In one of the recent editions of Tehelka, I read Tarun Tejpal’s editorial. He writes about how ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has not depicted reality at all – that many of the poor in this country can never hope to get out of poverty by getting fantastic opportunities such as Jamaal. How the hope the movie peddles is fragile, how Danny Boyle has made an entertaining film and not a great film, etc. etc. (I am only paraphrasing here. The editorial is quite comprehensive and well-written, though.)
I don’t really understand what nerves Slumdog Millionaire has jangled. Earlier, I was annoyed. Now, I don’t understand. How can hope be realistic? Why must it be? Hope, by its very nature, must transcend the reality that you see. Otherwise, why or how is it hope? I am 100 kgs now. I hope to be 45 kgs in the next 3 months. I think I can get there. I am hopeful. Is it realistic? No, it’s not. But reality is what I’m sunk in. This is the reality I want to get out of. That’s why I hope.
And what contract of understanding did Danny Boyle sign with the people of India or Bombay that he must show the city or country in its ‘true and flattering light’? That he must cover wealth and opulence and not scarcity and lack? I mean, surely a person must be allowed to focus on whatever fascinates him or her. Or do we now start telling people that you must like this and not like that. And if you must talk about us, only speak of this and not about that.
Also, why isn’t anyone interviewing the author? Boyle based his movie on a book. The book, in fact, based its story on whatever one-dimensional reality the film is accused of projecting. Could it be that no-one has read the book? So if anyone’s mind needs to be picked, shouldn’t it be the writer’s?
Why exactly are we getting so touchy?
Perhaps the Western World is taken in with our poverty. But aren’t we taken in with their wealth? Or the plaintive homesickness of NRIs? Don’t we relish stories of ‘look! how the mighty have fallen’?
We may not have much understanding of individual choice, but I’m sure we have mastered the concept of collective prejudice.