So here’s how the conversation goes…
“It’s good to get some coffee; I’m really not a morning person.”
“Oh my god me too… so, you’re from India right?”
“Yeah, just livin’ the dream.”
“Slumdog Millionaire has to be my favourite movie of all time.”
And you think to yourself, ‘Umm, okay?!’
Let me throw another piece of conversation at you. Or to avoid losing out on readership, I’ll summarize it and try to put forth the surprise of a fellow traveller at the existence of an upper class in India. Apparently, if you can hold a conversation in English without making somebody laugh and fund a trip to Europe, you’re from the Upper East Side of New Delhi.
Instead of beginning my next sentence with a ‘Well I think lalala is to be blamed’, let’s try and understand where we’re going wrong in representing the existence of an upper-middle class. A class of people who don’t talk like Apu from The Simpsons (“Thankyoucomeagain!”) who shop at Zara, wait only preppy guys go there, okay who shop at, wait H&M isn’t here yet na, hmmm.. Okay screw it you guys, you know where we shop. This is all too far beside the point I’m trying to make.
What I want to do is examine the kind of cinema that India is sending out, without trashing it because let’s face it a Gangs of Wasseypur is hardly counter-productive for the image of Indian cinema. But let’s talk about a Slumdog Millionaire –for lack of a better example at 9 a.m. in the morning –it was one of the most successful movies of 2008, but I can’t help but feel that it got the accolades, besides the obvious reasons, because it played right into the stereotype of “Poor Little India”.
I’m well aware that the story really mattered because it was based in a slum and it was the most realistic depiction of it. But as a country looking to change its image, why aren’t we doing anything about it? The movie shows the Indian police as these mindless rowdy fools –not too unlike them jocks –who are impulsive, brash and simply messed up. It’s not like that. It’s bad, but you won’t find a policeman looking the other way while a man is being murdered. And yeah, what’s with the Hindu on Muslim violence? Didn’t really get that bit. The pure filth on the streets. The men openly preying on children. Why are we so accepting of a film that’s exaggerating the most negative points of our country?
That’s not the kind of life you and I lead. Why isn’t there anything that resembles our lifestyle? We work, we shop, we party… it’s all there in real life, just not there on-screen. And don’t tell me it’s impossible to set an interesting story in a Hauz Khas Village or an apartment on the Golf Course Road in Gurgaon. We saw a glimmer of it in Aisha, the contemporary rendition of Jane Austen’s novel
Emma, set in the high society of Delhi (I can already see some of you getting ticked off). I cannot begin to count how many reviews trashed it saying that it portrays the youth as ashamed or ignorant of their culture and tradition, and craving westernisation.
First things first, the Indian culture has changed Mr. random IMDB user sitting in Australia. We’re not craving westernisation, it’s a natural phenomenon that’s happening (Dunkin’ Donuts, Zara, etc. much?) throughout the country. Okay, well most parts of it. And yes, a large part of our everyday conversation is in English, so yeah the movie was true to Delhi culture in that regard. Did I already
talk about how we go to parties, take random trips when we’re sick of work, maybe even smoke a little *whispered* maal (Indian slang for pot), and *a fat auntie gasps* we also do the nasty nasty.
Another example I’d willingly belt out is Shaitaan. Now this movie came dangerously close to the life of an average twenty-something-year-old. I know not everyone drinks and smokes up all the time, but the portrayal is as real as it gets. Yes, we should try and hold on to our culture, the culture which teaches us the most basic of human morals: respect. You wanna target a flaw in today’s society; look at the rapid decline in respect. From rape to fuck buddies to hit and runs. A movie like Shaitaan makes it very clear that this sort of lifestyle comes with its own repercussions and in no way advocates it, but as far as representation of the upper class goes, it hits the spot.
I’ll take a contrived sidetrack and switch from movies to photography. India as a country attracts photographers from all over the world, who search and capture the most bereft of people under the garb of finding “beauty in poverty”. Seriously? No offence to your artistic licence but you’re kinda showing that we’re all living in half-disintegrated houses with dirty clothes and naked children on
the street. Take any photograph of the street. Background –you and I –completely out of focus and in the crowd there is this one woman selling bangles who is just the quintessential beauty.
No wonder it’s such a surprise when you’re sitting in a café halfway around the world with people you barely know and they look at you and assume you’re the son of like an Ambani or something.
While we’re all so eager to watch Student of the Year, I refuse to even count it in this list. While I’m still not sure if it’s set in a school or a college (that campus looks like it’s trying too hard, it’s not Gossip Girl), the language is skewed and tortured (Hey.Dude.What’s.Up.) and the actors are strangely buff to be students of any kind.
In the end I guess, it’s funny that the upper class is either non-existent or distorted into fantastical characters of Karan Johar’s Indian Serena, Dan and Nate.
So why don’t we just hide behind a bottle of Corona (YES, we can afford them here!) it’s the only logical way to save face. Cue the fat aunty gasping.
Image Source [The Viewspaper]