Whose Film is it Anyway?

So Slumdog Millionaire has done it with 8 Academy Awards in the bag including 3 winners from India – AR Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty. No doubt, there is much jubilation for the winners and hats off to them for their great victory. And of course, the media and the entire country have already gone overboard hailing the victory of ‘our film.’

Hmmm – ‘our film?’ This ‘acknowledging’ of Slumdog Millionaire as our own is typical of us wanting to be attached to a winner to cover our own mediocrity. We have seen this earlier. Before Manoj Night Shyamalan hit the big time with The Sixth Sense (1999), did anyone even acknowledge him as being an Indian? None, not even when he made Praying with  Anger (1992) or Wide Awake (1998) since the films made no impact. Suddenly post The Sixth Sense, he became this Indian filmmaker in Hollywood. Just the fact that he was born here was enough to acknowledge him as one of us while him being raised in Philadelphia and having lived practically all his life in the USA became secondary.  And even if we do consider him actually Indian, how many of us even know his middle name was actually Nelliyattu and not Night?

We have to understand that Slumdog Millionaire is not an Indian film. It is a fine British-American film whose story is set in India. Consequently, it has been filmed here and used some Indian actors and technicians. Otherwise, it has a British director at the helm, has been written by a British screenwriter and has major technicians like its DoP, Production Designer and Editor from the West. And honestly, even though it works resoundingly well, has been brilliantly shot on location and is extremely well-written and edited, the film doesn’t totally escape the ‘Western viewpoint’ of exotic India.  Danny Boyle’s viewpoint – How can you go to India and not dance is further proof of this stereotyping of us and our films. ‘Those Indian musicals’ are what our films are all about to them.  We have to understand Bollywood is just some exotic kitsch that is the flavour of the month in the West and nothing more than song and dance to them.  Even the nod to our filmmaking in Slumdog Millionaire, the Jai Ho sequence at the end of the film sending the goras into raptures is highly overrated. We have done far better and more innovative choreography in our films. But the positive we have to get out of this Oscar win is that our people who worked on the film did what they had to and delivered. The amazing sound mixing (Resul) shows that our technicians are as good as anyone given the chance. At the same time, great  as AR Rahman’s score is, frankly what the West doesn’t know is that he has done far, far  better work in films here as has Gulzar Saab. But that’s another matter.

Instead of claiming something not quite ours, it’s high time we look at ourselves in the mirror and within ourselves. We should question ourselves that why is it that the ‘Largest Institute of the Imaginary’ in the world or the largest active film industry today has had just three films making it to the final Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film – Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988) and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) in its long history of filmmaking. What is it about our films that they fail to break barriers at the International level? And coming back to the Oscars, we have to remember our previous Oscar winners were either for a project that was predominantly British (Bhanu Athaiya for Gandhi (1982)) or one for lifetime achievement (Satyajit Ray).

Maybe Indian cinema needs an eleventh commandment – Thou shall make better films and not covet another country’s film.

Update: Feb 28, 2009: Visited Landmark, a prominent bookshop in Mumbai, the other day. The shelves are full of Vikas Swarup’s novel retitled now as Slumdog Millionaire with a green circle on the cover within which it says  previously published as Q & A. I was just gobsmacked.

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  1. Thanks Sunjoy, Sammit.

    Monish – You absolutely hit the nail on the head.

    Shan – you’re right. Sending a film like Jeans to the Oscars is simply gobsmacking and just shows our warped way of thinking, leave alone the quality of our mainstream cinema..

    Point made Vikas. Of course the Oscars are ultimately all about Hollywood and $$$$. Still that does not mean we bask in Slumdog Millionaire’s glory and gloat that Hollywood has accepted us. One is extremely happy for our technicians who proved their worth but claiming the film as our own is plain ludicrous.

  2. Absolutely bang on mate. Plus its American money that produced the British film. Congratulations to Rahman, Gulzar and Resul. Its definitely not an Indian film and its embarrasing the way we are trying to claim it as one.

