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 responded....so, 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???