Of Ray and Boyle

131 Comments

[Warning: long post]

“Taare Zamein Par” won’t be bringing the Oscars to India. Not that we uber-nationalists need to worry—“Slumdog Millionaire” will be winning many and “do India proud”. Coming back to TZP, I cannot say that it deserved to be nominated as I have not seen any of the movies that edged it out. However I can say that I thought it was an exceptional bit of work from mainstream commercial Bollywood, not because of the noble “message” or because of the story but because of its immensely cinematic first half where we are provided a beautiful insight into the world of a child, as he skips out of school and wonders on the small wonders of the world like the glories of paint mixing and the other small miracles we adults no longer are moved by.What it was perhaps missing was a bit of Indian exotica or a bit of the old sweat-and-dung-and-heat kind of muskiness that defines the sub-continetal cinematic experience—the Darsheel character’s dyslexia was fine and all but if he only had leprosy along with it, TZP would have been a “celebration of the wonder that is India”. Perhaps.

India’s most popular blogger, a gentleman appropriately named the Big B, had this to say recently in the context of Slumdog Millionaire.

The commercial escapist world of Indian Cinema had vociferously battled for years , on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray at all the prestigious Film Festivals of the West, and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass oriented box office block busters that were being churned out from Mumbai. The argument. Ray portrayed reality. The other escapism, fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice

Normally I usually let the news media obsesses over the latest blog statement from Amitabh Bachchan (and they do a good job over the obsessing part) but today I make an exception and comment on something from the Big B blog. Why? Simply because this statement of AB does make an interesting point and most importantly it serves as the perfect lead-in to something I have been wanting to write for some time now. What that is, I am coming to.

First let’s look at the first part of the argument. Namely that somehow mainstream Bollywood fare, the kind of stuff that made Bachchan famous, has not been given its due by the Western cognoscenti.

What constitutes “good art” is forever a matter of dispute and ultimately a subjective highly personal assessment that varies greatly from individual to individual. Mr. B may very well believe that excellence in cinema ought to be defined by its popular appeal or as Himesh the Great succinctly puts it on SaregamaPa “Public ke dee-i-shon (that’s how he pronounces decision) is all that matters.”

However Cannes and Berlin and the Oscars rely on a different aesthetic while evaluating movies—an aesthetic that favors “I could have been a contender” over ” Hum to tamboo main bamboo lagaaya baithe” (even though the latter may have got more whistles), Janet Leigh’s shower scene in Psycho to Mandakini’s waterfall scene in “Ram Teri Ganga Maili” (even though more people may have remembered it), the “swing” scene of Ikiru over the swing scene of Sanjog when Jaya Prada sings Zhu Zhu Zhu  (even though more people may have wept at seeing the second than the first) and the magic realism of La Strada over the surrealism of thousands of lemons bouncing down the hillside to Jeetendra’s dance moves and the accompanying poetic lyrics “Choli tere tan par kasi kasi “ . (though I personally consider the latter to be an award-worthy directorial touch). An aesthetic I felt would also favour TZP but alas it did not.

Now this preference may seem elitist and out of touch with reality (this is what Bill O’Reilly says) but then again the Oscars or the big film trophies never claim to be popular awards.

In that respect, its not as if these awards have an axe to grind only with popular mainstream Bollywood . The Oscars and the big international film festivals also refuse to acknowledge  escapist, fantastic and immensely popular cinematic creations from Hollywood like White Chicks (which comes in at the level of “Aaya Aaya Toofan Bhaga Bhaga Shaitaan” in terms of recall factor) and iconic movies like Star Wars and Die Hard whose audience-pleasing abilities have been validated over generations by commercially successful sequels.

Do Cannes and the Oscars always remain consistent to their aesthetic? Of course not and at least for the Oscars these transgressions have become even more egregious over the years. After all, how could a movie like “Titanic” sweep all the golden statues?  Film festivals and academy awards are prone, like anything that has a committee, to manipulations—through lobbying, influence-mongering, personal connections and other overt and covert forms of  what the French call “jugaad”.

There are certain themes that Oscar committees have a well-known bias for and so sometimes mediocre and cliched movies can simply play the system and win big if they strike the right notes and pander to the right stereotypes (and we know which potential Oscar winner I am talking about).

However despite the deviations in practice, on paper the aesthetic that guides Cannes and the Oscars remains constant and by that standard, Transformers or Amar Akbhar Antony will never be considered to be the best of world cinema, painful as that fact might be to some.

But what the greatest “There’s something about Mary” or “Terminator” fan will never do is to blame Oliver Stone or Scorcese for why their favorite movies do not get approval from the critics.

This is however precisely what Bachchan does when he says that Bollywood had to “battle the adulation and attention paid to Ray” as if somehow it is because of Ray’s realism and the “realistic” stereotypes that he defined that Subhash Ghai and Manmohan Desai do not have several Palm D’Ors, Swarna Bhaloos and Best Director Oscars in their living room showcase.

Which brings me to the point of the post. And yes I have taken some time in getting there.

Satyajit Ray.

In the 80s, Congress MP Nargis famously declared that Satyajit Ray has won international acclaim because he sells India’s poverty to the West. There were undoubted political reasons for this diatribe, traceable to Ray’s refusal to kowtow to the then-Madam and Ray’s perceived slights to Bollywood, but that is not the topic of discussion here.

