Thursday, January 15, 2009

Let's go slumming...again

Perhaps Amitabh Bachchan does have a point - Western audiences gobble up our poverty greedily. It turns them on like nothing else. 'Slumdog...." plumbs the depths. Low life cannot get any lower. So... to attribute the Big B's outburst against the film to mere pique would be to insult his intelligence. I can tell you from personal experience that my early novels which spoke about a glittering, prosperous city called Bombay, filled with vibrant, intelligent and glamourous denizens ( the reality I understood best) were rejected by readers in America, the U.K. etc because they refused to believe such an India existed!! They hated the very notion of rich Indians living the good life. Literary agents urged me to write a different kind of book.... focus on deprivation, caste, grim realities associated with India, and preferably throw in a foreign (read: White) male protagonist who shows up as a 'saviour' of sorts. I flatly refused to write 'made for the West' books, saying I was very happy with my domestic market. 'Socialite Evenings', my virgin book, had Malabar Hill as the main locale. An agent in New York actually asked me whether I had invented the destination and merely transposed a Beverley Hills scenario onto it!! The cheek of it all. Sweet irony - the same book will be out in its American edition in September 2009 - and this time round , the agents are salivating. What has changed? India! All my novels are now in translation and selling well across Europe - four of them will be published in Russia - a really tough market to crack . Yes sir.... the world is looking at India.... and shivering. Even the global economic meltdown has left India relatively untouched so far. Then along comes a 'Slumdog...' and perceptions-wise at least, we are back to square one - slums, shit, corruption and photogenic desi poverty - a winning combo. This is not to take anything away from the film's many virtues. Maybe we are being extra touchy. As a lovely Aussie friend, Sandra Willet, wrote to me. 'Slumdog..' to her was about choices and a deep sense of integrity that crosses cultures and demographics. That's the way a lot of people across the world have, it's best to leave it there.
But.... here's my question - why do our stars dress so badly when they attend prestigious awards like the Golden Globe?? What on earth was SRK doing with the tie tucked inside his shirt front?? And Rahman's weird shades? Anil K's tux?? Why not wear a sharply- cut sherwani or a shorter, smart bandgala ? Why resemble Puerto Rican maitre d's when you can look like Indian Maharajahs?? Oh... SRK mentioned it was Allah's blessings that won Rahman his GG. Oooooops - Rahman thanked the one billion Indians who were behind him!!
One more thing.... are you guys really surprised 'Taarey Zameen Par' was thrown out in round one of the Oscar's itself?? I am not. The film that should have gone from India is 'Tingya' or 'Valu'. But who says these selections are determined on the basis of merit???


Anonymous said...

There's more to Mr. Bachchan's comments than meets the eye for sure. However, and at least on the face of it, his knee-jerk reaction (without even having watched the movie)reinforces the fact that many desis still live in denial about the way majority of India is. There's a difference in living around this reality and actually 'seeing' and 'acknowledging' it for what it is! I say this as someone who has worked in this 'real world' of slums, shit and even "photogenic" poverty as you put it.

Do come by to read my take on the movie.

romulus said...

I think the economic crisis has destroyed the middle class of india, therefore i would not deem it 'untouched' by the meltdown.

I completely agree about the dress sense of our stars though!

Anonymous said...

peronally I thing Big B was just miffed that it was SRK wgo was invited & not him.

Poor guy.

Rasi jal gayi bar bal nahin gaya.................

PRACHI...... said...

true... very true..
i was a part of youth summit which happend sumtime back.. and some european students were part of it.. a bunch of 16 year olds.. all they wanted to see in mumbai.. was poverty.. slums..beggars..
it was saddedning..

though india is going places

the potrayal of india still hasnt changed much.

Oxy said...

ARR thanked GOD (which I presume he meant Allah only), The Makers and One Billion Indians.. in that particular order... So What's wrong is SRK thanked Allah... U r doing too much of nit-picking.

TZP out..Even I am not surprised.. care to read this:

oo7 said...

as prachi said..
portrayal still hasn't changed much.
watch "outsourced " u'll see.

and Oxy bro..hugs again !!

