Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Indian Rope Trick

Every desi and their grand-uncle has an opinion about the Slumdog Oscar sweep. Desi- blogosphere is in over-drive mode with all the analysis and commentary. There is much hand-wringing over whether we should care about the Oscar or not, if we sold out as a people by allowing our country to be portrayed in such negative light by the West and then to add insult to injury have that depiction be so richly rewarded.

Then there are those who are simply happy about the formidable talent of A.R Rahman being acknowledged by Hollywood. To balance that out, there are just as many who say "Who cares ?" because they don't think he needs any Western validation. No matter what your position, if you are a desi you are almost required to have one on the subject of Slumdog (which by the way is not a box-office success in India)

If you happen to be a desi living in the backwaters of the Western world, you need to brace yourself for questions along the lines of "Do all Indians live in slums ?" from the locals - Slumdog is the new Indian rope trick. The implication seems that you have family back home that do, even if you have arrived in the civilized world and feign complete familiarity with the idea of having running water and sanitary toilets at home. Clearly this movie has created a bit of a fuss for and about desis including an US governor.

Then there is what Rushdie has to say which pretty much closes the over- battered subject for comments. His article has a far broader scope but Slumdog does come up for a little bit. He describes the kind of exoticism that used to be standard issue for movies about India made by First World directors and then goes on to say this:

Now that sort of exoticism has lost its appeal; people want, instead, enough grit and violence to convince themselves that what they are seeing is authentic; but it's still tourism. If the earlier films were raj tourism, maharajah-tourism, then we, today, have slum tourism instead.

He talks about his thoughts upon hearing Boyle's response to an interview question on the choice of subject as far as Slumdog :

In an interview conducted at the Telluride film festival last autumn, Boyle, when asked why he had chosen a project so different from his usual material, answered that he had never been to India and knew nothing about it, so he thought this project was a great opportunity. Listening to him, I imagined an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away.


Vikas Gupta said...

Though the Oscars have delighted me and I don't really care about the genetic make up of the film, Boyle's remark is rather unkind (and took me by surprise).

So, he is an 'armchair sociologist'!!!! Not many in the blogosphere have heard of this from him. Any local director would have been lacerated indeed for making such a comment!

ggop said...

Rushdie's comments were probably the most lucid in the entire blogosphere. He pinpointed what was bothering him so much about the Slumdog brouhaha very well.

That said, Bollywood has very little to offer in terms of novelty.