Tuesday, March 10, 2009

“Million…” a representation of the Billion?

There has been a lot of discussion around Slumdog Millionaire being an inappropriate representation of India and while I’ve been part of this debate in the physical world, I haven’t really written about it. I started writing a comment to this post, but decided to post here instead.

I’ve heard various arguments over the appropriate vs. inappropriate, all good arguments as in the post above, but I’m confused why the discussion even goes that far. The actual debate should be on the noun, not on the adjective that classifies it. Is Slumdog Millionaire a representation of India or should it be? I really don’t see why it should.

Slumdog Millionaire is a movie, not a documentary. It's also not titled 'India' (analogous to the recent 'Australia', which wasn’t really a representation of that country, either).

As a movie, it's purpose, it's responsibility is to entertain people. It was never intended to be a representation of India. That was never its responsibility or its right. It’s just a movie that tells a nice story and does a bloody good job of it. It shows what it needs to to tell that story, and part of that is the setting, which happens to be in India!(Random tangent: Remember the times when any Bollywood movie justified a kiss by saying ‘The story called for it’?)

It's annoying to see any art form (or other media, not good enough to qualify as art) with Indian artists being judged as a representation of the entire country. It really should stop as more and more Indian artists vie for the global stage or we’ll just end up restricting them and ourselves.

Just to dispel any doubts, or to start up debates, if you disagree (I so hope you do!)

  • Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ was not a representation of India, nor are any of Salman Rushdie’s works.
  • Bandit Queen was not a representation of India.
  • Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother was not a representation of the Indian woman. Neither was Aishwarya Rai in Pink Panther:II (God forbid!)
  • Choosing the issue of SD being an ‘inappropriate representation of India’ as the one we want to make noise about, when there are so many real issues facing the country, is a representation of India.

As a people, we need to stop being so conscious of how we’re being judged and just go do our thing! It’s not like Obama’s going to watch Slumdog and decide to bomb India instead of Afghanistan or the UN will send in the Human Rights commission (which may not be a bad thing, actually).

Seriously, we’ve got a fair set of issues. Let’s focus on those, rather than creating more where none exist!


Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

Well said...:-))

SS said...

Nice post. Although while watching the movie, I did feel I was seeing India from a western eye. Slums, Taj Mahal and call centers.

Amisha said...

Right!! I so agree :)

Maddy said...

ditto. Totally agree!

The Holy Cow said...

Noted. I thought the debate was pointless also.
However, I was also of the opinion that the film itself was really not that great. I didn't enjoy watching it, and actually was a bit bored. I don't think the direction etc are much to write home about.
And I definitely don't think it was worth ALL that praise. I think the west (By which I mean America more so than Europe etc) tends to function in a very if-someone-who-we-hold-to-be-important-has-a-certain-opinion-about-something-then-let's-hold-the-same-opinion basis. Take Benjamin Button for instance. I thought the film was utterly boring and pointless. But it received such praise the USA.
Sorry I went very off track :-)
Overall, I agree with your post.