Anonymous said...

TZP was a great movie. Just because you didnt like it and your grudge against all tbe stars, doesnt mean it wasnt good.

But yes stars could do with a sensible designer for their couture at these awards.


sanjuayyar said...

f*#k the west. we know who we are and where we are heading. when global economies are nosediving, we're heading north. And heading north in all spheres. rahman finally got his due. what a gifted composer. and what a humble fellow. agreed, the shades were looking pathetic and SRK was at his awful best in terms of looks. I cant really understand why dont we wear deadly sherwanis and stuff that's truly indian. all said and done, slumdog is a fantastic film. and my city, bombay, is equally fantastic. i watched slumdog on pirated DVD, with exceptional print & sound quality, eggjacktly like you did. that is bombay for me (fast. furious and fuc*#n fabulous). come on danny boy, you couldn't have done a film like this had it not been for a city like bombay, an enigma in itself. golden globe ani oscarlaa laa sidelaa theva. thodkyat mhanaycha tar, aamchi mumbai jinkli. tu kaay mhanti shobhaa?

Anonymous said...

I think you are unpredictable and mercurial. No movie and no person is perfect. We cant please everyone.

Anonymous said...

Jo baat dil se nikalti hai dil tak jaati hai...
may be most of the movies are not made by heart

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Oh AB is just doing the "Bahu ke Bapu and Bapu himself Jaling bit". Patently obvious, even if he wont acknowledge it himself. Retrospectives in France, germany and morrocco and Loreal sponsored visits to Cannes are ok but the big banana is definately in the big orange. He knows it.

What has AB done himself on a CONSISTANT basis to use his box office (and by extention distribution) clout to promote good India cinema that appeals to EAST AND WEST. All this entertainment cinema that he bemoans is never celebrated in the west... is it even consistantly good product? I beg to differ. Indians rejoice in it because that is all we are fed. Not because substandard product, is all we understand. Apart from technical shoddyness, there is no point of commonality that the west finds in those films, so why would they celebrate or market the films AB moans about?

Shobhaa, your early novels were written at a time India was not even a blip of the map in the west. Naturally they focussed on what was a contrast from thier own lives (the only thing anyone else knew about India). I will guarantee you today that amongst the aam janata few Indians will want read and see about the terrible social upheaval and poverty (by US standards) in some remote Appalachian homestead. They would rather read about what they dont see around them, glittery Beverly Hills.

India is on the map now, in the West. People dont ask about whether I went to school on a elephant... (and they never have asked me or anyone else I know such stupid questions....even in the remotest areas of the US even 25 years ago when India was not on thier horizon at all), but they do ask me about my fairly middle class lifestyle in India. They are interested. They are willing to celebrate the rich, middle class and poor. Our bad luck that poverty is so self evident in India that there is no escaping it. So what do we do? We berate anyone who acknowledges it. Poverty is not a disease. It is a symptom of our indifference.

SM was a good film. People found some commonality in emotion and the way it was presented, in whatever culture it is presented. It was distributed and publised correctly in a way that appeals to the west. Therefore it was celebrated. Not only because goras only like goras. We do ourselves and our abilites a disservice when we think that.

Havent seen Taare Zameen Pe, but you have to hand it to Aamir Khan and that super thinking wife of his that it was even India's entry. He went about atleast letting other markets know about the film the right way.

Why didnt AB champion the cause of Tingya or Valu or even Taare Zameen Pe if he felt so strongly about it? So his clout and retrospecitives in france and germany and jhumri talliya mean nothing in terms of what he could do for good cinema that he claims to love so much? Apparantly not. Loreal ki lipstick lagao aur chup baitho.

I dont think they should have nessecarily worn desi dress. Any award show is a marketing opportunity. They were marketing themselves as actors/techinical people on a global stage. I am so glad Frieda Pinto wore nice clothes that were not all saris. She is marketing herself to the film Industry in the west right now. She needs to look like she can fit into a film made there. Why not?

