An Indian victory?

A R Rahman wins Oscar

Do we call it an Indian victory?

That was the question that CNN-IBN panel asked Kamala Haasan (whom the media used to call Kamal Hassan earlier) relating to the Oscar sweep of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. We can see how futile this question is, since Slumdog Millionaire is a British production, directed and produced by a Brit and the major chunk of the technical crew were Brits. Why should India, the nation, celebrate the victory of Slumdog Millionaire? The British have a reason to celebrate but what does India have to call the 8 oscars the movie got as an “Indian victory”? Our celebration should be about the individuals who have won the accolades in the Oscar platform. A R Rahman and Resul Pookutty for the global recognition that they have got.

Adding to the absurdity is a comment from Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. She reportedly said that Slumdog Millionaire has created history in the field of Indian cinema. How did Slumdog create history in “Indian cinema“? But she doesn’t just stop there and goes on to offer tax exemption for the film. The union Home Minister P Chidambaram has also joined the bandwagon by requesting finance ministry to exempt the film from tax.

Just think about it. So many quality regional language films are struggling in India without getting distributors or theaters to exhibit their films and the government did not do much about helping them promote their films. And then, a British film which was released under a big banner like Fox Searchlight Pictures win Oscars and it gets tax exemption in India. So much for our government’s love for art and cinema.

If the government and politicians are so much moved by the recognition that A R Rahman and Resul Pookkutty received in the Oscar arena, what they should do in return is to help these individuals help others who are interested in the fields of music and cinema. How about offering scholarships or sponsorships for talented but poor youngsters to learn the technical sides of Cinema? Or how about sponsoring talented but poor youngsters to get an entry into a renowned musical institute? Or how about helping A R Rahman to offer the poor but talented youngsters a chance to learn world music from his upcoming musical conservatory? Well, I think we will hardly see any of these happening.

Let me conclude with Kamala Haasan’s answer to CNN-IBN’s question, because he puts it rightly.

This day means something to Danny Boyle, Rahman and to an extent some of the Indians. But it doesn’t mean anything to Indian cinema till Indian cinema tries to make quality films. So when it does that, it will deserve the recognition and it doesn’t mean that we are not making quality cinemas. We are not respecting quality cinemas as it should be. That is because content might be king but placement is very important.

(Image courtesy: IndiaGlitz)

Oscars to India

The 81st Academy Awards have been announced. A R Rahman and Resul Pookkutty made India proud in the event and people everywhere is talking about it. Not so surprisingly, Slumdog Millionaire packed 8 Oscars in the event. I feel sad for Thomas Newman, for his work in Wall-E (for background score) was not recognized but those who appreciate music knows no matter what a bunch of people in the Academy decides, Mr. Newman’s work excels than the rest of the nominations. I am happy for A R Rahman though, as a fan and a fellow Indian, but I still don’t think the song Jai Ho is worthy of an Oscar. A R Rahman has done better work than this in the films made in India.

I couldn’t watch the show live but hoping to watch the re-telecast tonight. By the way, I have got 13 out of my 21 Oscar award predictions right. 🙂

Oscar Awards – My prediction

These predictions are based solely on my intuition, as I have not watched some of the nominated films this year. So these predictions may or may not represent what I think the best, and it’s mostly based on what I think the Academy would choose for the Oscar awards. 🙂

Performance by an actor in a leading role: Richard Jenkins for “The Visitor

Richard Jenkins has done his role in The Visitor simply and superbly. He portrays a widower who has been caught up with the routine life and pretends he is busy and finally finds something which interests him, that is music. Richard’s acting in this movie is very realistic and with very subtle expressions and he masters the whole thing excellently. Sean Penn and Brad Pitt were superb too, but I think the Oscar should go to this underdog. I haven’t seen the performances of Frank Langella or Mickey Rourke yet. But Sean Penn (movie: Milk) will definitely make it a tight competition for Richard Jenkins. So I would predict it is either Richard Jenkins or Sean Penn.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight

I haven’t seen Robert Downey Jr’s or Michael Shannon’s performances, but I think Heath Ledger should win. He is such a talented actor who gave a totally different dimension to The Joker, a role which was portrayed by Jack Nicholson earlier, and I must say he has done it way better than the legendary Jack Nicholson himself. More than that, the actor has a world-wide sympathy over him for his untimely death and I have a gut feeling that the Academy will consider that. A close competitor would be Philip Seymour Hoffman for the film Doubt.

Performance by an actress in a leading role: Kate Winslet for “The Reader

I want Kate Winslet to win this award. That woman has done an amazing performance in The Reader. She has been nominated six times for Academy awards and has never won. I hope this time the luck and Academy favors her. The ever amazing Meryl Streep gives a tough competition to Kate Winslet and I wouldn’t be disappointed if Meryl Streep won the best actress award for her performance in Doubt. So it is either Kate Winslet or Meryl Streep.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role: Taraji P. Henson for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Taraji’s talent is proven in this movie where she portrays a woman in her young and old ages. She has given a good performance and I think the Academy would see that. A second choice would be Amy Adams for her role in Doubt. She portrays an innocent young nun in that film and she handled it very well.

