Tuesday, February 24, 2009

JAI HO! SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Jai Ho ! This seems to be the preferred greeting for many Indians across the globe. And why not? These two words are ringing in every Indian's ears , resonating from deep within. Jai Ho Danny Boyle, Jai ho A R Rahman, Jai Ho cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire , and Jai ho 81st Academy Awards!!! What a wonderful gift to the Indian Film Industry! Eight Oscars to a basically Indian film is how it is being perceived. And why not, why ever not. Though the film is technically a British film, it has maximum participation of Indians. Various other reasons why it should be hailed as an Indian film are enumerated below. Take a critical look :-
  • The film is based on a novel titled Q&A by an Indian diplomat-cum-part-time writer Vikas Swaroop.

  • Total cast of the movie is of Indian origin.

  • Co-director of the movie is a Delhi girl , Loveleen Tandon.

  • The film is completely shot in India.

  • The quintessence of the movie is Indian.

  • A third of the movie is in Hindi.

  • Director Danny Boyle confessed that, "it is the ultimate compliment for me that people in India see Slumdog Milionaire as an Indian film."

  • Most technicians are Indians including Oscar winner for sound mixing -Resul Pookutty.

  • All songs in the movie are in Hindi.

  • Vanity Fair magazine recently mentioned that Slumdog Millionaire is inspired by Black Friday and Satya - both Hindi movies. Even Danny Boyle acknowledged that.

There are many more subtle reasons. The list goes on and on. The film is entirely a Bollywood genre film with its unique masala and that is undisputed. The scene of the two small kids falling off the running train and getting up as grown up kids is typically Bollywood. We have seen all that in many a Hindi film. So when the soul and the body is Indian one cannot but submit that Slumdog Millionaire is essentially an Indian film. More so when even the inspiration for the movie is two Hindi films - Black Friday and Satya.

In saluting the Indian spirit of the movie, Hollywood's Kodak Theatre resounded with the beats of Jai Ho and O Sayya with Western dancers in dazzling pink Indian Lehnga costume and drummers in traditional Indian dhoti. The audience swayed to the lilting Indian melody spun by A R Rahman.

It is reported that Times Square has people testing their lungs singing O Sayya at the top of their voice. Jai Ho already has a remix version in English, sung by Pussycat Dolls and the video is filmed at a Vienna Railway station.

So why are critics in India so confused. Why are we so perturbed that the underbelly of Mumbai has been exposed? Some have even accused that poverty in India has been showcased to Western audiences for exploitation. I fully agree with Aupam Kher when in a TV show he remarked that maybe some critics take on the task of criticising Slumdog Millionaire just to be noticed. Consider the following points and make your own decision :-

  • The film is based on lives of two kids from a slum in Mumbai. So what is the big deal? Doesn't every developing country has this problem of slums. Favelas of Brazil and the slums around them are very well known to the world for their abject poverty and crime. Kibera in Nairobi is the largest slum of the world and conditions there are pathetic to say the least. In fact one third of world's urban population lives in slums!

  • Poverty has not been underlined in Slumdog Millionaire. In fact it is the human spirit which has been showcased. Where do you see poverty as the central theme in the movie? On the other hand the movie highlights the fact that two kids with imagination and courage make it on their own in cities of India. Poverty is nothing new to the Western audiences. They see actual poverty in images from Africa and war devastated countries. What has been shown in the movie is nothing in comparison to actual poverty existing in today's world.

  • Flash back to 1970s and you find Indian parallel cinema actually showcasing abject poverty in India in good measure. The central theme of those movies was poverty in India. Those movies and their directors were hailed by the same critics as they took those movies to world fora for recognition and acclaim. Why the double standards now when poverty is not the main theme of Slumdog Millionaire. It is simply a rags to riches story with adequate dose of Bollywood masala.

Now just look at what Slumdog Millionaire has done to the Indian Film Industry. In this Economic Downturn when the poster boys of Indian Industry are busy protecting themselves from being wiped out, here is the Indian Film Industry which is going to be hugely benefited by Slumdog Millionaire. Sample the facts below:-

  • World has recognised the talent of Indian technicians in film making. As cost cutting measure, work from Hollywood will now be outsourced to India. This will be similar to the saga of IT outsourcing to India.
  • Indian producers have now realised that with few changes to Bollywood masala that they churn out, they can now target world audience. Acceptance is not an issue, only if the Indian curry is not too spicy for global audience. This fact has been amply brought home by Slumdog Millionaire.

  • Instead of targeting 2% Revenue, Indian Film Industry can now target the rest of the 98% Revenue that the Global Film Industry has to offer. Just imagine the scaling-up that this Indian Industry can get, only at the cost of slightly shifting its focus to global audiences and their preferences. Slumdog Millionaire has not only shown but opened up that door for Indian Film Industry.

  • Joint ventures will spawn as global producers see the magic of Indian Film Industry, right up to its song and dance sequences, being heartily lapped up by global audiences. Just sample the bottom line of Slumdog Millionaire- the film has already raked in $163 million in box office against a budget of $15 million. Doesn't it make pure business sense?

Yet there are people in India who are not happy with Slumdog Millionaire. You decide whether Slumdog has been a blessing in disguise for India or not. Indian Film Industry is poised to take the place of Indian IT industry, courtesy Slumdog Millionaire. Let us all celebrate. Jai Ho!