Of Slumdogs and controversies

Ok – let me say it. Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant movie and I loved it! I watched the movie soon as it was released so my opinion was not biased by how many awards it won or the level of recognition its getting worldwide.

The movie weaves the story of a boy around a game show and how he knows the answers to the questions asked on the show. The movie appeals in all departments – acting, music, direction, screenplay and casting. And I say casting because there were actors of all ages in the movie – from the unkown Dev Patel to the well known Anil Kapoor.

Within a day of watching the movie and talking about it to my family, I realized that everyone took away something different from the movie. To me, the life of slum kids and the reality of begging rings in India left a lasting impression and a burning desire to do something to help. Though in the movie, the ‘Slumdog’ has a fairytale ending, I know that in real life not everyone has a fairytale ending. I left the theatre with a resolve to do something about it. My husband saw the movie as one of hope. Hope for slum kids to lead a better life. He was impressed by the storytelling and came out feeling hopeful.

While I was still pondering over what people took away from the movie, it started getting showered with praise from across the globe. First came the Golden Globes, then the Critic’s awards, the Screen Actors Guild awards and so on. And soon to follow the glory were the brickbats. There were protests and outcry by Indians from all walks of life, condemning India’s portrayal as a poor and filthy place. The makers of the movie had to go on a defensive, explaining why they made it, what they intended and why the name shouldn’t or couldn’t be changed. The press and media were all over it – and there were interviews of not only the cast and crew, but of every person who wanted to have a say about the movie. Even Big B’s blog got into the controversy – AGAIN. Personally I think Big B has a right to say what he wants on his blog, it is, afterall, a space for him to express his personal opinions.

By the time the movie released in India, it was mired in all these controversies. This could bode well for the movie, with more people going to the theatres out of curiosity, or it could lose out due to bad publicity. (Though in today’s times any publicity is good publicity).

Now what? As an Indian who constantly talks about our culture, habits and lifestyle to anyone who’d care to listen; I empathize to some extent with those who feel the movie is a negative portrayal of India and that there is much more to our country than the poverty and misery of slum life. But at the same time -that wasn’t the point the movie was trying to make. It was the story of a boy who came with a traumatic past (his slum life) and utlimately triumphed in his quest for love. If the movie was a documentary about India, we have every right to feel indignant about it. We must learn to appreciate the movie for what it is. It is a great story told with passion and with every element of good cinema present in it.

Isnt it time we grew up and appreciated a meaningful movie , which is a rarity in Bollywood?