[An old post published originally on Feb 25, 2009]
The Oscars have been won — as expected! And it sure was a pleasure to hear Resul Pookutty speak about the power of silence and Om, and give Hollywood a chalk-talk lesson or two about Indian philosophy. It was also a great feeling to see the Indian living legend — A R Rahman — get something he more than deserved (though he has done far better work as well). The Indian film fraternity has some amazing green thumb talent; and some of them surely are at par with the world’s best. Thus, although only these two got the Oscar, I am sure there are many more deserving Indians out there who are no inferior.Also,I believe this is the only way an Indian artist can actually win an Oscar; Since a Hardcore Bollywood movie will only be nominated for ‘Best film in foreign category’.Hence, its highly unlikely that any technician or artist can ever win any award like this. The only unfortunate thing is that the Oscars for them were awarded for a film that has been made clearly with one callow intention in mind — to draw up a caricature of every possible negative side that is there to India, for the sole viewing pleasure of western audiences
However, I am quite shocked at the shameful euphoria created by the half educated Indian media that has unanimously termed the movie as an “Indian pride” and “the world taking note of India”. Neither could anything be further from the truth than this nor could anything stink more of a pathetic lack of intellect and understanding of reality. While a considerable number of people are saying that it is just a film and should be simply enjoyed as a creative process and left alone, the fact — as I wrote before — is that it also happens to be a film very evidently made to show ‘only’ everything that is possibly wrong with India for the pure viewing pleasure of western audiences, because poverty-porn sells in the west. Yes, the movie has been marketed well… as the feel-good film of the year ! To me, it surely is the most negative feel-good film I have seen! As a film, it works; but it really is then just a film… It has no commitment, for it delves on no issue and shows poverty in the most depoliticized manner.
The west would have wanted to believe India still is a land of elephants and snake charmers; and therefore, were very uncomfortable thinking that perchance it no more seems to be so and was changing too fast for their comfort. Now they know India has changed indeed!!! It is no more the land of elephants and snake charmers… It is the land of shit-swimming slumdogs, who are turning millionaires… more by goddamned luck than by hard work. That’s their new view of India. That is the power of a well made and well marketed film and that is the new brand image of India that one film has been able to create. And that is why this film cannot be left alone by Indians as just a film. People have to realize its ramifications.
Till the time we have a more committed, educated media and a political class, we will remain beach bum fools and fatuously gloat in our change of panhandler status… from that of the land of snake charmers and elephants to the land of shit-swimming slumdogs! Jai ho!!!