  3. Perhaps ‘Elizabeth’ by Shekhar Kapoor should then be considered an Indian film?
    The Oscars, while they do celebrate outstanding achievement, are primarily a pedestal to celebrate Hollywood and despite their acceptance of any commendable work from any part of the world, they are predominently a showcase for all things American in the realm of film making. Undoubtedly there is great commercial value attached to the outcome at the Oscars. Therefore if SM had been made by an Indian film maker chances are it would never have scaled the heights it has. It takes a Danny Boyle to understand, craft and then cut through the Great American Commercial juggernaut and that would have been hard to do for an Indian as amply demonstrated on numerous prior occasions. I guess in the end its the sensibilities of the ones that judge that will see who will make the cut!

  4. Hmm.. valid point. Though one feels good about Resul and Rahman winning, its certainly not an indian film in any way. It’s like claiming that ‘Harold and Kumar’ series is an Indo-Japanese film, or “The love guru” is a Hindi film. And neither is Gandhi. It’s more to do with our need to be associated with a winning horse.. or dog.
    I guess the only way to figure this out is to understand why “Jeans” was sent as an Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film category from our country.

  5. Memsaab, of course I know about your fondness for Hindi cinema and follow your blog regularly. But you are more exception than the rule. I have seen and experienced the opinion by and large the West have of ‘Bollywood’ on a wide scale.

    Anyway, more than “territorialism”, the point I was making was more about, as boorback said, our tendency to bask in reflected glory. Of course, one is happy for Indian victory not just at the Oscars but at all the awards before it for it shows given the chance, we too can deliver as good as anyone worldwide but I wonder if Slumdog Millionaire had not made the impact it has worldwide and won all the awards that have come its way, would India have claimed it as one of its own then? Sad, but I think India is laying claim to SM only because the West has endorsed it.

  6. Got it one!

    Re. why cant we make ‘better’ films:
    The thing is that we are a different people- we have different sensibilities, tastes, our lives are different. We enjoy different stories and story-tellings. The films WE make for OUR people are enjoyed by them! Why should we change to conform to some ‘international’ (read- Western world) standard…?! We move to a different drummer- so be it! 🙂

  7. Let’s remember SM was funded with British money, it received £730,000 from the European Union towards distribution costs and was distributed globally by Fox Searchlight – an American company owned by Rupert Murdoch.
    Gordon Brown (PM, Britain): SM’s triumph together with Kate Winslet winning best actress is a fantastic achievement for the British Film Industry. .. Last night was a great night for the Britain…” (The Telegraph, Kolkata, 24th Feb,2009)
    Los Angeles Times: “… the wins also cemented the reputation of distributor Fox Searchlight, which has become Hollywood’s top advocate of of the kind of daring works that movie studios have all but abandoned” (The Telegraph, Kolkata, 24th Feb,2009)
    And the same newspaper reports that the EU also joined the bandwagon pointing out that SM was co-funded under a finance program to support movie-making in Europe.
    So much for the SM being an Indian film…. Guess everyone wants a pie of the winner!
    To me all this brouhaha about the film is another proof of our colonial hangover… Starting from Tagore down to Satyajit Ray – Pather Panchali failed to find any distributor before its screening at MOMA, NY… we only go ga-ga when the sahib’s present us with praise and recognition…
    Wonder why we never consider WI cricketers such as Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnaraine Chanderpal as ‘Indians’ in the same way we salivate over the ‘Indianess’ Manoj Night Shyamalan or Bobby Jindal (the Governor of Louisiana). Is it because Sarwan and Chanderpal play with/for the ‘Kala Aadmis’ ?!!

  8. Jkd,true our sensibilities are different, our mainstream films are different, our average audiences are different but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we still need to make better films even within our ‘unique’ way of telling stories!

    Monish – Bang on again!

  9. Greg: Guess the legacy of post-colonialism is all pervasive and equally corrosive…
    “these kids are in for a hard ride.” – very pertinent point. Wonder what happened to the kids who acted in Mira Nair’s Saalam Bombay. She had set up a trust/fund for them. Where are they now??

  10. Ghosh,the novel and setting of the film maybe based in India and have Indian actors but the creative team apart from Sound mixing (Resul) giving the film its treatment, look, style and vision is decidely foreign right down to Direction, Cinematography, Screenplay, Editing, Sound Design, Re-recording, Production Design, Make up etc. And this shows in the sensibility and treatment and choice of language (English) of the film.

