able to pull me to the theater. But, to kill some 14hrs while flying home in May '09, I tried to watch those movies I skipped watching in theaters. One of them was Slumdog Millionaire. I read the reviewes, heard people talking about it, and was very excited when my favorite ARR won Oscars in February. So, all those might have created a positive impact on me, and again on the flip side, Indian reviewers wrote it was not an exciting flick for Indian audience. With a mixed feeling, I watched the movie. My opinion was (except for some songs and appealing background score) it should be called a documentary. Yes, a documentary on India's poverty, Child Labor, Population, Unemployment, Pollution etc;. The director who won an Oscar projected India and majorly Mumbai just as another world's most polluted city in all most all aspects.

This is being discussed even today at Coffee table meetings, luncheons, n many other times here(abroad). I am writing as I have come through many such discussions where I and my friends have answered many a times that apart from the vast slums that was shown, India is best in many other aspects. When it comes to employment rate and especially recession effect, the studies said India is one of those countries which best survived the recession apart from having such a vast population. Is this one reason not enough to say India is best in other aspects?

The British director could have got an Oscar if he would have chosen his own Country's Crime rate. He knew or not but the BBC survey has revealed that Britain occupies top place in crime rate. Why wasn't this screenplayed? I would be glad if he had chosen the positive side of Mumbai.

Even the 26/11 incident had not created such impact but one movie did on International audience. In abroad, India was always remembered for its rich cultural heritage, the Mt. Everest, the Tajmahal and many more attractions, now the topics are always drawn to the Mumbai slums.

Just before writing this, I have seen a commercial on NDTV for American Touristor Luggage..the ad features Mumbai's crowd packed local trains,...a foreigner struggling to carry his luggage in the local train,...the luggage hitting here n there, it being thrown away by the passengers and finally he reaches the destination with his luggage being safe and tough enough to survive all those hits and the end the caption goes, "Survive Mumbai, Survive World". I don't want to be a pessimistic reviewer but what is the motive of that commercial? The theme was again pulled from Slumdog Millionaire which helps them connect to all kinds of audience which again means, Mumbai has been projected as a place where survival is very hard. If that is the case, I would say there are 'n' number of places in the world where survival is equally and sometimes much more harder than what it is in Mumbai. I have never been to Mumbai but I have great love towards the city. Some of my friends who came from Mumbai have given me very good insight of the City. If the director could see only the slums, what about the Grandeur of Bollywood industry, the Bombay Stock Exchange that rules the market, the fashion waves generated from this City, the jobs that the city offers. Did the director ever think why the local trains were so crowd packed all through the day in Mumbai??? Why the City never sleeps???My dear learned Director it is because the city offers hopes and life to so many people. Even with so many slums as you screened, Mumbai remains the dream destination as well as an international tourist attraction. This has not been mentioned anywhere in the movie. n Thats the 1st reason why you have come to the City too.

I am so disgusted by the impact that movie has created among the international audience. Another Britisher has ruined India's (Mumbai's) glory to an extent. Whenever we face questions like, "OMG so many slums in India? many uneducated people in India? much child labor? much pollution??? we do have answers..but we do feel demeaned to know people have got such opinions on our Country.
To all those questions I have written above I have a better, rather slashing answers, that can pin point their own nations.
To begin with, slums in India??? if so much population is there any other country..would it survive at least like India??? No..but we can as we have a bonding between us, 10 people can live under 1 single roof, but can those who asked the question live like that??? I bet way
So many uneducated people in India?..yes there are many uneducated people in India, but what about those countries which have more no.of educated citizens n yet there is lot of crime rate?

So much child labor?..yes children are forced to work because the family cannot survive if only one person works, it is for mere survival that they come to hard jobs, but what about those nations, which kick their children out once they turn 15/16 years of age,even though they have strong financial stability? If that can be called responsibility, this is also kind of responsibility for that child. They don't want to go to schools, but they want to feed their family. But, will those children who were kicked out to earn their own living at 16years of age will bring back their parents when they turn 60??? No way.

So much pollution, I totally agree, but as mentioned earlier India has lot of uneducated people, and people who have very little awareness about pollution. But what about those nations, which are very well developed and still release much equal and sometimes higher percentage of CFCs into the atmosphere? Technically well sophisticated countries do contribute to the growing pollution equally. At least India is not so technically groomed in that aspect. Such nations have started green revolution today..switching to paper bags,etc;. but we still have those stores which sell groceries in paper folded packs. Don't we???

