It couldn’t have been more authentic. After sitting sitting in Bangalore’s well organized INOX-cinema at Garuda Mall, it was after midnight that I stepped out of the theatre and into the empty streets of Bangalore. For the first time in 5 years that I watched any Indian movie, after seeing Slumdog Millionaire, I had this feeling of “this is so real.”
Sure, the narrative is fiction, I loved the book by Vikas Swarup already, but the way the movie is set into India is a cinematic and cultural masterpiece. The director Danny Boyle has accomplished the herculean task of studying Mumbai, India and their people in such detail before coming up with this perfect representation.
When I wached the scenes set in Mumbai with its buzzing streets, crowds of people, views of the Dharavi slum which I had seen so many times for real, it sent a shiver down my spine. Yes, torture at Mumbai’s police is commonplace. Yes, there are sleazy underworld dons, of bigger and smaller calibre, like depicted in the film. And yes, the way how the characters interact, from the game-show to the streets reminds me of watching uncountable conversations in my host country.
Exactly that, conversely, could be the reason that the movie has been received with criticism from the incumbent Indian movie industry, more commonly known as “Bollywood”. Especially, its Godfather, Grand Seigneur and Eternal Hero Amitabh Batchan has his own view:
If Slumdog Millionaire projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. It’s just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition.
Deep down in such a statements lies Bollywood’s innate inferiority complex. Although churning out more films per year than Hollywood, the international community has still refused to acknowledge the outcome as serious cinema. If you ever watched one, then you will certainly not be surprised. Apart from the colourful dancing scenes, which by themselves tend to raise eyebrows, if one had one wish it would be having one’s brain temporarily amputated. Only then it would be no issue to follow the non-existent plot over 3 hours and suffer from characters who are their own caricatures – at best.
Therefore, receiving such a remark from Mr. Bachan, should prove to be the ultimate accolade for one of the best movies. It is in some way also a piece of art which drives globalization forward and is set in an environment which even 5 years ago would have been considered irrelevant for broader appeal. If you’ve never been to India, the movie will for sure delight you. If you’ve visited India before, the experience will in addition evoke memories with oscillating emotions.
(Not sure if I can keep up writing this week, will be off to Mumbai tomorrow for the Nasscom Leadership Forum, fly directly to Zurich and hope to stand on the skiing-slope of St. Moritz on Saturday noon. Have a great week, anyway.)