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February 24, 2009

FA-F*****g-Qs and Bollywood dancing...

Pic = southasianlife.com
Oh well. I will never, ever review a movie again. I know I stopped doing so ages ago, but just in case I ever think of it again, I will not.

I should have known it, you know, the fact that Slumdog Millionaire would bag the Oscars. It’s a case of history repeating itself. No, no, not any first-slum-movie history, but JB’s-film-reviewing history. It seems that the moment I declare any movie the biggest crap, it goes and sweeps awards.

The first time it happened, I was panned publically – and online – because of my review of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s scam-for-art, Black. Yes, THAT Black. I had given the movie two-and-a-half stars declaring, ‘It’s bleak for Bhansali’s Black’. It did not matter that Pooja Bhatt and Dipak Tijori wrote/called me to congratulate me on a good review…. As far as the public was concerned, I was way off the mark. Numerous and then some readers and bloggers declared that it was my film reviewing career that was bleak and the bloody movie (I still hate it completely) went on to win Filmfare awards and more.

Another was Bhansali’s Devdas – I didn’t review it, but hated it nonetheless – which also won awards. More recently, I have been asked by EVERY single Australian I’ve met, “What do you think of Slumdog Millionaire?” Most don't really care about what I think; it’s just a convenient conversation-filler. But I have my fun and proceed to bore the person asking that question with e.x.a.c.t.l.y. what I think/thought was wrong about the movie. Now, it goes and wins the Best Movie at the 81st Academy Awards (aka Oscars). I know that am going to have even more people asking me about Slumdog… and India. Sigh. A thought: Do those of us who dislike Slumdog, do so because it's simply not that great a movie or perhaps, because it embarrasses us as Indians? I know I didn't think much of it as a movie, but I am not certain if my reactions don't include a bit of the other emotion as well... Read this.

You know, India seems to confound and confuse most people; Bollywood even more so. I am still trying to understand my own reactions to my country and Bollywood and more so towards what people think of both...

Like this well-meaning bloke asked me, “Does India have arm-wrestling?” EH?! I don't know if I was amused or offended. But the answer would be, no, arm-wrestling is too tribal, India just has world chess grandmasters. Then there are those who demand, “Can you do Bollywood-style dancing?” and proceed to lift their hands in the air and do something that is a cross between bad dancing and bad aerobics. Or ask me, “Show us some Bollywood moves,” and wait with a wicked gleam in their eyes. Well, sorry, no. Firstly, you are not paying me to dance and secondly, you will not be able to. Not when you are smacking of misplaced superiority that is! I've heard there are many non-Indians here who enjoy Bollywood; I'm still to meet any. As for Bollywood dancing, ANY Indian can do it. Even Indians who quote Satyajit Ray and scoff at commercial Hindi cinema know at least one Bollywood dance move. Our 23rd chromosome IS the dancing chromosome.

And now Slumdog has smacked people in the face and Jai ho – which in my view is very, very average Rahman fare – has won best original score. Funny, our average is a global best.

So Hugh Jackman (what a tasty man!) announces “The musical is BACK!” and everyone cheers. Er, I don’t see the excitement because India and Bollywood have been producing musicals for like, ages. Try 1950s. Yet people ask me, “Why does Bollywood have so much singing and dancing?” Because we like to! And we can. Because every Indian state, every 50 kms you travel in the country, has its own dance form. Because as a child, mere me has learnt the Bharatnatyam, Kathak and danced the gidda. Because India has more things to talk about than four versions of Underbelly (Melbourne underworld), Gallipoli (with due respect), the indigenous people (even more respect) or numerous shows on every possible government department (emergency services, firemen, customs, immigration police, trillion cop shows etc)?

So Slumdog wins. While it’s a feather in Danny Boyle’s cap, I wonder if it will translate into anything for Bollywood as an industry. Or will it, perversely, just validate what the world is apparently saying about Indians now: “India and Indian youth have a new-found aggression.” You hear it during cricket commentary, each time the Indian economy is mentioned or even the rise of the Indian middle class. I find it a little irksome. Indians have been always been aggressive; we are global masters at bargaining for a reason. Just that the world has developed new ears I think. Anyway.

Irrespective of what I think of Slumdog, I am really happy for two of my favourite artistes, AR Rahman and Anil Kapoor. The latter hardly had a role in Slumdog and has delivered a winning performance every two-three years.

