The Slumdog’s Day: A Lesson For Bollywood?

History of sorts was created on the night of 11th January ’09 when A R Rehman won India its first ever Golden globe. He was awarded for the best original music score for the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The movie was also awarded, among others, the coveted best picture award. This indeed is a special day as India was finally recognized on an international award arena. However, it took a foreign director to take all the usual Bollywood ‘masalas’ and put them together to create a masterpiece.


The movie, shot almost entirely, in Mumbai slums is a complete Bollywood potboiler complete with song and dance sequences. The question now arises is what was stopping our home grown directors and producers to create such a movie? There’s no clear cut answer to that though. We argue that a classic can’t be made with the usual Bollywood twists and turns. But Danny Boyle has just done that with Slumdog. May be the answer lies in perception of the audience.


Let’s get one thing straight first: Slumdog wasn’t made for Indian audience. Sure, it has Anil Kapoor in a memorable performance, music by Rehman and shot in Mumbai; but it’s an English movie made for British and American audience where it opened in November. And that’s why it should surprise most of our filmmakers that how can a usual Bollywood style movie appeal to the foreign audience? The answer, as stated earlier, lies in perception.


Our filmmakers perceive the Indian audience as having less brain to understand a complex cinema. In a year when two movies with absolutely zero sense and logic made huge sums of money just because they had two superstars as main protagonists; the filmmakers’ perception gets credence. They easily forget movies like Rock On, Aamir, A Wednesday or Bheja Fry but do remember Ghajini and Rab ne bana di Jodi and continue to dish out non-sensical typical Bollywood fare. International directors, however, treat their audience smartly. Hence, a usual Hindi movie fare but made intelligently clicks.


Good cinema is enjoyed by all but our filmmakers don’t seem to think so. That’s why we either have complete non-sensical fare or a highly artistic piece (read: Sawariya) that is fit only for a gallery. Even when we adapt or copy from Hollywood, we don’t do it intelligently. Examples are movies like partner and God Tussi great ho. Even our biggest stars make “safe” bad movies like Om Shanti Om.


Some of our “classic” and highly acclaimed filmmakers treat the storyline as secondary and the movie’s treatment third-rate. That’s why they bank on lavish sets, big stars or foreign locales to bring in audience. They just don’t seem to believe that Indian audience is mature enough to handle an intelligent but usual Hindi movie.


There is a silver lining in the cloud though. Young and new filmmakers are slowly but steadily changing the movie industry. Makers like Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj etc are future hopes. It is with this hope that I believe India to soon have its very own Slumdog. And as for the original Slumdog Millionaire, lets keep our fingers crossed for that big night: The Oscars.


Mayank Sharma


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