Monday, January 26, 2009

Arindham Choudhary on Slumdog Millionaire

A phony poseur that has been made only to mock India for the viewing pleasure of the First World!!
The emperor's new clothes! That's "Slumdog Millionaire" for you… Five minutes into this celebrated patchwork of illogical clichés and you are struck by the jarring dialogues. The cumbersome delivery in a language which doesn't come naturally to most of the actors sounds like someone scratching on walls with one's finger nails; it ruins the possibility of a connection… Had this film been made by an Indian director, it would've been trashed as a rotting old hat, which literally stands out only because of its stench, but since the man making it happens to be from the West, we're all left celebrating the emperor's new clothes. The film borrows an undoubtedly interesting narrative style – from films like "City of God" – but then uses it to weave in a collection of clichés from the Third World's underbelly for the viewing pleasure of a First World audience. The real slumdog in the movie is not the main protagonist but India as a whole… The makers and those celebrating this movie's hard-to-spot brilliance are actually serving up India as the accidental millionaire, which in fact happens to be a slumdog… and like shameless fools we are gloating over its success without realising that it makes a caricature out of India.
The film does not have the sincerity and honesty of a "Salaam Bombay" or a "City of Joy" and nor does this slime covered fairy tale have the integrity or the rootedness of the above mentioned scripts, or even a "Shantaram" for that matter; the soundtrack and the performance of the child actors are the only bits in the film which live up to the hype. The real slumdogs who've hit the jackpot after wallowing in acres of human waste are the makers of this film who are now raking in millions while those court jesters who've critiqued the film and showered tributes and awards need to ask themselves why, scores of years after our independence, they still feel the need to suck up to the gora sahibs. It's not a question of xenophobia… it's definitely a well cinematographed film… but the film has no soul, especially after little Jamal has jumped off the train and become a teenager… The rest of the film is just a modern version of the West's view of India where slums, slumdogs and Bollywoodian clichés have replaced the elephants and snake charmers. It's a well made caricature of a country and a caricature can never be a Mona Lisa, for a masterpiece can't be one dimensional juxtaposition of sadistic extremes… and that's my grouse with the celebrations…
And I say all this not because I don't know what is India. I know its poverty and the real statistics around it a little better than most others – especially the Indian film critics who have given "Slumdog…" an average of 4 to 4.5 stars! But the fact is that the film's entire narration seems like the germination of a terribly sadistic and complex mind with the sole aim of satisfying the western idea of India – and its new found growth instincts at their cost - and it is done through a combination of illogical happenings in order to show everything in a disgustingly negative vein. Not that it doesn't exist, but it surely doesn't exist in this fictitious manner. While "Salaam Bombay" had realism, "Slumdog…" is just every scrap of dirt picked up from every corner and piled up together to try and hit back at the growing might of India. And the awards almost seem like a sadistic effort to show the world – look we knew that this was India, and these are the slumdogs we are outsourcing our jobs to. It stinks of racial arrogance and it's such a shame now on second thought to see the Indian faces – including that of the undoubted master, AR Rahman - celebrating its success. There is nothing positive about the film and it seems that a deranged sadist has painted his insecure negative self in each and every character of the movie. It illogically shows every negative thing about India happening in the protagonist's life... slums, open-air lavatories, riots, underworld, prostitution, brothels, child labour, begging, blinding and maiming of kids to make them into 'better beggars', petty peddlers, traffic jams, irresponsible call centre executives… everything apart from western pedophiles roaming around in Indian streets!! And its winning of so many awards and nominations only goes on to prove strongly that the paradigm of cinema and recognition of films are in the hands of a few retarded imperialistic minds. It's a crying shame that our media hasn't seen through this ruse and is touting "Slumdog's" nominations to claim that India is shining at the Oscars, while in fact it is lauding a film that mocks and ridicules the idea of 'India', pigeonholing its identity into the straitjacket of depraved poverty for a global audience.
When the West wanted Indians to embrace them and their companies to come to India and capture the lucrative markets, suddenly we had all the Indian women, some very beautiful and some not necessarily so, winning all the Miss Universe and Miss Worlds. Today, they are in a crisis and India is looking unstoppable despite its slums and poverty, and they are losing their businesses to us. Isn't it the best time to paint India as the Slumdog Millionaire?? All in all, the film is nothing but an endorsement of an erstwhile imperial mindset of the West and its blinkered vision of India. An English master has made an Indian slumdog. Don't even waste your time watching this film in the theatres. It sucks and there is nothing great in it as a film too. Amitabh Bachchan was spot on when he said that Bollywood has made far better mainstream films. Take out a DVD of one of his old films instead…