The accusation of Nargis however is.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Ray’s work and having no axe to grind would realize straight up that the very basic premise of Nargis’s accusation is false. The overwhelming majority of Ray’s movies aren’t even about “poor” people, where poverty is defined as the grinding sort that gets Westerns to go “Oho…so unfortunate”. Charulata and Ghare Baire are set in rich zamindar families. Kanchenjangha and Aranyer Din Ratri look at social dynamics in an urban, upper-middle class context. Nayak is about a matinee idol. The Kolkata trilogy deals with youth unrest, social changes in urban life and corporate wheeling-dealing.  Ray deals with civilizational crisis in Agantuk, corruption in Ganashatru, history in Satranj ki Khiladi, the tragedy of blind faith in Devi, feudalism and the inability to move with the times in Jalsaghar, the tensions caused in a middle class household when a housewife takes up a job in Mahanagar. There are detective stories, children’s fables with political subtexts, comedies about Bengali middle class aspirations—in short a mind-boggling variety of themes are explored by Ray where poverty is totally absent or where it is just a sidelight (for instance the female character in Mahanagar has to take a job when her husband gets laid off when the bank he works for fails) to the dramatic conflict that is at the crux of the narrative.

Even when Ray depicts poverty as he does in Pather Panchali, it almost never becomes the exclusive focus.  In a Ray film, there will hardly ever be gratuitous displays of human suffering of the “rolling in excreta and skin peeling off” kind that Boyle and even some Indian art movie directors, who shall remain nameless, use as a means to shock.

Not many people know this but one of the persistent criticisms that Ray faced throughout his life from Left-leaning Bangali intellectuals was that his depiction of suffering was not hard-hitting enough (Ray’s most stark depiction of poverty “Asani Sanket” was dragged over the coals as a “dushtu-mishti” [sweet-naughty] depiction of the Bengal famine because according to the critics it was way too arty and subtle and poetic.)

Some said that it was his bourgeois sensibilities which led him to be defensive about showing poverty. Some said it was because of his upper-class privileged upbringing that he had little idea of true human misery.(These incidentally were the same criticisms against Rabindranath Tagore). My take is that rather than being bookishly “gritty”, as in showing people vomiting on a glass screen and taking a shot from below ( a scene which I have actually seen in an Indian “art” movie popular on the festival circuit), Ray relied on indirection, symbolism, shot composition and use of light and shade to convey his message in a more cinematically aesthetic way. Likewise, Boyle could have used a number of ways to show extreme love for Bollywood celebrities but he chose the “easy way out”—the “shock and awe” strategy. Using perhaps the most gratuitously odious and heavy-handed way of getting the message across [a sentiment echoed here], he no doubt grabbed attention and pleased the crowd but the mechanism through which he achieved this can hardly be considered to be a great example of the director’s craft as it is defined by the  “Oscar and Cannes” aesthetic. That in a nutshell is the difference between Ray’s depiction of poverty and Boyle’s—it’s not the depiction of extreme poverty that makes Slumdog ordinary but the way Boyles chooses to do so that is.

Much of the assessment of Ray and people’s judgment of him  is based on the Apu trilogy, or perhaps just “Pather Panchali” as for many that is possibly all the Ray they have seen. Isn’t the Apu trilogy about poverty you ask, maybe visually artistic but about poverty none the less? Seeing nothing but poverty in “Pather Panchali” is like seeing nothing but graffiti on the walls of the Sistine Chapel. I have reviewed briefly the Apu trilogy in a series of three posts (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and I would request the interested reader to look through them if you are interested to know more.

Here let me just say that the appeal of the Trilogy lies primarily in the universality of the themes it explores, themes that transcend barriers of time and social context. Apu can be taken out of the context of a poor village in rural Bengal and transplanted to graduate school in the US in 2009, a young Indian male adjusting to a new world with wide-eyed wonder in the process turning his back to his roots. Sarbajoya then can become his mother, dying inside, waiting for her son to call, running to the phone to realize she has imagined it to be ringing and sitting at the verandah of her third storey floor looking wistfully down at the road, expecting her son to come walking down the front street like he used to many years ago. And even then, if the camera was in the hands of a skilled director (no Mr. Bhansali I do not mean you) the story and the visuals would lose none of their poignancy even though the poverty and rural angle has been totally taken away.

In conclusion, it is this timelessness and universal relevance that makes Ray’s movies such exquisite works of art, rather than his “realism” or his “depiction of poverty”.

Now if only some people would get this.

Advertisements

131 thoughts on “Of Ray and Boyle

  1. Arnab,

    Excellent post..

    ” However despite the deviations in practice, on paper the aesthetic that guides Cannes and the Oscars remains constant and by that standard, Transformers or Amar Akbhar Antony will never be considered to be the best of world cinema, painful as that fact might be to some.”

    Which is why I am worried! Will Dark Knight get its due at the Oscars? Will they treat it as just another superhero flick while ack Heath Ledger? The movie was not just about the Joker, it was more that that!

    Cheers

  2. Titanic @ the Oscars was a *shocker* to say the least and one I still have trouble getting over (even with all the lobbying etc)

  3. A well made point. However, we should take Danny Boyle’s work and all the criticisms around it with a pinch of salt. Just because he made a movie on India where the protagonist is poor and the story is set in the dirty underbelly of India (as AB so eloquently puts it), everybody is up in arms that it displays a false picture of our country. I don’t see how that is relevant or even the criticisms around Ray’s work. SM was a movie and thats it…there was no ulterior motive or message to be conveyed through that. In that way, people should criticize every movie (Indian or otherwise) that doesn’t show any country favorably (for e.g. Namaste London shows the Brits in fairly poor light and we love bashing Pakistan in just abt every other movie…never mind that these movies aren’t seen by anybody not Indian).

