The Slumdog Millionaire backlash has begun. Veteran Indian film actor Amitabh Bachchan was in Paris recently, when his driver whisked him away from a group of women. Beggars. Bachchan wrote on his blog:
"If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. Its just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not."
Bachchan alleges that the world ignores "commercial escapist Indian cinema" but awards people like the legendary Satyajit Ray (whose amazing, critcally acclaimed film Pather Panchali remains a personal favorite, click for a clip) who "portray reality."
But, writes Aditi Nadkarni on Desicritics.com, tongue thoroughly set in cheek:
Can you imagine what it would do to our international image if people saw that we have dirty railway stations and snotty street-children? Danny Boyle, should have, like most of us, rolled up the tinted windows of his car in the face of a five year old beggar… Danny Boyle should have … shot his film near the squeaky clean neighborhoods of Colaba. He could've used sets instead of crowded railway stations where one can see the sweat running of off the citizens of this dirty underbelly. Danny Boyle should recognize that our patriotic sentiments are hurt not by the sights we see every day on the streets of Mumbai but by what he puts in his movie.
But it's easy to see how some could be hurt that this film, which is getting shown around the world, makes India seem like a miserable place. It's just one carefully edited side of a huge nation. But where, say, Sex And The City makes New York a wee more wealthy, shiny and glossy than it actually is, Slumdog reinforces some stubborn Western ideas about the East, that tie into a neat "don't brown people lead tough lives" bow. But, as Nadkarni posits, shouldn't we be upset not how the film portrays India, but that there are still slums in the world, period?
Perhaps the last word should go to a real life "slumdog," interviewed by Independent. 14-year-old Arvind Kumar, who lves in a jhuggi jhopadi, or shack area, in a poor neighborhood of Delhi called Govindpuri, watched a pirated copy of the flick on DVD and says: "I like it. I like the kids in the film. I can identify with them. This is how we used to play, running through the streets like naughty children." But he has issues with the plot: "Why would anyone give you all that money just to answer a few questions? It's not real. You have to toil to get money. I don't believe this. I think it's just show business." Smart kid.
AB: India ain’t all slums and dogs [Times Of India]
Big B [Amitabh Bachchan's Blog]
Amitabh Bachchan: Slumdog Millionaire Shows India As Third World's Dirty Underbelly [Desicritics]
Slumdogs Who Seek Success [Independent]