Friday, January 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Praise from all sectors of the world for the Slumdog Millionare was so greedily picked up by every media channel and newspaper as if the movie has made India proud in the world. Three awards for AR Rehman were being triumphed on Tv channels as if it’s the first time he has created such class music. We always fail to understand and absorb the fact that what the western world likes is India poverty, crime and riots. They love to see unruly India with children blinded and handicapped to be forced towards beggary and girls raised for prostitution. And when they see this in a movie, they get overwhelmed by another scene that says, “Now you see the true America” and the American lady hands over a $100 bill to the boy who just showed them “real India”.
Are we that bad? Yes, the movie is actually lived by lakhs of children in India. Yes, India has lawlessness. Yes, India is poor. But is this the only part of India? Don’t we have the likes of Ratan Tata and Sunil Bharti Mittal? Don’t we have Mahatma Gandhi and Manmohan Singh? Don’t we have Taj Mahal and Imam Bara? We are lucky to be the generation to witness the businesses flourishing and India Shining. And we are fortunate to be able to make that change. And then you see again this India being highlighted world-over and the hard-work gone into changing the image of India, goes down the drain.
When will we become aggressive in improvising our image in the world? When will we slap the faces of these “pieces of art” that tear apart the dreams of young India?
It’s the time for us to rise and show our unity against this effort to tarnish the image of India and show the world that this is not the only India that exists.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A night in the train

After having an amazing experience of the tribes of Bhubaneshawar who had their own Bio-gas plants and solar panels fitted on their roofs, we reached the small station just outside the main-city of Bhubaneshwar. It was already very late and everyone felt very sleepy after around 12 hours of journey over the day. By 12 at night, everyone was in their beds having a sound sleep relieved of all the tensions and giving rest to those loudly singing throats of theirs. And then something happened that was least expected to happen on the journey. A boy named Piyush (usually found in shining red and black shirts) came running to all the boggies to “awaken” us from our metaphorical sleeps as well as our practical sleeps. All of us were shocked because no Indian train can ever cover the long distance from Bhubneshwar to Jamshedpur in 2 hours. And that’s when the shinning boy announced, “Arun, Lee, utho. Train is going for inspection.” Everyone was once again baffled and the laziness of the sleep was gone at once with a thought crossing the minds, “Has Jagriti Yatra also been targeted by the terrorists? Are we that famous? Did LeT really take note of this unique Yatra (by this time, we were sure that the Yatra is ‘unique’)?” Amidst all this hue and cry, we were told by some divine voice that you can use the First Class Waiting Room to sleep for 2 hours and the train was supposed to be back by then. The moment we came out of the train, our astonishment new no end when we saw the Bhubneshwar board in front of our eyes. “What the F**k! We are still in Bhubneshwar”, was the voice that I listened from very close proximity. And our fate had lots and lots for us in store that we were yet to explore. The First Class Waiting Hall was nowhere to be found in that haze of eyes or weather, I don’t remember. And when we finally found it, we realized that the room (not actually a hall, as the name suggests) is big enough to adjust only tens of us and not hundreds. Thank God that this realization came very soon and we found a cozy spot on the platform. And then there were a number of Dostanas happening here and there on the platform with people trying their best to fight with mildly cold morning winds and stretch their blankets to cover ‘almost all’ parts of the body. And true to the spirit of the Yatra, train was back on the track in just five and a half hours at 7:30 in the morning. But this gave me a chance to accompany our Bengali-Bihari friend Siddharth to the nearby dhaba and have his favorite Bengali mithai whose name I don’t remember any more because of its complicacy.