  11. I don’t know, I get tired of the “territorialism” attached to art. This film had a LOT of Indian participation and talent in it, and not all of we “goras” think that Indian film is all Bollywood song and dance and kitsch—my fondness for Hindi cinema encompasses the music and dance and kitsch, but is not at all limited to those things.

    Am I not allowed to embrace Hindi cinema as something meaningful and personal to me just because I’m not Indian? I felt so happy to see ARR and Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan up there on the Oscar stage; it was like seeing friends up there and the sense of pride (“those are my people!”) I felt was not at all false even though my skin is white. I’ve spent hours in their onscreen company, and while I would never try and say that any of those three guys are western, I will claim that they are familiar and beloved enough for me to call them as my own.

    If India had sent Omkara to the Oscars a few years ago, I really believe it would have made it into the final round as it were. Indians do make films that westerners can truly appreciate (I am proof of that). But why India should even care about winning Oscars is another question altogether! 🙂


    OK…so is Slumdog Millionaire an Indian film and should the media and therefore the country, scream Jai Ho until the next Oscars?

    Firstly, Resul is a colleague and am so so happy for him. He has done India, the Indian film industry and the FTII really proud. Rehman….well. AR is God and gods don’t need Oscars. Maybe the Oscars got a Rehman. Lucky Oscars.

    But Gulzar’s Oscar is an also ran. Eleven out of the ten people in the jury must not have followed the lyrics. Sub-titles are lame. (Anyway SDM had duffer sub-titling). I am wondering…Why did he not attend the function? No invite? What? And why was Sukhwinder not singing Jai Ho on stage instead of AR? Wondering…..

    The movie itself…saw it twice. First a pirated net download before the release (felt shitty but did it.) and second time, paid for a ticket and saw it in a near empty cinema hall soon after the release. Am sure, after the Oscars, that near empty might possibly become near full. Good for the hall. Good for the makers of the film.

    As I paid for one of the viewings, I wish to opine on the movie. This was an ok-ok book that is excellent film material. It’s kinetic as hell and has a heart. Translated on screen, I felt it lost some of that heart and added a lot more kinetic energy in compensation. Meaning, more style and weaker substance. Slumdog Millionaire is a strictly OK film. It’s a reasonably good biryani made out of chewy ordinary meat. A chef who stayed faithful to a recipe from a fancy cook book and had never tasted biryani before. It’s a film where the director and all technical departments put in all their skills, talent and soul in to the making of the film. And yes, 60 cores of rupees. But I cannot say the same about the scriptwriter (LOVED his Full Monty. It was a world he seems to have lived in, and one could smell it off the screen.). But here, I did not smell shit when little Jamal covered in it runs for AB’s autograph. What I smelt was the delicious fragrance of crisp green dollar bills. Yes with Benjamin Franklin’s picture on them.

    Calling Slumdog Millionaire an Indian film is like calling DDLJ a British film or Kal Ho Na Ho a American film! Kal Ho Na Ho shot either entirely in NYC . All the characters in these films were people who were born and raised in the United States of America. Thus they would be either American citizens or permanent residents. So these are films about Americans, set entirely in America. But does that make them American films? Does the whole of America and their media have orgasms when Kal Ho Na Ho sweeps the FilmFare awards and does obscene business in Vashi, Vaishali, Varanasi and Vermont? NO.

    Jamal speaking in English with a Brit accent is as ridiculous as Raj-Simran from DDLJ doing dialogbazi in shudh Bollywood Hindustani!

    Those who are going hammer and tongs at SDM for ‘poverty tourism’ lets take a deep breath and think very hard what our mainstream films have been doing. Story set in some vague ‘Vilaspur’ and suddenly hero and heroine thrusting pelvices in the Alps! Lets look how horridly we treat non South Asian characters in most of these films. Making crude racist jokes at whites and blacks. Most white girls tend to be ‘loose’. Most white men are racists and most black men are monsters-thieves and what not.

    Just like these Hindi films are ‘time pass’ for many people, Slumdog is also ‘time-pass’. Let’s not take it seriously as a human document on Dharavi, beggary, buggery or what ever.

    This is a smart film. And a first of sorts. Firstly it does not feature a white character as the central protagonist. It does not feature any exotica, mumbo jumbo, Kamasutra, snakes, tigers and all that. Secondly, I don’t think it was patronizing or condescending to India and Indian society. Yes, there was a different gaze. But that gaze was at eyelevel and at times refreshing. I mean I loved the way Mumbai was shot. But I repeat, this is not an Indian film.