    Like you said the Oscars, like Filmfare or any other award, it has a lot of ass-kissing, palm-massaging, nepotism going on to get onto the jury’s favorite list. So even if TZP didnt get on the list, it will still remain an excellent movie with a global appeal. Lets just put that down to AK not having the energy to go through the process again after Lagaan.

  4. Firstly, why are we so obsessed with the Oscar or the Golden Globe or Cube ?(no doubt , a cliche)
    Having said that, I personally feel if Ishan of TZP lived in poverty, had an alcoholic father & had been subject to all other forms of exploitation (something that conformed to Matthew Hayden’s idea of a third world nation), the story would have been more palatable to the jury that decided the Oscar.
    The scene from Munnabhai MBBS comes to my mind where the foreign tourist wants to see the “real India, Hungry India, poor India”.
    Any Indian movie that has the protagonist or the backdrop away from poverty is not ‘real’ for the majority of the Global Audience.
    Not that we in India do not have issues like poverty, exploitation & communalism to deal with. Whats surprising is that these are the only aspects about India that seem believable to the global audience.
    Coming to Ray movies,
    “In conclusion, it is this timelessness and universal relevance that makes Ray’s movies such exquisite works of art, rather than his “realism” or his “depiction of poverty”.”… is one statement that probably captures what I have always felt about Ray’s creations.
    There is a timeless beauty about them. The kind where I can actually see ‘Hirak Rajar Deshe’ for the umpteenth time & marvel at the Satyajit Ray – Utpal Dutt – Soumitro trio.
    I had a friend in college who had actually echoed something like Ray movies are like documentaries & I had to quip.. “Bote !!! Eto buddhi tomar ghote ?”~ Hirak Rajar Deshe

  5. “In conclusion, it is this timelessness and universal relevance that makes Ray’s movies such exquisite works of art, rather than his “realism” or his “depiction of poverty”.”

    Given that the post features only in “Satyajit Ray” category, the above line says it all. Brilliant post!

    About the TZP bit – I could not agree more with what you said about the first half. The visuals were so appealing that they immediately reminded me of The 400 Blows. Pather Panchali, The 400 Blows and the first half of TZP have in their own ways shown the worlds of those kids (who are at different stages of their childhood/adolescence, and I understand that ‘the world of Apu’ was not exactly the underlying theme of Pather Panchali) through the lense – and boy they have shown it with such aesthetic brilliance! But the second half of TZP was very very ordinary, almost like the formula movies that come out of the production houses in Mumbai. So much so that I sometimes wonder if someone else had directed the first half.

  6. Arnabh – couldn’t agree more. Ray’s movies are like Maupassant or Manto’s stories. Powerful and sans useless melodrama.

  7. Being a bangali, we do have a soft corner toward Satyajit Ray. However, having blessed to see lots of Indian movies from different region, it makes me really proud that we had Satyajit Ray. That I say, without being judgmental about other directors and movies.

    Bangali, being a genetically forgetful race does not do due justice to other talents though. One example is Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay whose historical prose, detective stories are treasures. Likewise, we do not even do justice to well known personalities like Vidyasagar or Rammohan Ray. We forget their immense contribution in building a nation and only remember stuff like widow marriage and all. They would have been ahead of time even if they were born today.

    Self pity is not acceptable. There were couple of generations before us, I feel like blaming for all the agonies that Bengal suffers today. But, since it’s of no use, let us try to convey these thoughts to next generations, encourage them to read and think about Vivekananda and other great personalities, and at the same time to feel proud about it.

  8. Nice post. I completely agree with you on Ray. He was never shackled and made movies on what ever he felt like doing. Impossible to find intelligent film makers like that these days. I loved TZP but I am quite sure there are many more better movies released last year across the world.

  9. With all this intellectual controversy over SM, I can’t wait to watch it and contribute my “expert” opinion on the topic 🙂 Sadly, I haven’t watched Satyajit Ray to have an opinion on this post either :-/

  10. Ray will always be among the 7 greatest directors of all time, and his Pather Panchali will for ever more be one of the five greatest movies of all time. Ray was interested in what politics did to people. His Janaranya is ou first “business film” and Mani Ratnam missed its nuances in his shallow Guru.

    As for Slumdog Millionaire, it shows how cheap we Indians are. Our stars – Anil Kapoor, AR Rahman, Irfan Khan, and yes the ever putulant pile of mediocre hype – Shahrukh Khan, can be had for the price of a roll of chine badaam/channa sing/timepass. The prospect of starring in gora made movie even though the gora in question is a 3rd string non-entity, had these cheapos jumping. I am not surprised. AR Rahman is the guy who composed a song and played it at Jayalalitha’s foster son’s much derided wedding party. When a Turkish B-grade film-maker made a dark horror movie a few years ago that depicted the US as a body-snatching invasion force in Iraq with Jewish doctors killing Iraqis to harvest their organs, the director had to settle for two washed out actors – Gary Busey and Daniel Defoe. Apart from the likes of the hypersensitive David Horowitz of Frontpage, no one ever gave the movie a damn. But this time, not only do we have our “stars” bending and scraping before puny midgets of B-grade filmdom. we also have the mortification of a dishonest scatologically obsessed snuff-film producer having a laugh at our expense.