SRK was dressed by his gay boyfriend/best platonic gay friend/best friend forever (take your pick) and looked like it. It was very Kjo. Still I have much, much love for him, even with the "too much" spray tanner and painted on looking hairline. He spoke well and looked relaxed and was marketing himself well. I still wont forgive him for his weak response during the Mumbai mayhem though.

AR Rahman... ohhh the man is wonderful. Nuff said.

Anil Kapoor cheered like a good milk drinking punjabi. That is a good thing! That is what we desis are... exhuberant, we cheer and we are rich and middle class and POOR.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Sorry for the numerous typos and bad grammar in my comment above. So many mistooooks that I wont try and correct each line.

My excuse, I always write when I am a froth of emotion of some sort. Oh and spell and grammar checking is for the birds :)

Pritesh Patel said...

De, i doubt if 'Valu' or 'Tingya' wud hv made the cut as well. Both the films hv been appealing but technically very average (not that i can comment much abt the technicalities).
I liked 'Tingya' better than 'Valu'
Did u listen to 'Jai Ho'? It sounds very mediocre in comparison to all or Rehman's compositions. It's an irony & absolute shame that he got a GG for this song.

Panduram Ganpathrao Dhule said...

Good to see Shobha De's blog, that's the beauty of web-connected world!

Somehow we all have this misconception that slumdog is an Indian movie, which it is not, it is more of one artist's imagination of another in an imaginary world.


CoolShams said...

AB's comments have reassured me that its a classic case of indians pulling down indians.Its clear that he must be miffed cause SRK was invited & not him.Cause if he feels so strongly, then why does he himself attend Cannes & other such international festivals?And what about aishwarya rai desparately trying her luck in hollywood?
I think its a proud moment for all us Indians, that Indian talent was acknowledged and noticed.
As regards dress sense, well I too was a little surprised on seeing SRK's tie tucked under his shirt style.But I feel overall everyone was well dressed.There is no need to wear Indian clothes for award functions in the west.Do these actors wear Indian clothes even to our award functions?So long as they are well dressed!

oo7 said...

Every few years we get the opportunity to see a movie that you'll remember for a long time and this is one those movie. As a big fan of movies of all genre, I thought Dark Knight was hands down the best movie of the year (2008) until I saw Slumdog. For start to end this movie was amazing. The music, story, acting, direction and list goes on. I am not saying this was better then Dark Knight but they were equally amazing and I was very fortunate to have 2 movies last year that I'll remember for many years.
Bollywood only likes to show glamorous India, because the other side of India is what 95% lives in, and hence would not like to see a movie with the same backdrop. Whats different about this is that it starts of grabbing you in the Gut with almost nauseating imagery and gradually turns it into a ravishing delicacy and leaves you mouth watering for more. A true masterpiece captured with stunning visuals and exhilarating music to match. Definitely one of the 100 films you must see before you die.

Vivek said...

Yes i am hugely surprised by the early exit of TZP.I totally felt that it was correct nomination for oscars.Bad luck Aamie again but a landmark movie u have made.

I totally agree with what u said about our star's dressing sense.
they could have done much much better.

Comments from Mr. Bachchan embarks mixed reactions.Partly he is correct in saying that West can only see a poor india.But that doesnt take anything away from that fact that its a very well made movie which shows certain realities which we shamlessly never accept.

Shubho Gupta said...

shobha..i really apprciate your take on the movie....but considering someone who's staying in England..i would love to share what my fellow mates from the country think about us "Indians" thanks to the movie...that we live in houses with thatched roofs and we can;t afford to have tiolets inside our home...amusing isnt it?...what i want to highlight here is...THIS IS A MOVIE WHICH IS IN THE LIMELIGHT CUZ ITS BEEN MADE BY A FOREIGN DIRECTOR...accept it...

Anonymous said...

Do you have any firm say ma'am ! .. Just couple of blogs before you said this film was reality and showered the praise. Now you say the opposite and hit the west. I like the way you write but based on the fact that your opinion is "opinion of the day" that can change 180 deg the next , it better not be believed. Also , if you list what charitable work you do for the society apart from attending parties , it would really great. Since preaching is far simple that an actual deed. Take Care.