Above all, I wanted to express one thing here; every nation has its own flaws and faults, even we are one among those. At the same time every nation has its own best aspects too. The director could have shown the positive life in Mumbai at least for couple of minutes in the movie.

Whatever it is we Indians are so open and quite cool to allow a Britisher to project our Mumbai as the worst survived cities in the world. And we are so broadminded, that we welcomed, enjoyed and celebrated the success of such movie.

All this has been written because I along with so many of my friends living abroad have faced many such questions, which made us feel bad. So, I thought I would share this with my readers. Not to offend any.




  1. Hi Venella,

    This is my first time on your blog and I really liked what you wrote. It is quite obvious that you have been really affected by S M and your passion comes through. Even I have a strong point of view on S M. It's different from your. But I thought I must share it with you as you have taken the time out to write such a well crafted piece.

    I have lived in Mumbai for ten years. My work makes me interact with folks across the world, at times. I must confess that I haven't had to go through the ignominy of facing awkward questions about India that you did. But my parents did when they lived abroad in the seventies including in places like Iran where locals used to refer to India as a country of beggars.

    I just returned from an international conference where I met professionals from across the world. A lot of them referred with awe about something you said too: India being one of the few to fight the recession. Many looked to India with hope. I presented a paper on how it was our social values which helped us withstand the storm. And, I had used clips from S M in a different context.

    The reaction they had to S M was a film which showed the richness of India though they were aware that many Inidans were unhappy with the way we were portrayed.

    But as someone who has lived in Mumbai AND loves Mumbai I must say that I don't blame Danny Boyle. He wasn't paid by the Maharashtra Government to make the film. Every artist has the freedom to interpret reality. The other Boyle film that I have seen, Trainspotting, portrayed a very sorry picture of the youth of the UK.

    The photo which you have used sums up a big reality of Mumbai. Both the Gateway and the well maintained South Mumbai were built by the British.

    Slums, forced begging, filth, dust, sleaze, crazy traffic, riots are a part of the reality of Mumbai. There was not a single unreal part about it.

    I guess the reflection in a mirror can often be tough to take.

    And it is important that we don't forget it. We have to do something about it so that we truly become the world city which we should be.

    Our recent elections saw people voting for a party because they promised to evict non Maharashtrians. Or for the other party because the first wanted evict non M. NO IMPORTANCE WAS GIVE TO WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CITY.

    We should put our efforts to making Mumbai a better place.

    And let K J take on the onus of countering Danny Boyle.

    But then as film makers they no what sells.

    So as they say each one for himself.



    PS Amogst the people I know more folks share your opinion than mine :)

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for sparing time to read and drop your comments.
    Well, after reading your comment, I just can say opinions differ from person to person. I have written my experience and now I have read yours in a different perspective. As long as people do not misunderstand our land I am okay. It only bothers me when some of them come and ask weird questions after watching S M.
    Anyways thanks for sharing the info about Boyle's other movie..I din't know about that.

  3. I think it's great to come across people with different opinions. Sometimes things which never strike us become crystal clear. I personally feel that more indians have taken it to heart than the, admittedly few, Westerners I met who actually described it as good cinema rather than saying 'you poor souls'.

    I like the passion with which you wrote. Maybe I should have been angrier when I saw the film. But frankly my anger is more against our own people who have ruined our country than against aforeign film maker.

    But seriously what are the chances of K J doing a harlem Nights :)

  4. And Jyotsna, folks like us should do our best to change any wrong notions people have of our country :)

  5. @Venella: I second your comments.
    And Jyostna has raised a very good point, which I raised too with my friends and colleagues when S M was released. I do not why India is measured to be the best place when it comes to cast the movies over Child Labor, Population, Unemployment, poverty, Hindu-Muslim riots. It’s not about only British directors; the same is applicable to Indian directors too.
    There are many other quality topics. Why don’t they direct movies over India as an IT Hub? The success of Indian cricket? The very good topic raised by Venella “How India survived in recession?”. And many more…..
    I am waiting to watch movies over topics like these.