  11. A very good post Arnab. Just one small thing – After reading the entire post by Big B, I think Big B was just voicing his disgruntlement with the lack of artistic respect that he thinks he (and mainstream Hindi commercial cinema) is entitled to (and which he is finally receiving – a retrospective of his films are being show cased in Paris. So i guess there is a feeling of “yes!! we have finally arrived” as well)and was using Ray’s example as a mere counterpoint for his argument. I don’t think he disagrees/looks down upon Ray or his craft – he has spoken very highly of him on several occasions and had done a voiceover in “Shatranj ke Khiladi” too

  12. Arnab,

    First, excellent essay. My thoughts are on the same lines. It seems Amar Singh has had his influence on Big B. But then, even earlier I didn’t see any evidence of finer sensibilities in Bachchan. Didn’t Hitchcock say, “Actors are cattle.” It is always safer to go and see a movie by looking at the director’s name (e.g., Vishal Bhardwaj) rather than the actor’s (or else one could end up watching classic pieces of Big B — such as Aaaj ka Arjun, Shahenshah, Bhagban, and the short “India Poised” video where Bachchan tries to fly. Can ‘diction’ substitute for acting?). Of course, unless one wants to watch Prabhuji on screen.

    I suggest Bachchan watch and learn from the excellent cinematography by Subrata Mitra, editing by Dulal Dutta, the music of Ray and how he used Ravi Shankar in Pather Panchali and Vilayat Khan in Jalshaghar, and how he brought out the acting from mature actors and actresses and children.

    Is that asking for too much? I think it is.

  13. The first half of TZP was good…not great, but the second half of the movie destroyed the movie, cliched with cardboard cutouts for characters and Aamir his usual self albeit crying in every damn scene he was in. But that’s my opinion. Also just because it comes from ‘mainstream commercial Bollywood’ doesn’t make it immune to judgments about it. Considering most of the Academy mentions for best movies…one I guess doesn’t need to see the other entries to know that TZP would not make the cut.

    Also, about Slumdog being about poverty and all that..why? (Aren’t you like those self same critics you wrote about..who saw only poverty in Ray’s films) He made a choice about the movie he wanted to make. It is so easy to criticize Boyle for depicting poverty, but extending your analysis about Ray’s movies, one can argue, just because the protagonists belong to the slums, the movie wasn’t even about poverty…it was about love and redemption…a fairy tale…Dickensian to a certain extent. In fact one of the American reviewers I read wrote that the movie is ‘ultimately uplifting and contains pretty much all the instances an audience will want’ and not once does he mention poverty in his review… (http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=1390). This is one of the best reviews I read about the movie. Its about the movie and not adding subtexts like you have done. Of course Slumdog is cliched as it gets and definitely contrived…but at its heart I believe it is a feel good movie without pretensions…unlike for example TZP.

    I wouldn’t know why you have to compare Ray with Boyle. Ray is one of the all time great directors but Boyle too has made some pretty good movies.

    This is just my view…

    Cheers,
    Rahul

  14. i love bengali cinema…just completed watching Dosar!

    @rakesh: u can check bengali movies at youtube… there are english subtitles …if u dont follow bengali.

  15. This year could very well be Slumdog’s year at the Oscars. They voted for 2 right movies in the past 2 years- Scorcese’s “good” ‘The Departed’ and the Coen’s “words-fail-me-so-good” ‘No country For Old Men’. How can an awards like the Oscars be right 3 times a row? So just like:

    94- Forest Gump at the expense of Pulp Fiction
    97- Titanic at the expense of LA Confidential

    We may see Slumdog edge out the brilliant but politically divisive ‘The Dark Knight’.

    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2009/01/16/133717.php

    I also read somewhere that many liberals and many NY film critics don’t exactly like that movie.

  16. A superb post.

    (Bows from the waist)

    I think you were dying to say what you have said here for some time now, because the ‘feeling’ is palpable. I don’t recollect having read a better ‘doodh ka doodh, pani ka pani’ differentiation between the popular and the aesthetic. I think you only have Bachchan to thank for providing you the excuse..er..reason for writing this.

    You brought me unpleasant memories too. I was damn sure that ‘LA Confidential’ would get the best film Oscar that year. I was terribly diasppointed when ‘Titanic’ was manipulated into that spot.

    Again, terrific post.

  17. Very nice essay. I agree with you completely about Satyajit Ray (and especially about Pather Panchali, which was a real experience for me when I first watched it). I think that this is also true to a lesser extent of some of the directors of 1950’s hindi cinema (e.g Bimal Roy). It is a real tragedy that current hindi cinema does not have anyone like that.

  18. “Excellent piece of writing,GB” would be an understatement. I guess Boyle will be ecstatic if he sees this post. Being discussed in the same article where Ray is, is not a mean feat.

    But one must understand where BigB is coming from. Honestly, Indians have always hailed foreign achievers and foreign awards as THE ULTIMATE people and prizes. So when a columnist slams Arvind Adiga for White Tiger but praises Slumdog Millionaire one isn’t surprised. This mentality of ‘pleasing foreign audiences and keeping foreign awards in mind because Indian people don’t understand art’ is a thing that most of Bollywood suffers from. They need to get out of this mentality. And it doesn’t help when people like Aamir Khan doesn’t accept Indian awards, and people like Saif Ali Khan (Hum Tum) & Madhur Bhandarkar (Traffic Signal) get awards.

    I think A R Rahman aptly summed it when he said: “When a film and my music get acceptance, it’s the equivalent of an Oscar for me. For the people of India to get an Oscar is a big thing. So for their sake more than mine I hope my song Jai ho and my music score in Slumdog Millionaire win the Oscar.”

  19. I think you are being overly critical of Slumdog. It is the fairytale (strecthed? oh hell yes! but it is a fairytale) of a slum boy and it shows a slum, the way it is. I don’t understand why you are being so sentimental about it!

