The Emperor’s New Clothes

Arindam Chaudhuri’s review of ‘Slumdog.’

Don’t see “Slumdog Millionaire”. It sucks!

A phony poseur that has been made only to mock India for the viewing pleasure of the First World!!

The emperor’s new clothes! That’s “Slumdog Millionaire” for you… Five minutes into this celebrated patchwork of illogical clichés and you are struck by the jarring dialogues. The cumbersome delivery in a language which doesn’t come naturally to most of the actors sounds like someone scratching on walls with one’s finger nails; it ruins the possibility of a connection… Had this film been made by an Indian director, it would’ve been trashed as a rotting old hat, which literally stands out only because of its stench, but since the man making it happens to be from the West, we’re all left celebrating the emperor’s new clothes.

The film borrows an undoubtedly interesting narrative style – from films like “City of God” – but then uses it to weave in a collection of clichés from the Third World’s underbelly for the viewing pleasure of a First World audience. The real slumdog in the movie is not the main protagonist but India as a whole… The makers and those celebrating this movie’s hard-to-spot brilliance are actually serving up India as the accidental millionaire, which in fact happens to be a slumdog… and like shameless fools we are gloating over its success without realising that it makes a caricature out of India.

The film does not have the sincerity and honesty of a “Salaam Bombay” or a “City of Joy” and nor does this slime covered fairy tale have the integrity or the rootedness of the above mentioned scripts, or even a “Shantaram” for that matter; the soundtrack and the performance of the child actors are the only bits in the film which live up to the hype. The real slumdogs who’ve hit the jackpot after wallowing in acres of human waste are the makers of this film who are now raking in millions while those court jesters who’ve critiqued the film and showered tributes and awards need to ask themselves why, scores of years after our independence, they still feel the need to suck up to the gora sahibs.

It’s not a question of xenophobia… it’s definitely a well cinematographed film… but the film has no soul, especially after little Jamal has jumped off the train and become a teenager… The rest of the film is just a modern version of the West’s view of India where slums, slumdogs and Bollywoodian clichés have replaced the elephants and snake charmers. It’s a well made caricature of a country and a caricature can never be a Mona Lisa, for a masterpiece can’t be one dimensional juxtaposition of sadistic extremes… and that’s my grouse with the celebrations…

And I say all this not because I don’t know what is India. I know its poverty and the real statistics around it a little better than most others – especially the Indian film critics who have given “Slumdog…” an average of 4 to 4.5 stars! But the fact is that the film’s entire narration seems like the germination of a terribly sadistic and complex mind with the sole aim of satisfying the western idea of India – and its new found growth instincts at their cost – and it is done through a combination of illogical happenings in order to show everything in a disgustingly negative vein. Not that it doesn’t exist, but it surely doesn’t exist in this fictitious manner.

While “Salaam Bombay” had realism, “Slumdog…” is just every scrap of dirt picked up from every corner and piled up together to try and hit back at the growing might of India. And the awards almost seem like a sadistic effort to show the world – look we knew that this was India, and these are the slumdogs we are outsourcing our jobs to.

It stinks of racial arrogance and it’s such a shame now on second thought to see the Indian faces – including that of the undoubted master, AR Rahman – celebrating its success. There is nothing positive about the film and it seems that a deranged sadist has painted his insecure negative self in each and every character of the movie. It illogically shows every negative thing about India happening in the protagonist’s life… slums, open-air lavatories, riots, underworld, prostitution, brothels, child labour, begging, blinding and maiming of kids to make them into ‘better beggars’, petty peddlers, traffic jams, irresponsible call centre executives… everything apart from western pedophiles roaming around in Indian streets!!

And its winning of so many awards and nominations only goes on to prove strongly that the paradigm of cinema and recognition of films are in the hands of a few retarded imperialistic minds. It’s a crying shame that our media hasn’t seen through this ruse and is touting “Slumdog’s” nominations to claim that India is shining at the Oscars, while in fact it is lauding a film that mocks and ridicules the idea of ‘India’, pigeonholing its identity into the straitjacket of depraved poverty for a global audience.

When the West wanted Indians to embrace them and their companies to come to India and capture the lucrative markets, suddenly we had all the Indian women, some very beautiful and some not necessarily so, winning all the Miss Universe and Miss Worlds. Today, they are in a crisis and India is looking unstoppable despite its slums and poverty, and they are losing their businesses to us. Isn’t it the best time to paint India as the Slumdog Millionaire??

All in all, the film is nothing but an endorsement of an erstwhile imperial mindset of the West and its blinkered vision of India. An English master has made an Indian slumdog. Don’t even waste your time watching this film in the theatres. It sucks and there is nothing great in it as a film too. Amitabh Bachchan was spot on when he said that Bollywood has made far better mainstream films. Take out a DVD of one of his old films instead…

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Emperor’s New Clothes

  1. Arindam Chaudhari’s understanding of cinema is as good as the paanwallah in my neighborhood.

    Wonder why people don’t have so many problems when Bollywood or mainstream films go about taking their precious ” realism” for six. And I have never understood what they do really mean by realism and experimental( a new fad in mainstream industry).

    Had this movie been made here, it would be fantasy(though the film would have no cinematic style)

    And I’m sure he would never know what a film style is, because of the generalized vocabulary people have looking at the medium.

    Go and watch this film folks and enjoy! And remember to add that our filmmakers need to learn how to use the camera.

  2. Bharat Nair

    Nitesh,
    your post clearly shows how you guys are desperately missing your “papas” who were forced to leave India by the “slumdogs” a good 60 years ago.
    I would say you ought to try something else to achieve that instead of asking “slumdogs” to see the shitty film

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