Here’s my list of favourite Anil Kapoor movies and moments:

  1. Virasat: I love the way he transforms from UK-returned to son-of-the-soil; the scene before the interval where he comes out looking like his father still gives me goose-bumps… Amrish Puri was the best on-screen pairing with Anil I think.
  2. Parinda: it was supposed to be a Nana Patekar movie, but Anil’s vulnerability was unparalled
  3. Ram-Lakhan: hahaha, I love him when he plays the rogue. And that moochie. Again, Amrish Puri!
  4. Nayak: Perhaps not the greatest of movies, but there’s something very earnest about Anil’s character. Yet again, with Amrish Puri.
  5. Tezaab: Ah. The rogue woman-charmer who turns into someone with a burning vengeance. He just fits the role of tapori…
  6. Mr India: “Anil bhaya” at his best. Cute, charming and one of our best attempts at science fiction, if I may!
As for AR Rahman, I am not too crazy about Jai ho or Sayya… but some of his other work is in my list of favourites. Here goes:

  1. Yuva
  2. Roja
  3. Vande Mataram
  4. Rangeela, first hindi music with original score
  5. Rang De Basanti
  6. Swades
  7. Saathiya
  8. Dil se
  9. Bombay, the six tracks he composed
  10. Lagaan
PS: I am still not convinced about Slumdog. But if it could mean we might get Hugh Jackman to come and act – and sing and dance – in Bollywood movies; I am all for it.

Related: Is Slumdog Millionaire a poverty porn?

14 comments:

AnnaChronism said...

truth be told, Slumdog only won because

1. it was made by a white man. imagine what would have happened to the poor o'l Indian film maker should he dare insult amchi mumbai !!

2. people haven't watched Mirch Masala or Madhur Bhandarkar's "Traffic Signal" properly.

3. Politics politics politics. What convenient timing for AR Rahman to win an international award. He's muslim, have the billions of fundamentalists forgotten about religion for the time being or what ? Music truly has no religion. Yaay.

4. Kids = awww moments and excellent PR for the film maker and his clan. Of course there are advantages for them etc. but still, that doesnt take away from the fact that the Kids owned the film more than Dev or that extremely irritating Freida Pinto did.

5. Portray India as anything but what it really is, and everybody goes awwwwwww.

All about the awwwws really.
And the skin.
Always took a non-Indian to turn regular Indian tradition and culture into a "cool" thing and BOOM SHANKAR, we follow it.

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Phew! I thought I was the only one who passionately hated the movie. As for the term 'poverty porn'...spot on!!

But as I read this, I couldn't help but wonder, when was the last time, the Oscars celebrated a movie that was all about the good times? A movie that was a no-holds barred party about life and living and soul-bursting happiness? It's almost always about the weepy, the cruel, the no hope lives that leave us cringing in our seats.

I am super-thrilled for ARR too! Delhi-6, Lagaan, Roja, Bombay...uff! The list goes on!

Eve* aka JB said...

AnnaChronism --> I don't agree that Rahman's winning has anything to do with his religion; though yes, it might have something to do with his nationality. I agree more with the southasia.com article that it is more a portrayal of India as the Western audience wants to see it. Vijay Mallya buying an F1 team and Sunil Mittal taking over global steel factories is NOT the way most of the West -- read, ignorant, movie-going people; much like our own public -- sees India.

To be fair, it's like what most ignorant, movie-going Indian public thinks of the West/Hollywood...'gals and ektion'. As for Hollywood/US suddenly waking up to Slumdog... I wonder if it has anything to do with the recession and the billion-plus Indian market.

I don't think "we" are really following it; but I am intrigued that the West is so bloody enamoured with it. And it smacks of the Oscars' double standards.

Irrfan Khan had done The Warrior, which in 2003, was the United Kingdom's nomination at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film... HOWEVER, the Academy of Motion Pictures REFUSED it saying Hindi was not an indigenous language for Britain.

Yet, Slumdog which is set in India is an American film?! Just because everyone speaks English, which would be factually incorrect anyway?! You decide.


Mamma Mia = Partner and I have been discussing the same point; that in all the movies nominated, Slumdog was the only 'positive' film. Yet, it definitely was not worthy of best feature.

Eve* aka JB said...

Read these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Mighty_Heart_(film)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2527435.stm

moonstruck maniac said...

It is surprising to see a lot of average stuff being applauded in different parts of the world and the hot one is indeed Slumdog. It had to happen one day.
Its hype has left me astounded. But I guess I evoked a similar reaction to the Shilpa Shetty moment.
I like, to a certain extent, your review of the film Black. I am one of those who have some strong negative points about it.
But hype, esp when associated with us Indians is more omnipresent now than ever. Our average wins the award, DuH!
Interesting observations and nice work JB.

Goofy Mumma said...

Oh you did not like Black either. Thank God i finally found some one like me on this.

About SlumDog, honestly I did not mind the movie, it was not great, but not bad either. A so-so kind of thing. I just found the gruesome reality too hard to handle honestly. As for a realistic view of poor India,there are much better ones made by Indians themselves. The adult Latika and Jamal, were rather passive, and dull if you ask me. The child artistes wowed me.