  20. I think you encapsulated Ray’s universality very well in the last paragraph by setting the Aparajito scenes in modern times.
    In fact, Mrinal Sen actually wrote about this because in a letter from his son (then studying in the US), his wife’s reactions were exactly similar to that of Sarbojaya.

    And Nargis’ most famous film role was Mother India, in which she wallowed in the mud as her two young sons writhed in hunger (both literally). I wonder how she could even accuse others of ‘exporting poverty’ with a straight face!

  21. Nice “adaptation” of Apu triology to contemporary times, the 2009 graduate student example is as good as it can get. Now that I read your post, I like Slumdog Millionaire lesser by the minute, I must admit, it does “shock and awe” and I would never want to be schocked and awed ever again, somehow feels, the director cheat’s the audience.

  22. A film subject is rooted in the times when the film is made, even its sensibility. But then there are some timeless subjects – vengeance, triumph over circumstances, triumph over evil, love and its follies, human bonding, etc. Most of the art worldwide have used the above themes to keep people interested in various manners. Be it Shakespeare, Tagore, James Hadley Chase, Robert Ludlum, Subhash Ghai, Scorcese, Ghatak, Kaufmann, Tolstoy, Archer, Rushdie, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sahir or Ray and now Boyle.

    So, we come to the treatment. They all have their ways and means of reaching out to our hearts because that is where a good subject is understood. “Main phenke hue paise nahi uthata” becomes as relevent to Darsheel quietly looking at the setting sun near the lake!

    Makers of creations shall take their liberties, Eastwood never explains the anger in his movies but its there. Ray never explains the intellect of his characters but its there. Salim – Javed never explained the anti – establishment attitudes of their movies, but you saw it everywhere.

    Boyle saw the squalor. Yes. But also saw the stories within. It fitted his vision well. If one goes by the original thoughts of Boyle, it would have been a much more rabid version, the Indians in his group toned and restrained the final takes. His was a hunger for the ultimate truth behind a story. And that is true. Just as Adiga is.

    News Item today. Daughter kills mother in Mumbai. Why? Daughter eyes 1.7 lakhs of mother. Why? She has separated from her hubby and three children because she has a lover. They want to settle down in Bangalore. So, she takes mother to a location far from home and kills. Side story – mother also has a young lover. You say Holy Cow? I say normal. (what happens to the three children????)

    Two weeks ago, a sub inspector in Sonarpur near Kolkata, informs me that nearly 15% of the women in that area have extra marital affairs or illegitimate children. This is India. We have a problem. Lets just not get prickly if someones holds a mirror to us.

  23. Again.. Being pathetically knowledgeble about these matters grants me no right to appreciate the contents of the post..

    but this can surely be a good material for CAT RC passage.. ! 🙂

  24. I think the Oscars, just like the Golden globes or Filmfare, should not be given a lot of importance. Just like other awards committees, they too are comprised of a group of people who can be swayed, cajoled and awed into doling out awards. I dont think Danny Boyle deserves any additional criticism for making SM (other than some for making what is an average movie with above average music), just like Indian filmmakers like Karan Johar and Yash Chopra dont deserve to be criticized for the way they tell their stories in the movies they make.

    The box office and the awards committees are just like any other system that can be gamed (and won). If Danny has figured out how to appease all these awards committees by saying things in a way that appeal to them, he deserves all the awards he gets. Just like Karan Johar deserves to make money for telling stories in ways that appeal to moviegoers across the world (even though they might not be “oscar”-worthy, but then that is not his intent).

  25. Coming back to a non serious discussion, a sucessor to “Gunda” has been announced.

    Its called “villu” and is in tamil, but the fact that any director, much less prabudeva can cook up such debaucherous shit amazes.

    Really hilarious though, from planes which are stopped “mid-air” because the key is removed, to an animated cow atatcking vadivelu in Munich.

    You should see it Arnab , total dhammal

    Alos, Nice post.

  26. I like this statement by the American film critic Pauline Kael “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them”. Bacchan has done both great art (Sholay, Deewar, Namak Haraam and Anand), and great trash (Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Hum, Sooryavansham, the Yashraj series and of course the album “AB baby”, does anyone remember THAT?). He should be secure in his achievements to this point, rather than worry about Western recognition

  27. Have you guys seen any other movies by boyle?

    Here’s a list: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000965

    As for as Ray’s genius: It was not THAT great. I am not an authority here but it’s strictly MY opinion. So, given a chance, I can decide who to watch and who not to.

    Why drag Boyle in the middle of it?

    If I am correct, the main post was AB’s rant against not getting enough recognition worldwide thru oscars et.al and something about Ray’s depiction of poverty.

  28. Swarna bhaloos ?? This was hilarious. And i wonder why people are so mad at SM receiving so much attention. Is it because the film makers have again portrayed in the west the kind of India we want to hide and believe as if that part of the society does not exist. Moreover SM is an all out fantasy film and in fact i felt that the director was trying to copy mainstream Indian masala films. Poor street kids, Parents dead, boy-meets girl, lost brothers, reunion, villains etc. Manmohan desai-prakash mehra anyone ? I personally believe that the old art movies of the 80’s showed similar kind of situations and settings involving om puri, shabana azmi, naseeruddin shah and smita patil. And we call them great cinema, which many of them truly are. And moreover GG’s and oscars depend more on networking by the studios and lobbyists so mainstream movies in even hollywood never get any recognition as rightly said by arnab in his post. And i guess Big B was mad at not being offered anil kapoor’s rols in SM considering he was the original host of KBC in India !!

  29. I agree with almost all that you have written, but do you think contemporary western critics would have celebrated Ray ( had Pather Panjali been released only, say, last year )? They seem too “liberal” for that.

