now we have no excuse. Indian cinema can be understood
and appreciated by an international jury –
the proof is Slumdog Millionaire. We have often
wondered about what stands between Indian cinema
being accepted at a global stage. There have been
explanations that maybe cultural differences stop
our kind of cinema from being understood by an
international audience and jury. This has been
accepted as a fair explanation or excuse (whatever
you think it is) because there is undeniably a
big difference between the film making ethos of
India and the west (the hub of world cinema).
But this explanation aka excuse cannot be used
as a convenient shield next time the question
Slumdog Millionaire is Indian in every way, that
is if you are willing to overlook the fact that
the director, screen writer and the production
house are from Britain. The story is adapted from
a book by an Indian author, the co-director is
an Indian, the cast is almost entirely Indian
(many names from Bollywood), the crew is Indian
and the music is by an
Indian and the movie is set in perhaps the most representative
cross section of everything that constitutes India (Mumbai).
The ‘Indian’ness of the movie does not end
just with the cast and crew, it goes much deeper. It
has been made in true Indian film style, there is romance,
song and dance, drama, melodrama, Anil Kapoor breaking
into a jig, a very ‘Bollywoodish’ final
few frames and a more than generous sprinkling of Hindi.
In fact, the movie is more Indian than many Bollywood
and Kollywood movies which have stories set partially
or wholly in London, New York or other such cities.
That is why Anil Kapoor was quick and sharp in his response
when an interviewer doubtfully asked him whether the
movie can be called Indian.
Slumdog Millionaire has been made by a British director,
but there is no mistaking the Indian touch to it. In
fact, even Danny Boyle has admitted that it is the vibrancy
and limitless possibilities of Mumbai that excited him
so much. He also said that he has been able to capture
just a tiny portion of that and would like to come back
some day to make another film with the city as its epicenter.
We should consider Slumdog Millionaire to be the first
Indian film to have received international acclaim and
also take this as the vindication of the Indian style
of film making. We don’t have to change our tastes
and styles to be accepted internationally. It can be
done the Indian way. In short, we don’t have to
look up to Hollywood, just search within to find that
So much about Slumdog’s ‘Indian’ness.
A few very interesting bits and pieces that have been
heard over the days which makes us believe that there
is such a thing as destiny. The day after the Golden
Globe, Rahman was seen on TV, giving an interview and
he said that the first time he was approached for Slumdog
Millionaire he was so busy that he was ‘just a
heartbeat away from saying no’ to Danny Boyle.
But something ‘within him told him to accept it’.
Another very interesting fact heard over the last few
days is that the ‘Jaya ho’ song, a decisive
factor in nailing the Golden Globe, was originally composed
for Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj. But Ghai could not
accommodate that in the movie and it ultimately was
offered to Danny Boyle. One can’t imagine how
far the wonderful song would have been heard if it had
been included in the disaster that Yuvraaj was.
Definitely, destiny played its part in Indian cinema’s
biggest moment at the world stage. One can imagine that
there will still be many who would contradict Slumdog
Millionaire being called an Indian film, but that is
a debate which cannot ended with just a few facts and
figures. So, let the question remain uncomfortably unanswered.
Finally, there has also been quite some hue and cry
about how Slumdog Millionaire painted a very poor picture
about India to the world, showing the slums, garbage
and poverty. Well, it is difficult to understand why
only this movie should be subject to such questions
when there are many Indian film makers who revel in
showing the not too bright sides of India like the underworld
(Ramgopal Verma being the specialist), corruption, communal
violence and poverty. Why should anyone feel offended
just because this time, the truth was shown by a British
director? Another uncomfortable question and maybe a
few uncomfortable admissions might put it to rest.
But for the moment let us applaud all that went in to
Slumdog Millionaire. It has proved that cinema that
is steeped in ‘Indian’ness can indeed have
a global impact.
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.