That’s how we spent one of those memorable nights in the train during the Yatra. It was amazing experience to see 350 young people from across India enthused with the potential and motivation to change the country, brought together by Jagriti Yatra and made to sleep on the platform of Bhubneshwar!

Jokes apart, I really enjoyed that experience and I know that you’ve similar feelings about the Yatra.

Yaaro chalo, badalne ki rut hai,Yaaro chalo, sanwarne ki rut hai…

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Anshu Gupta- the name instills a feeling of respect and gratitude towards him from the deepest of the heart. He’s not only a so-called “Social Worker” or the founder of the NGO called ‘Goonj..’, but he’s also a husband, a son and a father. He’s a common man just like any one of us but yet so special than any one of us. The story that he tells by himself is that of his journalism days when he searched for a story to prove his credibility. This search of a story led him to meet a poor guy dragging a trolley which bore a line in red paint “Police ka laash dhone waala.”(Deadbody carrier for police). As intriguing it might sound to you, it did to Anshu and he thought he got his story. Never did he ever imagine in his wildest dreams that he’s got his life. He went on to ask Hamid about his job and found out that he picked up the unclaimed bodies from across Delhi and carried them to the police crematorium. What he got as a salary was Rs. 20 and 2 yard piece of cloth for every dead body that he brought. But Hamid went on to tell Anshu that in winters, his business reached its peak and often, he’s not able to handle the amount of work he has on-hand. On asking his little daughter’s opinion on his father’s (Hamid) work, she said, “Mujhe thand lagti hai to main laash se lipat kar so jaati hun kyunki laash karvat nahi badalti. Ye mujhe tang nahi karti.” (When I feel cold, I wrap around the dead body because it doesn’t move. It doesn’t disturb me.)
Such was the impact of this thrilling experience on Anshu that he left his job and went on to create a bridge between the two shores of the river. He found it amazing that the city of Delhi that had all the power of the nation was so helpless to serve its own people who came to it for filling up the empty stomachs. The motivation took Anshu to the remotest parts of India only to learn that donating clothes to the shivering farmer is not the solution to the problem. The solution is to enable him to earn his clothes. With this learning, he started many programs of building houses, schools, drainage, toilets and many more projects and made people to proudly earn their clothes. Besides, his organization works towards uplifting the health condition of women in their gynecological problems, esp during menses.
This man never stops inspiring the youth to join him in the efforts to make the society more equitable at the cost of “waste”.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jagriti Yatra 08-09

A journey that began as an experiment and that finished with an imprint in the pages of history, was the journey of a lifetime. From Kanyakumari to New Delhi and from Jamshedpur to Tilonia, this Yatra sent the message across India that Youth is the power of today and tomorrow. Not only did it bring people from as diverse backgrounds as scientists to radio jockeys, from politicians to automotive engineers, from cardiologists to social entrepreneurship students and from businessmen to social workers, together, it also enthused their morales to an unprecedented high. They knew that the Yatra has changed them as human beings, changed them as citizens and changed them as entrepreneurs. On one side where Elango is working day in and day out to develop a localised self-reliant economy of villages, Ashu Gupta on other side is struggling hard to reach out to the poorest of the poor to cover their naked shivering bodies with clothes deemed to be useless. Even Dr. V never retires to inspire the spirit of watching India from the eyes of all Indians and Bunker Roy never pauses to provide the poor with the skill to earn food in the deserts of Rajasthan. Yatris found the story of Tata Steel to be as intriguing as the enthusiasm of Joe Madiath working in the tribes of Orrisa.
At 09:40 am on 11th Jan 2009 at Mumbai Central, when the train receded to its yard for the one last time, not to be seen again with the Yatra, tears trickled down the eyes of the Yatris. Wet eyes bid a final see-off to the Yatra with a promise to be the Yatris forever, to be the learners forever and to be the agents of change. For ever.