Chiranjib Mazumdar said...

Intersting observations there...
Yes I think the West still likes India as a poverty stricken poor nation.. they simply refuse to believe that India has moved ahead... For most of them India is still the nation of snake charmers, tantriks and slums... so a 'slum dog millionaire' has appealed to them... but I don't think that the Oscar should be the benchmark in rating the Indian Film Industry... What matters is 'what we think and feel about it all'... who cares whether we win or not!

Balaji said...

SM is a very good movie...This movie would click in the west because of the WWTBM game show concept, which was hugely popular.

Though the depiction is shocking and sincere and slum scenes are set up around 90s, you can complain but the counter arguments are also there in the movie.

But just becoz AB has criticized you dont let open this can of worms about the west publishers!
There is enough polarisation in the country as you know.

Also about your comment of TZP if SM is a good movie without commercial interests and TZP is movie contrary to that view, my humble opinion is you are contradicting yourselves. TZP or SM these are commercial movies aimed at catering its audiences.
No different! (about it failing to make it, we should analyze based on the 5 that made it and not be critical about TZP!

Daanish said...

I respect your thoughts,I thought its the opposites which attract people not the the truth or reality.We should stop thinking films as a source of message or portrayal of truth.Film is for fantasy,film is for action,film is for drama,film is for entertainment.Its a bussiness!
The film market is for poverty,what we miss in west!

R S Prasanna said...

Overhyped Millionaire. My review of the film, that i would liek to share with you. Inviting your views and comments.

Thank you.

rain girl said...

i fail to understand the big deal of our stars "not dressing up". Rehman is a musician - the best of all - n not some style icon. his music is touching, divine, unbelievably beautiful. asking him to dress up is like asking god to wear prada.

*Aham* said...

De, I had written to Kush, a blog dost of ours, earlier regarding Slumdog. I was telling him that slums and whores and goons are as much a reality as the booming realty is. Danny called a spade a spade. Big Deal! Can we cross our hearts and proclaim that what he has portrayed is but a myth? No, we can't.

We speak of firangi minds seeing india as a nation of snakes, discrimination and making mazaak of our gareebi(the non existance)?

lets jhaank in our girebaan... Even today, throw a movie on ichadhari naagins to the audience, And we will be a wonderful catch. The tickets will sell as hot cakes would.

And are we okie with being called rich in our movies?

We as a nation are always sorry to be rich. The rich is often associated with the spoilt brat slutty image. I can't understand though why? Have we ever heard of a success story where the protagonist is rich and got richer? NOT OFTEN!We make a virtue of being poor. We like it that way.

And regarding Boyle doing injustice... I ask with teh same intensity of emotion... why should we expect a firang to not show the part of India "as is", when our own desi breed of director sahebs have not done it. Hasn't Formula Bhandarkar, Mumbai Meri jaan, etc etc have not exploited this side of Mumbai?

Athithi devo bhava is a thing of the past. We are not even grateful to a director who made a real movie on our city and got our boy a golden globe. Yes, there were bits in the film that I felt terribly revolted. But I could decipher the truth from the unreal.

Now, I make it a point that I engage in a discussion with a visually impaired or physically challenged bhikharis and ask them about their whereabouts, slumdog exposed the nexus, that was not unknown! a sensation that had not prevailed in me until I saw slumdog millionare. (No, even bhandarkars traffic signal didnt kindle the spark in me). thank you Boyle. I just was repelled by the idea of the Title.. SLUMDOG??? though I have no issues with the content, but the title. He called slummers in bombay a DOG? where are the bombay greats who changed the city's name and demanded sign boards in marathi?

This was the only aspect that was unreal. We dont call the slumdwellers dogs. Boyle got the essence right, but spoiled it all with a brash abusive title.

What extensive research lovleen and boyle would have tried? I can imagine the pre production research. It is anything but easy.

speaking about your book, I am happy that so many people would be reading your books.And I am not surprised that people asked you to By teh way, I have a personal request, write about pale and sick India. Print one in Punjabi for Sonam Kapoor na.

