Monday, February 16, 2009

Post Slumdog Millionaire...

A lot has been said… a lot written… a lot expressed… and to be true, I loved every bit of everything that happened post Slumdog Millionaire release.

Some people liked it for being shot well, written beautifully, conceptualized with a fresh approach, tuned with some amazing music scores and above all its from Hollywood (the last criteria does apply to some but not all people who loved it). Others hated it for showing our (shining) India in a bad light, for fictionalizing various facts, for not being a great movie and still getting all the limelight and above all its coming from Hollywood (probably because some people believe ‘when our moviemakers don’t bother to shoot Mumbai slums and rather concentrate on the Switzerlands of the world, why the hell should a foreigner do that?’). In fact, some of my friends, who are against the movie, went out to decrease the profits of the movie by promoting video piracy against going to cinema for this movie!

Well, for me the important thing is not to support or rubbish the movie. Rather I observe a few interesting things about us, the Bhartiya Janta, and our societal behavior.

One good thing that has come out is we are still an open community; we freely express whatever we think. I read feelings for and against the movie in the same newspaper. That says, our media, to some extent, has still maintained the job of reporting (I have talked about this in my previous blog, ‘setting up my morning tempo’). Then it doesn’t really matter, if I am Amitabh Bachchan or a slum dweller (had used slumdog before, but changed it keeping in mind the various sentiments); everyone is expressing opinions. On a lighter note, the movie has also provided a reason to get away from the sadness of Taj attacks on 26th NOV, 08 in Mumbai. Those who liked it happily danced to Rehman’s tunes and celebrated when he won the Golden Globe; those who didn’t had a matter to discuss over their tea, coffee, etc.

What I don’t understand, or rather is not convinced with is, the opinions expressed by the people who didn’t like it. Here are a few points put forth –

1) India has been shown is a bad light
Let’s forget for a moment that Slumdog Millionaire has been made by a Non-Indian or for that matter, the movie has an exposure to the world and let me ask, “Is Dharavi not a reality? Is it not the greatest slums in Asia?”

I guess, we all agree to this and say a mutual ‘Yes’.

Now let me ask, “What attracts us when we look at USA or Europe or Australia?... Their huge buildings, the open culture, the mega cities, right?”

The question is - when we get attracted towards what is big, bigger when compared to the same things of our own, why the same logic is not applied when these foreigners look at us? We definitely have bigger slums and smaller buildings than what they have; so is the attraction to make a movie on the bigger things.

Also, have they ever complained about the way we bitch about their openness in society, mock about their culture and disregard their traditions to glorify our own in our movies? Then why do we complain about some mere factual filming about us in theirs? Because not many people see our movies and a lot many see theirs? Now is that their problem or ours?

In fact, I see it as a positive movie where it is said that Indians are deeply spirited people and even things like poverty, hunger, pain, etc can’t lower our heads that we hold high (That’s what Zamaal Malik was). I don’t mind being shown as a poor country if I am also shown as a country which dares to dream and can fight to realize it.

2) A lot has been fictionalized
Were this movie to be a documentary, we had had every right to complain. But I understand it falls into the genre of Drama/Fiction. And when we say fiction, we must mean fiction, in bold letters. Except the base is a reality. Moreover, when an Indian (Mr. Swarup) wrote this fiction no one complained then why when a foreigner (Mr. Boyle) filmed it?

3) Rehman has given better tunes than this before, so why an award for this movie?
I agree to a part of this. Mr. Rehman has given us much better tunes than this. So what? Can we really argue on this point that Mr. Rehman should never be honored for any future work anywhere since he was not for his fantabulous works like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se et al?

C’mon people, all of the previous works by Rehman were not marketed well, were not seen. This one is. The Music for Slumdog Millionaire is not competing against other works by the composer but against the work of other composers in the same year. And it stands out in the competition it has this year. So it won. Simple.

And personally I didn’t like two things about this movie –

1) The title
Probably, the movie could have titled something more sober than Slumdog. Why to abuse someone when you don’t intend to?

2) Lack of credit to Mr. Nepali
I learnt in today’s newspaper that the song ‘Darshan do Ghansyam’ was not written by Surdas but a lyricist from 50’s, Mr. Gopal Singh Nepali for the hindi movie 'Narsi Bhagat'. Such ignorance while doing your homework is not acceptable when you plan to make a world-class cinema, in fact not even otherwise.

With or without merits, Slumdog Millionaire remains one of the most discussed movies in recent past. This in itself is an achievement, even if we leave everything else for the debates and discussions. And by the way, I loved the movie, scene-by-scene!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Setting up my morning tempo...

So finally some good news has arrived in our morning news papers!

News, in its essence meant ‘what’s new’ to me. But for past few months, every morning I open up my Hindustan Times with this hope that ‘What’s new, but good’. Now the second part is very important, more so after months of bad times we have lived by (in fact still living in the after effects of some).

Be it the attack on Taj in Mumbai or on the Bars in Manglore; Blasts in Assam, Malegaon or Jaipur; Christian-Hindu rift in Orissa or war of words (and at times of swords/pistols) between North-Indians and MNS (Please note I don’t call Maharashtrians, as MNS is no way a representation of real Marathi people); The ill effects of Global Recession or our very own Satyam Fiasco. And to add to all this God gave us a big, fat Floods in Bihar from which people there are still to recover.

But after this huge bad patch, finally good news has appeared. A.R. Rehman has won the Golden Glob Awards for Best Music (Though some of my fellow Indians have different opinion on this. It will be an all new debate to talk on and right now I am in celebration mood. So no such talks please) and Yuki, Mahesh and Sania have returned as winners from Australian Open Tennis Championship.

It feels good as an Indian citizen, in fact great, to be out of those painful moments of worrying about national security and job security. Even if this happiness is short, it’s sweet. Thank you, all three for giving us a reason to cheer!

I personally believe in two most important things about journalism.

First, Newspapers (and of course the Electronic media) can help create a mood for the nation’s mornings. How nice it would be if our newspersons could work a little extra and could find (not create or fictionalize) some real success stories for us, every morning! The size of the success is insignificant. It really doesn’t matter if I am reading about the Success story of Shahrukh Khan or Mumbai’s Dabbawalas. What matters to me is to be aware of the fact that we have such fellowmen (and women, of course) who have the dreams and guts to work for them. It creates and sets a positive morning tempo for me. I am in a good mood that day and even my work for the day, then, shows that.

Second, news reporting should be reporting in real sense. It should not be cooked with opinions of the reporters or the media house. Why are we, the readers, are to be taken as stupid people, who can't conclude things for themselves? Why are we to be fed with someone else’s opinions? And if it’s so very important, there are Editorial pages, Comment sections and many such columns, where the media house can express opinions. Front page news should be a Report. Period.

Hindustan Times has started this section called ‘2009 – India can, India will’ which qualifies, to a great extent, to both of the above two points. This is where they report of stories of opportunities from adversity. I just wish if they could shift it from the page eleven to page One!