  30. I don’t think your “long post” warning holds true for us Ray worshipers. In fact it all seems so short and succinct to me. You have said all that was required to be said to the “Ray sold Indian poverty to the West”- crowd. Many people think you need to be a Bengali to understand Ray, I think it has more to do with being a human being, a proper one at that.

    One of your better posts till date.

    On the Boyle-ean art of film-making here is my views on his seminal piece (not shred to pieces, mercifully):
    http://my-own-creations.blogspot.com/

  31. Here let me just say that the appeal of the Trilogy lies primarily in the universality of the themes

    naah, it lies in its creation, for being the way it is.
    The usage of the word ‘universal’ is an excuse to put your film in league with the outside world.

    A film about a man’s struggle to cook paneer could be universal as well. Just like the issue of casteism.

    Enjoyed reading. Good clarity.

  32. Great work in observing the subtle difference and then even tougher task to pursue the arguments in words.
    To me it looks like a mathematical deduction where the first half (before you came to the point) declared all variables and axioms and the second half has statements to prove the throrem .

    Pather Panchali displayed Aestheticism and Poverty, but it is the previous variable that had huge value while the latter is just a dummy variable which doesn’t influence the rise of the function, it just moves the point of reference.

    AB glorified the role of the wrong variable. A mistake many commit in many ways.

    Slumdog used an insanely high value of dummy variable which should ideally not mislead a man with an eye for Aestheticism. Whether the man in charge of nominations has that eye, is a different case altogether.

    Really liked that you didn’t pursue TZP much sighting the fact that you don’t know with whom to compare it too. Just mentioned that it has a reasonably good aesthetic value in first half.

    It was a tough long post and you succeeded in being logically correct throughout :).

  33. I liked your post, Greatbong.

    @kaangeya: I don’t think any Turkish film director has used Daniel Defoe as an actor in his film. Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, died in 1743. Perhaps you mean Willem Dafoe? They’re different people, dude.

  34. I think when one talks about the trilogy or even asani sanket one must keep in mind the author of the literary works adapted (and Ray keeps the context intact)…the predominant theme is man’s changing relationship with nature. The fact that Apu’s family and Gangacharan are poor are incidental to the plot…and asani sanket is about a famine for chrissakes!so the depiction was essential…
    but yes greatbong, a very insightful and necessary post

  35. >>Now if only some people would get this.

    If only. But I guess it’s fine as long as there are a bunch of “intellects” like you and me who truly appreciate and understand Ray’s point in his movies (what the others like to put as “has a flair for slow art movies”). Doesn’t really matter if the others didn’t get it. It’s me who got to enjoy such great works by this man named Satyajit Ray.

  36. Possibly unrelated — Hate to say this but I feel bad for the non-bongs for they will never enjoy Ray’s works the way someone who understands the language will. (Tried watching Goopi Gyne with English subtitles?)

    Does anyone agree?

  37. A few points:

    For all those commenters who keep saying that we should accept Slumdog Millionaire’s version of slum life, “because that’s just how things are”, I have a question for you –

    Have you actually experienced living in a slum first hand? Do you know what it entails? What are the realistic chances of a slum kid in a major Indian city going through all the horrors that Jamal in the movie experienced?

    I’ve actually been a development worker in two major urban slums in Delhi. I interacted with dozens of slum kids on an ongoing basis for two years. I get disgusted when I hear smug middle-class types repeatedly assert that the lives of the poor in India are unrelentingly dismal.

    This fly-by-night filmmaking really disturbs me. I welcome the efforts of any Western filmmaker to make a film about India. But ideally, it should be done with a sensibility that is sharply attuned to the subject and the context. I doubt Danny Boyle was so well-prepared.

    All this reminds me of the Mircea Eliade-Maitreyi Devi controversy. Someday, someone from Dharavi would write their own “Na Hanyate” about the likes of Mira Nair and Danny Boyle. By the way, whatever happened to that kid from “Salaam Bombay” and Mira’s so called “Salam Balak Trust”?

  38. Brilliant post Arnab. I am a non-bong from Hyd and even though I do not understand Bengali one can feel Ray’s movies. No one – no other director has been even able to come close what Ray portrayed (The nearest IMHO is K. Vishwanath – again in my own personal opinion).
    There have been other movies which are realistic (read – Hazaroon Khwaishein Aisen, Black Friday, Ankur etc) but they have been too few. Most of them I think would not even come up on the radar of the normal cine goer – and by default would not come up for ‘Oscars’. I think the most over hyped awards are the Oscars. It is like anything in the US, needs a bit of lobbying to get it. They gave Oscar to Titanic. Nothing can beat that.
    I think a Salaam Bombay or a Satya or a Black Friday was more ‘Indian’ than any Slumdog tries to be. Mann I hated that movie.

  39. Ha – would you know it – I googled to figure out what happened to Shafiq Syed from Salaam Bombay and saw a bunch of reviews of the film when it first came out.

    They are almost identical to Slumdog Millionaire reviews. Same old, same old cliches – triumph of human spirit, real India, divided society, hard truths, blah blah blah. And Salaam came out in 1988. The more things change….

    You know what – since you enlightened folks are interested in a realistic portrayal of slum life in India, here’s a film recommendation for you. This requires some digging, but if you’re up for it…

    One of the most interesting and clearly realistic depiction of slum life in India was a documentary I saw that was made by Rahul Roy, who’s a filmmaker affiliated with (or once was ) the Jamia Milia MCRC.

    The documentary follows the live of four friends in Jahangirpuri, a slum in Northwestern Delhi. It is a very sympathetic, poignant narrative, with a lot more empathy and non-exploitative compared to Danny Boyle.

