OSCAR FOR POVERTY

IMG00092-20110215-1740Is foreign cinema exploiting and glorifying Indian poverty? I say ‘no’. Foreign cinema is not glorifying poverty but simply trying to portray what most of the world today is facing.

Let us take an example of a controversial film – ‘Slumdog millionaire’. For those of us who have seen this cinematic creation by Danny Boyle, we would conclude that yes people do make their living in the slums. Not only in India but other parts of the world as well. It is not a mere fantastical situation created on the whim of a single individual but the bitter truth of reality.

With headlines like “Bacchan Rubbishes Slumdog” playing alongside the celebrations of AR Rahman’s Golden Globe victory and three Oscar nominations, India had reacted to the sensation surrounding Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire with characteristic ambivalence. On the one hand, the country is desperate for the stamp of approval from abroad — which is clear from the almost obsessive deconstruction of its repeated, failed bids for a nod to Bollywood in the best foreign film category of the Oscars. But on the other, there is an anxiety about showing India spots and all.

While Westerners complain that the film may be exploitative, Indians are worried that it will portray India in a negative sense, amidst the all hype of Indias tempest reformation. Never mind that many very good Indian films, such as Ram GopalVarma’sSatya and MadhurBhandarkar’sChandni Bar, have explored similar territory. Those films were intended for Indians — not foreigners who couldn’t be trusted to understand that India is also filled with five-star hotels and posh shopping malls. And Indians don’t like the idea of a foreigner painting India in a bad light; you can talk trash about your own mother, but when somebody else does it, they’re spoiling for a punch in the nose.

Let me be very categorical that without the people of slums also joining in the race for economic development, we will never achieve the much desired goal in 2020. Our consciousness needs to be shaken not stirred and we must accept the reality. How long can we deprive those millions living in our rural and slum areas of all the benefits of economic development? A change is due. As it has happened in the US, the dream of MARTIN LUTHER KING has finally been realized.

The myth that Hollywood directors exploit Indian poverty should be rejected outrightly. Some of the finest Hollywood cinematic creation such as ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ starring acclaimed Hollywood personalities like Julia Roberts, Richard Gere and Will smith, do not glorify prostitution or poverty but use cinema as a stage to depict the realities of day-to-day life.

We need to praise the work of a foreign director as was done in the case of the movie based on Gandhiji directed by Richard Attenborough instead of shunning the prospective foreign filmmakers. Media is not only about entertainment, it is about depicting today as it is and conveying it to the mass. Cinematography, having the wide set platform that it has today, is, I feel, the best possible way to get across to people.

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