Rahman is a genious, without disguise, and I admire his integrity for sticking to his music. The Oscars/US/the west have just found him. Good for them, Rahman's music is for the soul, and they can enjoy it some now finally. With an Oscar or without, Rahman ROCKS, and I would love his music just as much.

Sree said...

Hmm.I'm gonna speak for the movie.
Lovely story about the stories behind each answer that makes the slum boy a millionaire.The questions brilliantly selected to tell a story of that section of India.Not a single bit of the story telling was boring.We may have hated a scene,the making of a beggar clip,we may have felt like throwing up,the scene where the boy jumps into the shit hole to get the autograph of his fav star,which just portrays in a simple way the kind of craze we have for movie stars.(I can understand why, if Big B feels insulted with that scene.haha.)The Tajmahal and how they'cheat'and make money.(Something the Americans can improve at this improving hard times)The Rahman score when the boys run from the police is just brilliant.Even Jai Ho is.Imagine a 'Jiya Jale' or any other Rahman music in that place.It just doesnt fit.The sound Jai and Ho is also easy for an International audience.The latter part of
the movie was less appealing than the first,for sure.I say its because we started loving those boys and didnt want them to grow up.
Anil Kapoor giving the guy the answer and how his mind refuse to take that.I can understand
that mind.Sometimes honesty wins too.
There is love,there is hope,people with a heart.
I dont understand why its not an Oscar material.Is it because its a very modern subject around
an internationally played game show?
The movie shows not just slums,it also shows a guy from the slums operating a computer,at the call centre.It also shows a rich mans house,the other side of India.

Anyway...my only complaint is tht the lead actor always had that same expression on his face.Either he was smiling with an open mouth or not, but with an open mouth OR its his open mouth image that has stayed in my head.Also I couldnt 'feel' any love between him and the girl.

Also dont have any complaints
about the title.Its not calling any one a dog, rather it says how they at the slums are treated.

Vidooshak said...

It was so refreshing to read this post. You should drop by my blog to note the similarities between my ourburst and yours. You have written what I only mention in passing, but this is what I wanted to say.

The Oscars were special because Lakhan was there-- not Aamir, not SRK, not even Aby Baby (although his dialogue traveled) but India's unluckiest KAPOOR. Even those who hate masala Bollywood cannot ignore the joy of his role in "Race"-- a welcome break from his "Calcutta Mail" trip.

I am not sure if an average Indian fare winning the Oscar (while more deserving Indian offerings failed) is a huge problem. Most of the American stuff finding fans in India is also pretty average, really. The 'good' stuff is often ignored.

I am just happy that the world's largest and oddest film industry is finally getting due recognition. Soon, it'll be Abhay Deol up on that stage :-)

Kartikey said...

Hello Eve,
There are several cinema aficionados
who did not find the 'masterpiece' superiority in Slumdog Millionaire; or they found other films better.
At least Oscars are trying to not sell out to popcorn commercialism; so we don't have Spiderman as a best picture nominee.



Your other story "Blood, beats and the rhythm of rage."
I am yet to get back to replying to your comment.
Collecting my thoughts.
Cheers.

Eveline said...

K... so i'm not the only one who thinks that everything to do with the movie was just way way out of line.
But the Oscars haven't really done justice to any of the well-deserving films and actors....so really what is there to be really surprised about?

Shruti said...

Hey Jhoomur,
I can safely say that many, many people(this includes people who thought 'Dostana' was a 'fun' movie) were not in any way awed by slumdog.Leaving aside the fact about 'poverty porn', let's face it, it's a very mediocre movie.Apart from the child actors, no one makes a big impression. There are just too may plot contrivances and too many things you just have to sit back and 'believe' happen.It just dint work for me.And since you've watched 'City of God', the poverty in Rio is not the very obvious thing they want to show.It's the cycle of violence and that's done very laudably.Overall slumdog was overhyped and trite.

P.S-You really thought Anil Kapoor's performance was winning?I couldn't stand him in the movie.He was over-the-top annoying.

Eve* aka JB said...

@Shruti = Hello! Nah, not a winning performance at all from Anil Kapoor. However, just happy that he was up there on the 'global' stage. as for over the top....Anil seems to do that in most commercial fair... Taal, Race, and so many others.
Completely agree to the Slumdog points; primarily my dislike is due to its mediocrity and then perhaps when you mull on it, the things about poverty porn. As an 'Indian' movie is way average. However, IS it an Indian movie?

Shruti said...

Do read this review.It's really well written.
http://greatbong.net/2008/12/29/slumdog-millionaire-the-review/

Eve* aka JB said...

@ Shruti -- Read that. Bang on. Just for clarity though; when I'm mentioning City of God and similarity between Mumbai and Rio...I am not talking about what is depicted in the movies.