    It resonates personally for me because I actually worked in Jahangirpuri as a development worker.

  40. @Thallassa:

    “This fly-by-night filmmaking really disturbs me. I welcome the efforts of any Western filmmaker to make a film about India. But ideally, it should be done with a sensibility that is sharply attuned to the subject and the context. I doubt Danny Boyle was so well-prepared.”

    That’s a very very nice comment. And think about it….if the Western audience was not targetted, why are slum dwellers speaking English with an American accent? Ok….so if someone argues that this is an English movie….but again….why American accent?

    “Fly-by-night filmmaking” is the most apt term for this film. Neither the scriptwriter nor the director did their research.

  41. A good post…(as if you needed me saying that)

    I really dont understand why suddenly there are uproars about stereotyping…I mean dont bollywood movie do it all the times? Look at an average (or even an above average) movie..and you will think all Punjabis are loudmouths ready to make a fool of themselves, all Gujratis are crooked stockbrokers, all biharis are criminals and all bengalis speak very poor hindi, punctuated by “oori-baba”.

    We see an “American Beauty”, and say a nice portrayal of American contemporary society…as if all america is full off broken families, and gays.

  42. Very sorry to have provided the wrong URL by mistake before.

    @ GB -I don’t think your “long post” warning holds true for us Ray worshipers. In fact it all seems so short and succinct to me. You have said all that was required to be said to the “Ray sold Indian poverty to the West”- crowd. Many people think you need to be a Bengali to understand Ray, I think it has more to do with being a human being, a proper one at that.

    One of your better posts till date.

    On the Boyle-ean art of film-making here is my views on his seminal piece (not shred to pieces, mercifully):

    http://caesar-caesar.blogspot.com/

  43. Look what happened at the Golden Globes, this year

    Milk didn’t win a thing. Neither did Gran Torino. Wrestler (thankfully) won 2. Benjamin Button was nominated, as if that’s the biggest favor ever done to it. Apart from Ledger’s Joker getting itsdue, it was appalling how they could ignore so many good movies.

    2008 is a stunning year for Hollywood. So many good movies were released… and SDM will *just* about make it into the Top 10 of 2008.

    To think it won 4 Golden Globes, with such kind of tough competition, is the best joke of the year… It’d put a smile even on Heath’s face.

    I was kinda hoping that the Oscars will probably rectify this mistake. But the very first thing they’ve done, gives a good indication in which direction they’re head: chucking TZP and Gomorra (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0929425/) out

    Great going, indeed.

  44. off the topic… but there are reports that akki kung-fu panda kumar has apparently rejected the screen award on stage and says amir 8 packs- i win khan deserves it more… and the jury is wrong… o welll… reality or stunt remains to be seen!!!!!!!1

  45. Arnab Da,

    A point well made. People who think Apu’s Trilogy was about poverty have zero artistic sensibilities. In Pather Panchali I loved the camera work (especially the scene in which Apu is chasing his sister in the house or vice-verso) and I feel it is amazing knowing the equipment and financial constrains under which the movie was made.

    People should watch Ray and if they don’t understand take classes at JU’s Film Studies Dept :P; before making any comments.

  46. @yogi

    “Have you guys seen any other movies by boyle?”

    I had the great misfortune of watching the turd he directed before Slumdog Millionaire. I thought I had obliterated the memory of that movie from my mind, but then I pottered around IMDB to find other films directed by Boyle and voila! there it was.

    “Sunshine” is unarguably the worst sci fi film I’ve ever seen. It’s made by a man who has a fundamentally unscientific mind. Even careless me could find basic errors of physics and reasoning literally every 5 minutes during watching the film.My friend who watched it with me is a PhD in Electrical Engineering and was tearing his hair out in frustration through the film.

    His other big film “The Beach” was universally panned by the critics. I guess Mr. Boyle finally hit paydirt with Slumdog after being out in the cold for so long after Trainspotting.

    Someone above said it was Boyle’s good fortune to be even mentioned in the same paragraph with a great director like Satyajit Ray. I completely agree.

    I don’t understand his anointment as some great directorial genius.

  47. Another Bong ranting for Satyajit Ray.
    If Ray does it he is artistic and great if Boyle does it , its all a cheap way of getting an oscar.

    I believe they both exploited the same things to get the golden statue. As Clint Eastwood did with Million Dollar baby.

  48. Mr. Big B, can you request your industry to make something original, not just the script but the music, lyrics, sets, dialogues, costume, hair styles etc.
    Mr. Big B, can you please set an example by not acting in movies which are knock offs of B-grade of Hollywood movies like your recent movie Chini Kaam.
    Mr. Big B, can you ask your industry to be more professional by not making it a family run enterprise where most of the present hero/heroines are sons and daughters of past directors/producer/hero/heroine.
    Mr. Big B, please don’t misunderstand your and your ilk’s popularity with being taken seriously. Right-minded people don’t watch your movies for art but because in India there is no other form of entertainment available and thankfully this is changing.
    Mr. Big B, we Indians don’t take you seriously, forget about Hollywood, Cannes etc. You definitely know this but you want to start viral promotion via your blog.

  49. a great post from the Great B to the Big B.. 😛 if i am allowed to term it so. I also have to add up one point here. Boyle isn’t the subtlest of directors around. Anyone who’s watched his other movies woul know that. After all, if not a jump into excreta what else do you expect from the director of Trainspotting?

    Boyle has been and always will be a director who will be showing extreme realities. So I find it wrong to judge him for what he has shown in SM.

    Coming to Bachchan, Oh yes. Actors are cattles!