    You take Manmohan Desai’s world aka Bollywood (credited to Swaroop) and marry it with Mira Nair’s palates and the Latin American ghetto dazzlers’ style. And in the end you throw in a mandatory ‘Bollywood’ choreographed song to pay a politically correct tribute. A gastronomical equivalent of Slumdog Millionaire would be Chicken Tikka Masala. The flaming red and rather bland national dish of the UK. Sounds Indian, looks Indian, supposed to be Indian but is so entirely British.

    So coming back to the Oscars, let’s not kid ourselves. India has NOT arrived @ the Oscars as yet. Two Indian cinema professionals who worked on a British film were given deserving Oscars for good work. Let’s remember, there were no 24 x 7 news channels when Bhanu Athiya got her Oscar and Ray got his. And no, these two Oscars did not translate in either Hollywood flocking to India to scout for costume designers or setting up Fox Searchlight India to scout for new Satyajit Rays.

    But now they just might. There is serious money to be made from India, in India.

    First they came sans the creatives. Just with money. And burnt their hands badly. Sawariyaa, Saans Bahu aur Sensex and Chandni Chowk to China. All three duds on all accounts. Then they had plan B. With money the got their key creatives, and created a very successful, very low cost hybrid product to add to their bouquet of films that will generate steady fat profits over years. This is a classic case of a millionaire called Hollywood who has managed to tame the rogue Bollywood Slumdog that was for years refusing to die out and let the millionaire’s dogs have a free playing field. It’s not surprising that the next feature of the makers of Slumdog is called Bollywood Hero!

    Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta and Gurinder Chaddha were the ones that laid the foundation stone for this hybrid cinema, often called cross over. The hybrid seed has fully matured with Slumdog Millionaire. There will ofcourse be various varieties of this cinema. And I have a gut feeling that it’s from this hybridization, this ‘synthesis’, this ‘manthan’ that a new Indian cinema will emerge. Indian film makers, like the Latin Americans, Iranians, Central Asians and Far easterners will find their own way to tell universal human stories in a form that largely is acceptable to the world cinema audiences and can have signature touches like the Jai Ho song. And this cinema will made with money and creatives from both India and Hollywood. Maybe initially these films would be in English, but gradually Indian languages could hope for such budgets and creatives.

    So where does that leave good old star driven Bollywood and the ‘hatke multiplex gang’ within the Bollywood idiom and financing-distribution system? I think they will just go on doing their own thing. But not for long in total isolation. Just like Bollywood strongly influenced Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Bolye and his success formula is somewhere going to rub off on our mainstream film makers. I bet there is a whole clutch of wannabe and been-there-done-that film makers all over the industry already penning their Oscar speeches.

    JAI HO!

  13. Disagree completely. You guys are missing the point. SM is an “Indian” film simply because of the number of Indians that have participated in the making of the film. The number outstrips the number of non-Indians by far. This is what the media is celebrating. Besides it is based on Indian literature written by an Indian author and set completely in India. This is a democratically Indian film because of people participation. Who cares where the money comes from.

  14. Ghosh: By the same logic the Colonial rule was also ‘Indian’… millions of Indians served as sepoys, cops, moles, clerks, babus, khidmatgars, chaprasis, civil servants, generals etc. etc enabling a few thousand Brits to perpetuate the Grand Raj !!!

  15. Well said. India’s not alone here, however. New Zealand (where I am) is equally post-colonial in its need to feel included and to feel approved of by the “big people”. Anything with any New Zealander in it gets newstime to prove that we’re “okay.”
    There’s no reason not to take advantage of the attention, nor to not celebrate the successes. Rahman and the others deserve it. And, those wins may (may) help those folk make connections that will help de-territorialise Indian cinema further. It will call some people’s attention to the other great non-B’wood films being made by Indian directors in India.
    Based on past experience, the enthusiasm for B”wood in the West does seem like a fad (anybody remember River Dance?); but we’ll have to wait and see.
    The real victims in Slumdog, are those kids. Not because of what they did or didn’t get paid, but because those that now celebrate them are going to forget about them tomorrow or the next day. And then what happens? It’s hard enough for child stars working in their own culture; but I’m afraid these kids are in for a hard ride.

