Friday, 23 January 2009
Er, aren’t we going OTT?
I really don’t wish to be a party pooper for the swinging actors and support staff of Slumdog, it’s not often your work gets noticed on a global scale, and that too at the Oscar soiree. And therefore I quite understand some degree of excitement. It’s another matter, of course, that till the goras don’t recognise our work, we haven’t achieved real glory, and I wonder when that medieval mindset will evolve. I mean, we don’t need some faceless Oscar jurors to tell us Rahman is a genius, we knew that a decade or so ago.
Fact of the matter is, SM is a Brit film, produced, directed, shot and written by Brits. Purely for the international audiences. That the setting happens to be India is really our only role to play in this western production. The setting could easily have been Congo or Chile or Bangladesh, and the story of rags to riches and triumph of love would have worked equally well. And once the setting becomes India, obviously the producers would need the locals to provide the local touch. Clearly, for a movie set in Mumbai, Robert De Niro could not have played the police inspector and Tom Cruise could not have played the game show host and Pearl Jam would not be chosen to score the music track.
Also, Bollywood stars like Anil Kapoor and Irfan Khan play minor, support roles, so I just don’t get the balle balle they have been noisily doing all over TV studios. Looking at the way Kapoor has been going all out to milk the film, one would imagine he has been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy awards for Roop Ki Raani, Choron Ka Raja or something like that. If at all, the two Indian gents who should be doing these OTT gigs are Rahman (who did a great job as always) and the writer of the book on which SM is based. And the last two appear the most dignified in what is clearly Danny Boyle’s moment, a Brit moment.
The other reason it’s laughable to even suggest this is an Indian film, is the treatment. The absolutely high-octane, super-fast back and forths, and the highly mobile camera work is the sort of treatment that works in the west. In India, we prefer linear stories, shot with ease and labour to let the emotional quotient flow smoothly. I stick my neck out and forecast that in India, this film will only do well only in the metro multiplexes and that too mainly because of the hype. It’s NOT meant for desi consumption, our masses will neither comprehend nor appreciate this sort of jagged cinema.
Which is also why I get amused when I hear protests about Boyle exploiting our slums. There’s no question of that happening in SM simply because the film runs at a nuclear pace, and the camera angles are so wild and angly, no frame stays with you for more than a second. So that argument is rubbish. I have seen more poverty and destitution in zillions of Bollywood films. And you know why Boyle treated the film thus? Because it’s meant for western consumption, their audiences would hate a film that lingers depressingly on the lives of our slumworld. And it’s not because Boyle is sensitive to the subject. He never made the film for us.
Bottomline: Guys, do party by all means. Just keep a lid on things out here. It’s not very classy to feed on someone else’s work and ideas.