On Slumdog Millionaire, and white men

In what should be nominated as one of the most comic articles in the Guardian, the rather childish and overenthusiastic Nirpal Dhaliwal writes with extreme confidence

…Indians will be upset about a westerner having a better understanding of their country than they do….
…The bitter truth is, Slumdog Millionaire could only have been made by westerners…
I have no doubt that Slumdog Millionaire will encourage many more honest films to be produced in India. But they should be ashamed that it took a white man to show India how to do it…

Err. Of course white men know India better than any Indian does. I thought years of the British Raj had established that. No?

27 Comments

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27 Responses to On Slumdog Millionaire, and white men

  1. sachita

    is that piece for real/ are you sure it wasnt sarcastic? i didn’t read the article yet.

  2. Poor Bachchan saab bellowed in vain.

  3. There is so much noise about ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ”Ramalinga Raju’….that actually….they seem to connect !

    Hmm

  4. sajith

    I don’t know, I haven’t even seen the movie, but I found myself agreeing with the article. What he says is right, in general — that Bollywood consistently produces trash that is hardly representative of India as we know it. Therefore Bachchan’s rile is truly worthy of that counter-rile.

    This scoffing at so-called poverty pron as reported in the article, that existed back from the time of Ray made Pather Panchali. Pity that Danny Boyle gets a first. Right, equating Bollywood to all of Indian cinema is one big mistake. But the truth remains that “honest” cinema rarely sells here…

    Let’s agree that Nirpal should be given a good dose of Dibakar Banarjee, Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra until he retracts the specific statements of contention. :-)

  5. sajith

    Oh btw, what’s with “new comment is submiting, please wait a comment…”

    :-)

  6. Shivani

    @ sajith: Danny Boyle *does not* get a first. I’m surprised he & you have forgotten ‘Salaam Bombay’ which incidentally also made it to the top 5 at Oscars.

    I haven’t seen Slumdog, so I still do not know if I agree with AB or not, but Dhaliwal’s article is extremely churlish in pontificating that Bollywood should make “realistic cinema” portraying people who live on less than $2.5 per day. Bah!

  7. sajith

    Shivani, “a first”, as in this article in question — when Nirpal says that this will finally encourage many more honest movies made in India. Several Indian filmmakers have been telling “honest” stories of regular people for ages, as honest as movies can be. I guess that alone is the bone and the rest is generally agreeable, speaking for myself.

    And as for Salaam Bombay, why should I remember a movie I haven’t even seen yet? Please don’t be surprised by that – I’m hardly the authority on cinema. I’m just this clueless bloke on the Internet, not a movie critic.

    I however have Salaam Bombay in a DVD, beneath a growing pile of yet-unread and yet-unwatched. Will see to that, thanks for prodding!

  8. i heard AB that AB is against sumdog in news but i think the movie is not bad.must watch.
    http://www.bpojobsathome.com

  9. Of course he is right. After all, only Hollywood could make “Blood Diamond”, right?

  10. Hehhh

    And you thought that was bad, read the David Gritten Telegraph article. Where he crows about 17 times that (despite its Mumbai settings), it is a “Brit” movie. Cos you know,

    “Its subject matter is too foreign and remote to have been initiated by Hollywood; we British are not quite so insular in our world-view. And would any US studio bigwig approve a film with a Muslim hero?”

    And just why is he crowing so much ? Cos he titles the article
    “Slumdog Millionaire: the first film of the Obama era”. Really. And says

    ” Indeed, I wonder whether, in coming years, we shall not regard it as the first emblematic film of the Barack Obama era.”

    Homigod! Haven’t they seen feelgood syrupy movies ever before ? Don’t they know we make them by the dozens in India ?

  11. No line made me laugh more than this one

    The bitter truth is, Slumdog Millionaire could only have been made by westerners. The talent exists in India for such movies: much of it, like the brilliant actor Irrfan Khan, contributed to this film. But Bollywood producers, fixated with making flimsy films about the lives of the middle class, will never throw their weight behind such projects.

    Bollywood is fixated on the middle class, eh? That line proved that Nirpal Dhaliwal was smoking pot when he wrote this.

  12. WA

    aaaaawww bless Dhaliwal’s cotton socks! Wonder what the British term for ABCD is?