  16. Phew, that is a lot of comments and looong ones at that. Thanks guys for sparing all your time and for all your efforts. Appreciate it.

    Memsaab, I think SM might open people’s eyes towards India but not Indian films or ‘our musicals’ as such. And please free to go on and on and take up as much space as you want here. Always great to have a stimulating discussion.

    Greg, a most valid point about the future of the kids. And as boorback pointed out, I too wonder where the kids of Salaam Bombay are and what are they doing…

    Jabeen, agreed. We have the technicalities and fine technicians. But we desperately need the content for our films to be better. The way things are going, that seems to be as uphill a task as any. As both you and Shan have pointed out – the selection process of the Indian film for the Oscars leaves much to be desired. Forget Jeans, I remember Saagar was sent one year. And yes, even I’ve heard of Ghai nixing Jai Ho! He must be squirming now!

    Charu, very well put piece. Can’t stop laughing trying to visualize American society going into raptures over KHNH! 😀

    Chandi, again one is happy for the winners. But my point was more really about us shamelessly going to town claiming the film as our own which is just not on.

  17. Actually, even Resul (whom I’m feeling madly proud of right now) shares the sound mixing credit with two other white guys. Rehman has already done some work with Andrew Lloyd Weber and other fusion artists in the west before this and has even won a Grammy, hasn’t he? So he’d got a foot in the door even before Slumdog Millionaire. Mustn’t lose perspective, even though there is enough reason to celebrate now.

    I agree completely with Punjab-da-puttar. We need to stop deluding ourselves and instead, do something about changing the actual quality of our film making. We have the best in terms of technique and equipment but we tend to be satisfied with the minimum acceptable standards. We aim to get away with things, never to push for excellence. We accuse each other of “thinking too much” and being “too demanding.” And we promote things for the wrong reasons. Shan asks a very pertinent question: why was ‘Jeans’ sent as India’s entry to the Oscars? The Motion Picture Academy takes one official entry from India, and it’s interesting to take a look at the wikipedia page listing the films that the FFI has sent over the years. Omkara would have stood a far better chance than the dud we sent that year. Oye Lucky could have been picked instead of Taare Zameen Par this time round. If someone had sent Uski Roti to the Oscars in 1970, a win would have been a no brainer.

    A funny aside: Someone told me that Rehman composed the ‘Jai Ho’ track for Yuvraaj, but Subhash Ghai didn’t want it so he put it in Slumdog.

  18. Charu, in calling Gulzar’s Oscar as an also-ran you are being presumptuous. The jury were provided with a proper translation of the lyrics. And here is what they were provided with:

    come, come O Beloved
    come step with me under this canopy
    this azure canopy of a sky
    filigreed with golden sunlight

    come, I will tell you how
    those dreary long nights—
    without you—passed
    each night— an ordeal
    each night— a walk
    on a bed of burning coals
    look at the tips of my fingers:
    singed, scorched from counting
    the stars, but still
    sleep was not to soothe my eyes
    I had already blown it all away
    believe you me—
    those nights, I saw
    life drain out of me
    drop by drop

    but tonight—
    when you are with me—
    this night is a pot of honey
    come let’s savour it
    and keep this heart of mine
    with you, for the heart is
    the last frontier

    look! I am under your spell
    that black kohl in your eyes
    has whipped up
    a kind of black magic

    come, say out those words
    that you have always
    catapulted back from your lips
    look at you—
    blushing, lowering your eyes
    it is now or never
    come, say it

    but let’s pause—
    this night is fleet-footed
    let’s take a breather
    let’s prolong this night
    but your eyes
    with their brilliance of diamonds
    has already lit up the night sky
    filigreed it with the gold of the sun
    come, come O Beloved
    come become my life

    People, just stop assuming things!

  19. Great discussion! Maybe we could all agree that Slumdog is an “international” film 🙂 And Danny Boyle has set up a trust for the kids who were in the film which they will have access to when they reach age 16. He is also taking steps to help them stay in school until at least that age. I think it’s fair to say that as with any person, each child will take this experience and let it affect his/her life as they choose. It doesn’t have to be a negative (it also very much at this point depends on the parents and families and how they choose to deal with it).