Best animated feature film of the year: Wall-E

The positive edge that Wall-E has over the other animated feature films is that there was a big challenge involved in making this film. There is no conversation for a long time in the film and main characters of the film are robots and to have them express emotions are tough. But the ever amazing team at Pixar has done their magic again and it needs to be recognized.

Random prediction continues below:

Achievement in art direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Achievement in cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Achievement in costume design: The Duchess
Achievement in directing: David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Achievement in film editing: Slumdog Millionaire (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best foreign language film of the year: The Class
Achievement in makeup: Greg Cannom (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): Thomas Newman (Wall-E)
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): A.R. Rahman (Jai Ho)
Best motion picture of the year: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best animated short film: Presto
Achievement in sound editing: The Dark Knight
Achievement in sound mixing: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Achievement in visual effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Adapted screenplay: David Hare (The Reader)
Original screenplay: Milk

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Finally I have watched the much-talked about Oscar nominated movie by Danny BoyleSlumdog Millionaire and it is a thrilling and grippy movie. Slumdog Millionaire is a good entertainer at it’s best, but not a great movie or worthy of the talks it has going on about it. Because the movie is too much Bollywood-ish in it’s story line. But it is not surprising as the director Danny Boyle has mentioned drawing influence from many Hindi films including Company and Black Friday. Priyadarshan saar – please note this, as you seem so angry at Danny Boyle, that the director himself has credited his influences before somebody else has mentioned it. Ever cared to credit One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for Thaalavattam? Or… oops! I forgot!! There are way too many movies by you which have lifted story lines from Hollywood movies and made in Malayalam!!!

What is beautiful about Slumdog Millionaire‘s story narrative is the way the Q & A sessions connects Jamal (the lead character played by Dev Patel) back to his memories. It was a beautiful narrative to show how Jamal connected the game show questions to the events of his own life. But I think that Boyle did not need to bring in another narrative with the questioning scene in the police station. That was overdone.

Minuses and pluses

– The lead actor Dev Patel doesn’t sound like an Indian at all. At his best, he looks like an English man’s kid left at the slum in his early teenage. Dev does a horrible job of portraying the slum kid with his British accent which would not go away no matter how hard he tried (and we can see in the film that he tried hard). The movie shows Jamal serving tea in a call center, perhaps to add credibility to his British accent, but that doesn’t save him the embarrassment.

– I have one question. The youngster who plays Jamal’s brother does a good job and looks very native. Why wouldn’t the casting crew find someone of that sort? I am not blaming Dev Patel. I would rather blame it on the casting crew of the film.

– The game show’s anchor (played by Anil Kapoor) wants Jamal out of the show. For what, we do not know. We could understand if it was part of such game shows, planned by the entire crew, but the crew is actually happy at Jamal winning and the anchor is not. Why? The movie doesn’t give us a clue. And he throws him out to the cops at the end of the show. Excuse me?

Continue reading Review: Slumdog Millionaire

A R Rahman nominated for Oscars

It was a proud moment for the musical genuis of A R Rahman and his fans in India when he won the Golden Globe this month. Now A R Rahman has three nominations for Oscars in two categories – Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Rahman’s competitors for the Academy Awards are no less than Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard. Both of them are extremely talented musicians who have given some gem of works in the recent past. So this will be a tough competition and even though I like both Mr. Newman and Mr. Howard for the musical talent they possess, my prayers and wishes goes to our own musical genius A R Rahman and I hope he wins.

All the best Sir!

(Image courtesy:

Southern Slumdog

Today’s is a guest post by Sirensongs, who blogs at Feringhee: The India Diaries. In this post, she shares her opinion about the recent controversy over the movie Slumdog Millionnaire. Sirensongs moved to India in 2002 to complete her six years’ study of the ancient temple dance, Bharatanatyam. Apprenticing with a revered master in Madras, she learned a great deal; however, most of it was not about dance. Disillusionment and childhood memories of “Tintin In Tibet” have led her to adventures throughout India, Nepal & Sri Lanka. She currently works as a writer in Kathmandu where she also studies the Buddhist ritual dance, Charya Nrtya.

That Slumdawg won’t hunt

Last time, I wrote something about the widespread defensive attitude (not 100%, mind you) of Indians toward the success of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. I also left some rather impatient comments on another blog. In case you’ve been asleep for a few weeks, lotta folks are huffing and puffing about Slumdog‘s portrayal of Indian slum life, mostly because it’s too accurate. (Wonder what the slum dwellers themselves think, has anyone asked them? All the comments I have read are from upper crust writers.)

I can’t write with authority about what it’s like to be Indian and see a film that shows so much of the country’s dark side to the world. But I have a comparable experience. I do know what it’s like to be an American Southerner and see Hollywood films, famous ones, award-winning ones, represent my “country” (we almost were another country, fought a war over it, remember?) to the world.

There were, and still are, lots of negative stereotypes about my country (the South). When I moved to New York in 1981, I was asked derogatory questions like “Do you even wear shoes down there?” and “where do you live, a trailer park?”

And even,

“Did your ancestors own slaves??”

