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Friday, March 13, 2009

More comment on Slumdog

i've raved about this film so much.. but recently I've also read some very good criticism which i think might actually hold validity... it concerns the fact that this film is really nothing all that new - but recieved attention because it was made by a moderately well known "western" director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, etc), and also had the help of other "crossover" elements ( i think M.I.A.'s cameos on the soundtrack really helped boost this film as well) -- in fact one critic states basically that this sort of film has already been done (and he claims, it has been done better) .. "Indians make better and more realistic films about India. For example, Subhash K. Jha (author of The Essential Guide to Bollywood) states that this territory has already been covered by Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair in Salaam Bombay and Satyajit Ray in the Apu Trilogy). Similarly, Soutik Biswas of the BBC argues that Slumdog Millionaire is an imitation of Indian films that have been "routinely ignored" and suggests that, "if you are looking for gritty realism set in the badlands of Mumbai, order a DVD of a film called Satya by Ramgopal Verma. The 1998 feature on an immigrant who is sucked into Mumbai's colourful underworld makes Slumdog look like a slick, uplifting MTV docu-drama." (from Wikipedia and other various sources)

I have read Subhash Jha's "Essential Guide to Bollywood" and in my opinion, it only barely manages a "tip of the iceberg" cross section of the vast number of bollywood films that have been made.. basically, it is Jha's personal favorites list.. but it does do a good job of showing the variety in Bollywood films. it's often been stated that Indian audiences dont really care for "art films" - but tend to go for the Masala style films (action, mystery, comedy, romance, drama, musical numbers etc - all rolled into one) - I'm not sure that this is always true, and that doesnt mean that these type of "Artistic" films havent been made brilliantly by Indian directors.. (see also Parallel Cinema and Art Cinema)

films by Shyam Benegal, Rabindra Dharmaraj, Sagar Sarhadi, Ketan Mehta, Naseeruddin Shah, also tell the stories of "the poor exploited downtrodden people living in the slums" - and cover other topics that might not be readily understood by a director who doesnt know India as these directors do.. these directors have all made incredibly moving and painfully realistic films which have been criminally overlooked by the rest of the world… (some of my favorites in this genre featured Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi)

I think maybe the point im making here, in summary, is that -- Slumdog Millionaire is an exceptional film - beautiful, and poetic.. but there are many films by Indian directors as well that convey other perspectives about the struggles of people in India -- and I hope that people will be more inclined now to seek these films out.. I will even try to post a few recommendations here in the future... the problem is, those DVDs are relatively hard to find - since as i mentioned, theyve been generally overlooked even by Indian audiences- ive bought most of them online.

[Salman] "Rushdie also blasted Boyle's admission that he made the film in part because he was unfamiliar with India. "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.""

....sigh....

yes, its all true.. when you hold this thing up to the light there are so many contraditions and flaws.. damn! i hate when beautiful bubbles are burst by ugly undeniable realities...

alas, i love this film.. and when taken with a grain of salt, i think it still stands up as a truly great "work of art" -- yes, i said "work of art"... Slumdog Millionaire is a magnificent work of art--nothing more nothing less- let's leave it at that for a little while.

(that is unless you care to dwell further on the fates of the child actors - which continues to make headlines in the media --specifically TIME magazine (yellow journalism at its finest in my opinion) "Rubina's custody is now an issue, as her biological mother has tried to gain custody from the stepmother who raised her, apparently to get access to Rubina's funds and improved lifestyle. Meanwhile, Azharuddin was slapped by his father when he refused to do an interview that his father had promised" ) etc etc..

honestly, i love that all this conversation is even happening.... now go watch some Indian art films - like this one!!!! , or this one! , or this one! .. or this one or this one, or this one! .. and so many others that i havent seen yet..

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