I have been thinking for sometime now to go and see the film, Slum dog millionaire. I have lived in Bombay and have seen the reality, and even now am a frequent visitor to that city, but now as am a visitor I can avert my eyes to the painful reality. And am a bit reluctant to watch it on a huge screen, in all its misery.
Every review of that film is telling us how good it is, and am sure it is. The BBC`s Asian network keeps playing a trail in which we are told again and again that a year it was “casually mentioned” in its review and look where it has got to! It seems that programme has a big hand in its success.
The film has won a string of awards and is destined for an Oscar. And am just wondering if it is because it is someone said,” spiritually affirming”. Does such films have this effect on only the western audience? As India has not yet made a similar claim, since it was released last week there. I think the noises coming from the sub continent have been that it portrays “a false image of the country”!
I beg to differ on that account. The children growing up in those slums do have such a life that we living in our comfortable homes in the west can not imagine. And it seems nor can the affluent Indians. They too are removed from the reality ,though they are living quite close to it. It is not fair to say that the Indian film makers don’t make such films . They do, but not much heard about them. So is it because the Indians feel that it is question of being branded heartless, or because they find the reality too painful to watch? I must admit am in the latter camp.
Where as to the western eye, it is doing something worthwhile, to spend a couple of hours in a cinema, observing the misery of the other. Get a feel as to how the other half lives. Because most western people fall in love with India on their first visit. The colour, the warmth of the people and of course the food, captivates them. They do see the poverty and the limbless children and are told not to pay them. So they move on and forget, and only remember the good things.
Am sure it is a fantastic movie, but there have been other such films. Meera Nayar`s Salam Bombay , was another one . It was not as acclaimed , and every Indian I spoke to was very critical of it. The stock phrase being that India is not like that, it should not be portrayed as such.
I think it will be good if the Indian film makers did embrace the reality and made such films , but films being an escape from reality in that country, no producer would want to show such stark reality. I can understand if the country feels embarrassed ,when a western film maker shows it.
But it is the reality, and I salute the unbroken spirit of the young slum dwellers. We can learn a thing or two from their zest for life and the stoicism, If in this battle for ratings and Oscars and denials, the clear winners are those young people.