  13. Same to same from Shobha De at the TOI

    ” the first thought that came to mind is that it has taken an ‘outsider’ (Danny Boyle), to go fearlessly into ‘No Man’s Land’ and hold up a mirror to our sordid society — the same one that looks the other way… and flinches when confronted.

    It also makes one wonder why some of our entirely over-rated, desi directors (homegrown products, at that), have failed so spectacularly in spelling out the ugly truth about Mumbai’s dark world as transparently and convincingly?”

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Columnists/Shobhaa_De_Slumming_it_out/articleshow/3961852.cms

  14. premalatha

    …Indians will be upset about a westerner having a better understanding of their country than they do….

    isn’t the movie based on a novel, author of which is an Indian? I am surprised at the Guardian editorial team more than at the author of the article.

  15. premalatha

    oh ok, the do mention it. my mistake. I didn’t read the article before commenting my previous comment

  16. Once more Dr (Mrs) P has been beaten!

  17. premalatha

    Anand,
    eh?

  18. ra

    Used to read his columns sometimes in the ES and his ex-wife’s columns…Liz Jones. Played out their whole marriage and divorce in the press. He usually swings wildly from one position to another.

  19. I don’t agree w/ Dhaliwal’s assessment that Bollywood is blind to the reality of most people in India, at least not anymore than Hollywood fails to depict the reality of what life is like for most Americans. This is why there are also independently produced films (Firaaq, for example, which is brilliant) here and in the US, to show “real life” instead of a fantasy land. I told my partner the other day that I feel like Bollywood functions as a sort of Disneyworld because people know it’s completely contrived and terrible, but they love it anyway for the feeling it gives them: the escape from the pollution, the ever-present honking of car horns, the extremely visible poverty and lack of a solid infrastructure. I also think it’s important to point out that Boyle did not do this film alone. In fact, his co-director Loveleen Tandan deserves a lot of credit for her influence on the film: choosing most of the cast, being the primary communicator with the cast and crew (given Boyle’s inability to speak Hindi), convincing Boyle that the film should be partially in Hindi (it’s 1/3 in Hindi) as it was originally supposed to be entirely in English, correcting cultural errors, etc. But I guess all of that stuff doesn’t matter to the media machine, right?

  20. I saw Slumdog Millionaire today. Boyle has really done a good job with this movie. While the movie deals with the gory details of the underbelly of Mumbai, it doesnt really leave you with a sick feeling. The story feels like a commentary and at the end you just feel good about the whole movie. Very well done I must say.

    The music score by Rehman is amazing, the actors who played junior Jamal and Salim were the real stars. They were simply too good.

  21. Not that guy again! Is he like the only brownie the Guardian knows? Coz buddy doesn’t know his Bollywood from Tollywood.

  22. I’m not familiar with Bollywood films yet, so I can’t comment on that specifically. But Hollywood does have lots of $$ at its disposal and is eager to put it to use. It seems the article is a little harsh in condemning the Indian film industry. Given the films released in the US last year, I would suggest that Hollywood is not exactly committed to creating artistic products that reflect the reality of American life – film is often an escape from those realities either into fantastical worlds, or lands that are foreign to Americans.

    Did anyone read the novel Q and A? I just finished it last weekend. Beautifully crafted.

  23. my two paisa. though i don’t agree with the whole ‘only a foreigner could’ve made this movie’ line, i sort of agree with the argument of how mainstream bollywood today is targeted at the middle class audiences, and depicts mostly their lives. say dostana, or rab ne bana di jodi, or even ghajini.. these aren’t about the majority Indian who struggles for a daily wage, these are about, simply, the middle class.

  24. I’m tickled by the ‘zomg sad but true’ type hand-wringing and the Bollywood bashing comments here. Hyperbole, I love you.

  25. Dostana and Gajini are about the middle class? What?

  26. I had intended to produce a full-fledged comment but I don’t think it will find its place here in the myopic confines of deranged intelligence.
    One has to consider a lot of aspects before responding to Dhaliwal’s comment, which in my opinion is myopic but, for a different reason than the ones present here.

    I absolutely agree that a foreigner could have made this film because they are non-conformists. A handful of great directors in India does not comprise Bollywood’s products mind you or their understanding of our culture which anyway is a big confusing melting pot yet to condensed into words or lives by us Indians.

    So I guess, no comment here will be necessary for if someone ranks SAlaam Bombay highly, I have little faith in the exhibition of understanding of cinema here.