    Regarding the films that are sent by India to the Oscars every year, I have to admit that I generally cringe and think—but “XXX” would have been a much better entry! That could be the culture gap (maybe India should be consulting ME about its entries, ha ha), but also the success of a film depends so much on the audience—what is important to the majority, what resonates with them, that I don’t think it’s wrong to send a film that has meant a lot to the country which it represents. TZP is a good example of that—I didn’t think it stood a chance, because the main thrust and message in it has already been done to death here, but does it matter really?

    Of course I also agree that many westerners have a very limited perception of what “Bollywood” is, but the nice thing about SM is that it gives more people an opportunity to discover for themselves what Indian film might come to mean to them. We don’t grow up with it, and most people need a reason to explore something new. Of course the majority will forget about it once the hype dies down, but I’ll bet some new fans of Indian film will result from it, and that’s all good (I get lonely sometimes).

    I know that the financial impact that an Oscar win has does matter some, but I also can’t stand a lot of films that win Oscars. It’s not unrelated to my love of Hindi film, either—I hate pretentious, “arty” films and thank goodness not many Indians make those (the occasional “Naach” or “Benares” notwithstanding). Give me “masala” any day—it still requires a good coherent story, good performances, etc., but done right it is so much more rewarding to watch!

    And sorry for going on and on and on and taking up so much space!

  20. Now Karan, this is taking too far. Filigreed is a word that has roots in Latin. Latin fillum as in thread. 🙂 Are you suggesting that they essentially work with a handicap?

  21. Joking Mr. Shekhar. But yeah, I suppose no matter no matter how good the translation, it’s very tough to grasp the spirit of the original (language) so yes maybe it’s a handicap of sorts even if a translation is the only way out for those who don’t understand the original language.

  22. Is SM an Indian story? Yes, because it is about Indian characters, is set in India, and is written by an Indian (the original novel that is). Is it an Indian film? No, because it is a foreign production, written by a foreigner (the screenplay that is), and is directed by a foreigner; so certainly it looks at and represents an aspect of Indian life with a foreigner’s eyes. Can one have an objection to that? Does that by itself make it a bad film? Or a good film? No, obviously not.

    If some Indians feel happy about SM having got all those Oscars, let them. I don’t see any great harm in that. After all there are so many Indians involved in the project, bringing solid talent and expertise and hard work into their jobs, and three of them have got the award too. So let there be no pious indignation that a foreigner comes, sees beauty in our squalor, sells it to the world and buys glory; that he has not understood or represented our reality correctly. I mean, it is a big question if our own filmmakers, barring a few, understand and represent our reality correctly. Obviously our view of things is different from any foreigner’s. But that is as it should be.

    But aren’t Indians going overboard in their jubilation, claiming the film as their own? But are they really? Yes, sickeningly so, IF you take what you see in the media for the truth that is. But do you? Should you? That would be worse than taking what one sees in movies for the truth. For while movies are meant to be art and contrivance- and as such often get to the truth about things- the media claims to present things as they are, ending up fabricating the worst kinds of fiction about anything, and making people believe in them too.

    A day before the Oscars were announced, in one of the endless programs about Slumdog Millionaire, the anchorman rather innocently asked- he was playing his part with great conviction- why is it that, although there have been so many other films about slumlife, SM is getting so much of attention from all over. It is one of those questions which adults put to children and newsmen put to politicians. They know the answer of course, but they want to know if the children know and if the politicians are telling the truth. The query was to Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, the guest in the program. I desperately prompted Mehra mentally to retort “But who is giving it all this attention? It is you, the media!” Mehra of course didn’t hear me and spoke his own lines, saying something nice about SM, perhaps honestly, perhaps not; I am not sure. Not that he has an obligation to give an honest opinion for my or a anchorman’s benefit (especially when his own Delhi 6 is on the chopping line). In front of newsmen one should behave like the politicians do.

    In any case, as someone observed, if people buy tickets for a movie, sit through it and enjoy it, they will not bother what is being said about it on TV or written about it in the papers and the blogs. They will pass on their own “word of mouth”, the kind of publicity which overrides any other. Incidentally, it seems all the hype about it notwithstanding, SM apparently has not done very well at the Indian box-office, not even the Hindi version, though now that it has got all those Oscars, it may do better.