Dressing for golden globe? hehheheh. They need to be given lessons on etiquette. In this aspect they are terribly uneducated and too shy to admit. Toh naturally na De, diasterich hoyega na.

What Amitabh has done is worth the attention. I suppose that was his intention. What the f? You are still on De's blog? Let's give the angry young man what he truly wishes. "Move over to Amitabh's blog", I say!

lol :-)

*Aham* said...

and Anotehr kiran,

there is no comment of mine here without a typo. I write so much Dil Se, that i really dont bother to come back and edit it.

here also I made a galti

" And I am not surprised that people asked you to By teh way,By teh way, I have a personal request, write about pale and sick India. Print one in Punjabi for Sonam Kapoor na. "

Should have read

"I am not surprised that people have asked you to write about pale and sick India. By the way I have a personal request, Print one in Punjabi ".

Vivek said...

I agree with you in this regard that its getting all the accolades becouse its been made by a Westerner.

At the first place, i was surprised by whya westerner has to make a movie which is fully INDIAN???
Why none of our very own top gun directors took this project???

West has always been n will always be happy to INDIA poor n hungry.We can not help it.

Having said that we must accept that Hollywood movies doesnt only show slums from india but they have shown the underbelly from america as well in so many movies.
But the Slumdog is shot in such a realistic manner that we must give it to danny.

Mahadev Kapuskari said...

I absolutely respect your thoughts
and appriciate the values.
I am a fan of your books.

Anonymous said...

YOUR books are trashiest at it's best.... yuck
and slumdog millionaire showed part of india... no indian want to accept

Anonymous said...

Amitabh's reaction to Slumdog Millionaire is indeed interesting. What is he ashamed of? The truth? So film did show the dark underbelly of India. But have we not seen movies that show the dark side of the US? Take the film 'Traffic' or even the film 'The Pursuit of Happyness'!

anant said...

original novel is much different and sensible as well. inconvenient part is deleted.why?read the novel u will get the answer.

Anonymous said...

shobha, shobha, shobha,

Now, why would you compare SRK's dressing style to a Puerto Rican Maitre'd?

For your information, most maitre'd's are white, not puerto rican or mexican or whatever.

Where do you indians come up with these stereotypes about different people?

Anonymous said...

Comments made by De and Bachan proves that these people might be celebrities but not matured yet t comment on these issues.

Besides they dont like the way the west understand them but desperately need their recognition. We make films here which we want the oscars to recognise, common lets get real.
We live with slums around us we despise but it took some slum dwellers to pull it off with a movie that got some oscars. Boyle remains calm about it all and speaks highly of india. But we jokers want to criticize with the little maturity we have.

These are issues not meant for celebrities in india to comment on. They should be left to comment on 5-star subjects. comment on films when they start making some good films. Maybe De should write a script with Bachan in the lead and then leave it to Rahman and Resul to pull off another oscar. But i doubt if De or Bachan can pull it off as they are so full of them self.

Indian PjBoy said...

Its no surprise.
The 80s and the 90s saw demonization of Whites by the slaved African Americans, who worshipped Malcom X.

Today, Black movies, showing African American gang bangers, being caught by police for crimes they did not do, getting raped in jails and fighting for principles against fellow white KKK/Nazi inmates are not very popular, the topic has been overdone. SlumDog brings in that freshness of the same old 'suppression'.

A perfect example of such a film would be "Hurricane" Carter played by denzel washington...The only difference being THAT STORY WAS BASED ON REALITY. Slumdog - Ha ha ha

maha said...

excellent going...

Work from home India

Pooja Rathore said...

sexy saree and smart bandhagala or sherwani- you have made this point several times but so far no one has taken your advice seriously ( they are not wise enough to understand the point you are making, why should we wear and copy west( gowns ,suits )when saree is beautiful Bandhagala or sherwani( why not dhoti ?) it will mark our individuality but no one understands that.
you have written in detail about how we (Indians are percieved by the world in your book Superstar India shocking there is more to our country then slums and dirt i appreciate that you turned down their offer( to project India otherwise just to sell Books) it shows how much you love our country.

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