Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holding a mirror to yourself - Slumdog

The NYT tries to understand why we Indians hate Slumdog

To be honest, I didn’t think it was a great movie as far as Oscar nominated ones go. Considering the stilted english (as opposed to accented), the bad acting by the lead etc. But I did think it was an honest and plausible portrayal of the situation surrounding the characters.

I was surprised by some of my friends’ reaction to the movie. While they borrowed phrases like “poverty porn” and used the argument of western condescension which used tired old cliches like the taj, bachchan etc… they WERE honestly disturbed by the picture of India that the movie painted.
… which is endemic to the middle class and higher in India. Most of us have absolutely no idea how our drivers and housemaids and electricians live. Seeing them on the screen disturbs our “middle-class sentiments”. There is no acknowledgement that we, the middle class are a privileged 40-50 million in a country of a billion. We’re interested only in stories of Vinod Dham and Sabeer Bhatia and gossip about our business houses’ latest acquisitions abroad… and forwarding fake spam on how 30% of NASA is Indian and the value of the Hyderabad nawab’s fortune.

Helplessness? Apathy? Romanticisation of poverty to hide guilt? I don’t know but “Slumdog Millionaire” as an international phenomenon is discomfiting.

Again, most of the Indian middle class would like very much to subscribe to the right winger's idea of India. A great country where there aren't any cultural dissonants like Muslims and embarrassing truths like our Dalits. Where all of us live like the NRIs in the Karan Jonar-Yash Chopra movies. Which is why you'll find wide support for the "nationalist" right wing loonies of the sangh from the middle class. This is even more drastic in our NRI brethren who hypocritically would support all kinds of minority protection, anti-racism measures etc. in their adopted homes but would generously contribute moral and monetary support to the Sangh which does the exact opposite of supressing minoroties and glossing over our societies damnable truths like untouchability, casteism, indentured servitude and feudalism.

As for the organised protests and forced shutting of theaters, I tend to agree with Mr. Sinha’s analysis of our dear Hindutwadis attempting to deflect attention from their actions which for probably the first time are being seen on mainstream internation screens. Its an embarrassment to them. Movies like Bombay, Parzania and Black Friday might exist but that an open truth to be shared among us Indians and we'll then proceed to give it a cursory acknowledgement. But to be seen on the silver screen all around the world? And just when Advani is launching his web2.0 initiative? The right wingers are giving people around the world more credit than they deserve. They're assuming the people of the world or the NRIs will put two and two together and actually see that Advani is the same leader that helped inititate the embarassing scene of riots in Slumdog. Don't worry my dear saffronites, we resident Indians and much less our NRI brethren are all too caught up in fighting off the 100 Re. increase of our housemaid's salary to notice you a******s tearing our country apart.

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