    I must go one of these days and see for myself what is this noise all about.

  23. Sunjoy…kan pakding and maafi maanging.

    I did not mean any disrespect for Gulzarsahab. He is one of the finest writers-poets in our industry.

    What I meant to say was, that even if the transaltion was provided to the jury, it is not the same thing as realizing what the song is in Hindi. And more importantly, the entire English speaking AUDIENCE did not get to read the English transalation. There were no subtitles in the film for the song. It was only provided to the jury right? So how can some thing be awarded to a film element, that the majority audiences of this film ( Non hindi speaking) has not followed/enjoyed at all? Have the lyrics ( beautiful no doubt) enhanced the cathartic ending of the film for the world audiences? Illa. Had the song been subtitled like in your post, then it would be fantastic. No doubt. The omision of the sub titling of the song is what prompted me to say that the Oscar for Gulzar sahab was lame. (Strong word used. Sorry for that)

    But I stand by my view that the sub-titling of the Hindi dialouges were poor. Firstly Loveleen Tandon’s Hindi dialouge were too filmi and not at all Mumbiyaa slum lingo. But then this was a filmi film. I mean…remember the Hindi dialogues of Salaam Bombay?

  24. I agree. Gulzar Sa’ab’s lyrics are not just words, not just meter. It is a way of seeing and interpreting his world, his experience of it, the joy of being in it, the pain of it not being moulded after his heart’s desires. And he conveys this heightened awareness of his through an intense concentration of metaphor and combination of words that is uniquely his. And I admit that such pattern can never be the same after the act of translation. But then, that is a different subject matter to debate upon.

  25. Sanjivan, a true blue Indian Film winning at the Oscars…Hmmm…For that first our films have to get better and have a different take and sensibility that endear them to ‘Western’ audiences. Till then it is likely to remain a pipe dream. But, yeah we can hope can’t we…?

  26. Bali, I have been saying this right from the begining that SM is NOT an Indian film but theek hai…I do not grudge them who want to believe that it is an Indian Film…This could have been an Indian film had the writer Vikas Swaroop sold the rights of the story to an Indian company but he choosed not to and it was his prerogative..he has done the same with his 2nd story too…so the Indian-ess ends there….

    Now after all the Oscar excitement settling down…all India needs is an Oscar for a true blue Indian Film…which would come only in the Foregin Language Category….There are people who are trying and have been trying…it remians to be seen who creates that history…Shekhar Kapoor (with PAANI) or Anuraag Kashyap or somebody else out of the blue…the game continues….


  27. The change in the book’ s name is pretty disgusting. Read in an interview that Vikas Swarup himself was not very happy with it but he had to bow down ultimately for the sake of better commercial prospects!!

  28. You’re right Monish. It is commercialization of the worst sort. But a point here. Even if Mr Swarup HAD to bow down, there’s no doubt he must be laughing all the way the bank as the stakes and rewards of SM are now huge.

  29. Nicely written. I agree that we are quick to jump on the bandwagon when recognitions start flowing in! It’s about time we get rewarded on our own instead of using the help from outside. However, the sad fact is that, had the same movie been made by an Indian director and even if it had been better made, the kind of influence, branding and marketing that western movie makers are capable of, just elude us. We just have to get better at that aspect of promoting movies in a big way. I guess we need to throw in more money for publicity and campaigns at the Oscars? I don’t know..

  30. Well, this whole question of winning an Oscar one day is absurd (not to say pathetic). I mean, there may come a day when you think that an Indian entry fulfills all the conditions for an Oscar, and yet doesn’t get it (some think that has already happened). And the next year’s entry may win it, but for all the wrong reasons, while most of the rest of our films remain as mediocre as ever. As Gulzar saab said in an interview, he was of course very happy to have got the Oscar, but he never worked for one. He writes the lyrics that would fit the situation given to him, often to tunes that have already been composed; he does it to the best of his ability, and has never done it with a view to winning an Oscar. “I don’t know the trick; if I did, I would have used it long ago” he said. The most important question is that the quality of our films improve. Whether or not they win Oscars or any other award should be quite incidental, and should not be too much of a concern.

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