“Everyone down there belongs to the Klan, right?”

…and from an Indian girl, “If you wear your bindi down there you’ll get shot at.” (There actually were, in fact, at least 2 “dot-head” murders…I think they were both in Canada.)

The vast majority of Hollywood films about the south – which is where people get these ideas – were made by either Yankees or Californians (same thing, ha). Outsiders. Carpet-baggers. Some were romanticized epics (Gone with the Wind). Later, some consciously tried to redress such romanticism by showing an uglier side (Cold Mountain). Others retold true stories in a condensed, dramatized and only partially “true” way so that important but largely unknown eras in American history would not go unknown by a new generation (ie, Mississippi Burning).

There’s loooots more (Glory, Matewan, Birth of a Nation, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sling Blade, Deliverance, Mandingo, Roots, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Streetcar Named Desire, Forrest Gump… ). Most of the above are full of slow-witted, slow talking hicks and obligatory Klan meeting scenes. Don’t forget television like Andy Griffith Show, Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Alice, Designing Women, Hee Haw and so on.

My point is this: the vast majority of this media was made by “outsiders.” Some of it (especially the romantic stuff) Southerners appreciated; most of it, they did not. Some of it I personally enjoy; a lot I have mixed feelings about. But even when I didn’t think they got it right, I usually felt the topics (mostly concerning poverty and race history) needed to be discussed.

Usually they didn’t cast Southerners in the parts; since pretty much anyone can “do” a southern accent, right? Just sound real dumb. (Marlon Brando’s accent was dreadful in Streetcar and he was nominated for the Oscar.) And – did you ever notice? – Black Americans are all sort of considered by casting directors to somehow be Southern by default. Seeing your homeland represented worldwide, by an outsider, is a sensitive thing. My point is, no one ever, ever questioned the outsider’s right to make such films or shows, whether we liked them or not.

Why do Indians think that they and they alone can give “permission” to someone to discuss or represent their country in media? Besides which, the book on which Slumdog is based was written by an Indian (as Streetcar and Mockingbird were based on books written by Southerners).

I certainly hope no one ever questions the “right” of an NRI or Indian visitor to make a film about the America they perceive, however negative or one-sided the result may be.

You have no idea, Sir ji!

Namaskar Sir ji

This letter is in response to your recent blog post where you have expressed your anger on the film Slumdog Millionaire getting Golden Globe awards.

I haven’t seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire. But I know that the slums featured in that movie is a reality. Life is not a K-Jo film Sir ji. When you get time, just take a walk around Mumbai. Yes, through the very same slums which have been portrayed in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

And if you haven’t noticed, Sir ji, Hollywood has time and again featured the bad and sad elements of their society in their movies. Going by your argument, after watching Hollywood movies the world should be thinking that America is a country that consists only of criminals, racists, rapists, pregnant teenagers, drug-peddlers, pedophiles etc etc. But is that the case? They used this wonderful medium of Cinema to fight against those evils, Sir ji. And you become angry when the same is done here. Oh, in the process, you were also angry at the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray too!

Like the commentator #6 rightly pointed out in your blog post,

“being ‘Western’ in any sense (by way of the production and the director and so on) has anything to do with the appreciation Slumdog has got. People loved Monsoon Wedding all over the world. This film was basically a Yashraj ‘wedding’ film with ‘intelligence’ added to the mix. There is nothing that the two films have in common except for the fact that these are both ‘compelling’ works.”

Filmmaker Micheal Moore keeps making movies like Sicko, Sir ji, and they keep giving him Oscars. Going by your argument, they shouldn’t have done so, don’t you think?

And what is it that you are angry about Hollywood not honoring commercial movies of Bollywood, Sir ji? Are you sad that you didn’t get an Oscar for your NRI flick KANK? Or your son did not win the best comedian award for his ‘excellent’ performance in Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom? Why do you need the honor of Hollywood after all, Sir ji? That you’re not proud of the recognition within your own country? Or do you think that no matter what crappy movies Bollywood churns out in the name of mainstream masala movies, you should be recognized internationally?

And when you talk about recognition, what do you think about all those film awards which have the “Indian” tag attached to it, Sir ji? You and your folks at Bollywood conveniently ignore the great movies, actors and directors down in the south and it’s film industry and sell Bollywood as the “Indian” cinema in the international market. And now you’re worried that your mainstream masala movies don’t get international recognition?

Poverty in India is a reality Sir ji. And even more real is the class-difference in our society, because we have the richest people in the world and the poorest. It is also a reality that you (and the section of people whom you represent) have the privilege of running into the luxurious hospitals, but hundreds and thousands of Indians lie and die everyday in the untidy general government hospitals, without having proper diagnosis or medication and where the docs treat them like dogs. Yes Sir ji, in the very same India where you and I exist.

Sir ji, as our father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi used to say, walk into the villages to know India. Or you don’t even have to go that further. Just walk into the suburbs of our metro cities. I’ve seen Bangalore’s for example. Just go past the 30 KMs of the city. And rather than ranting, try to do something about it. Lord Balaji of Tirupathi would love that than your million dollar worth of gift to him.

Yours truly.