  50. My position first … Have not seen Slumdog yet and also avoided reading its reviews (including GBs)as i do not want to be biased before I see the film. Have seen Trainspotting multiple times and loved it completely. Find it hard to imagine what can Slumdog show dirtier than “the worst toilet in Scotland” or the Mumbai underbelly as captured in Aamir. On Ray’s films , somehow have seen Sonar Kella , Joy Baba Felunath , Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne , Hirok Rajar Deshe more number of times than his realistic films and believe the above to be masterpieces in their own right. Santosh Dutta being outstanding beyond words. However let me also admit that my not seeing enough of the “other” Ray films was not entirely a matter of choice but more to do with the fact that when I was home and Ray films were shown on Doordarshan , I was deemed too young to see them by my parents. Do need to catch up with them as quickly as i can so as to fill up one portion of me in my journey to being a cinema lover.
    Coming back to Slumdog , I will not be one cheering for Slumdog as an Indian film just I never considered Gandhi to be an Indian film with the simple yardstick that the director is the captain of the ship and Danny Boyle is not Indian. I will cheer for Rahman however in case he gets nominated.

  51. Coming to Big B’s grouse against Ray vs Commercial cinema , lets not forget that Oscars have also ignored American box office results in favour of “indie” … so the bias against commercial success is not limited to Indian films only. It actually maybe the result of a mindset of the jury of Oscars which is essentially a large panel of people who are seen “worthy” of knowing good cinema. As soon as i get “labelled” as a connoisseur , i will try to hide my frivolousness and find it difficult to admit that I enjoyed Sanjay Dutt and Govinda in David Dhawan movies as much or even more than seeing a guy eat marigold flowers in Monsoon Wedding. (Deepa Mehta , Gurinder Chaddha and Mira Nair are very average filmmakers IMHO). This comes from the fact that I want to show that I am different , “better” than the average audience and hence I will turn my nose up on what the general public has liked and show that i prefer the exotic. Its my way of flexing my muscles once I have been selected to an elite jury. The sheer size of the Oscar panel is supposed to bring in a lot of objectivity and eliminate the “nicheness”. However as records show thats not always the case. Oscar juries have often not awarded the deserving candidates and then awarded them in their lesser works almost in compensation. Denzel Washington , Russell Crowe and Martin Scorcese will vouch for that.

  52. Saw Shahrukh Khan of Oye its friday.
    Looks like he was heavily on steroids and now having withdrawal symptoms. Looking like a mummy. In few yeras he will start resembling the original King – Michael Jackson.

    He was saying about his coming from Delhi to Mumbai – said- in Delhi, everybody of us lives in big bunglows. Nobody lives in flats.
    In same pogramme he said that he comes from a lower middle class family in Delhi.
    Stupid – lower middle class families having bunglows in Delhi??
    Does he know how much a flat cost in Delhi or even in NCR.
    These north indians !! And look at grce of Rajni..

  53. A grest post Arnab! We Bengalis can rightfully pity all those who haven’t been brought up on Satyajit Ray-Goopy Bagha-Feluda-(and going a little apart from cinema)-Sukamar Ray! It was excellent how you brought Apu into today’s world. Will always enjoy reading your posts.

  54. Ankit,

    Which comment of yours was deleted?

    You dont mean this do you?

    Another Bong ranting for Satyajit Ray.
    If Ray does it he is artistic and great if Boyle does it , its all a cheap way of getting an oscar.

    I believe they both exploited the same things to get the golden statue. As Clint Eastwood did with Million Dollar baby.

    If you do,then please scroll upward. It was never deleted.

  55. “This is however precisely what Bachchan does when he says that Bollywood had to “battle the adulation and attention paid to Ray” as if somehow it is because of Ray’s realism and the ”realistic” stereotypes that he defined that Subhash Ghai and Manmohan Desai do not have several Palm D’Ors, Swarna Bhaloos and Best Director Oscars in their living room showcase.”

    Hehe. Probably the funniest line in the post.

  56. I think till date its the most brilliant post.I totally agree with you on Ray’s part.
    I like the last paragraph most “Apu can be taken out of the context of a poor village in rural Bengal and transplanted to graduate school in the US in 2009, a young Indian male adjusting to a new world with wide-eyed wonder in the process turning his back to his roots. Sarbajoya then can become his mother, dying inside, waiting for her son to call, running to the phone to realize she has imagined it to be ringing and sitting at the verandah of her third storey floor looking wistfully down at the road, expecting her son to come walking down the front street like he used to many years ago. And even then, if the camera was in the hands of a skilled director (no Mr. Bhansali I do not mean you) the story and the visuals would lose none of their poignancy even though the poverty and rural angle has been totally taken away.”
    Thanks Arnab for this!

  57. It seems that the 2 of the greatest minds of the world that we reside in agree on many aspects with an alarming frequency. Great minds, in this case, do think alike. Of course I am talking about GB and the writer, Salman Rushdie.

    http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/salman-rushdie-oscar-prognosticator/?apage=1

    Attention Dark Knight fans:

    Rushdie::::

    ” “I really like the Batman movie,” Mr. Rushdie said. “I think ‘The Dark Knight,’ is a shoo in.”

    “I think even people who don’t like superhero movies might like this because it’s about the problem of the idea of the superhero,” he said. “There’s a scene in the film where the Joker confronts Batman and says, ‘You know, we’re the same, and we need each other.’ That’s a profound moment. These extreme characters can only exist in each other’s company.””

    So true, no? 🙂

    And his thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire is precisely what has been echoed by so many across the 2 threads on this blog:

    Rushdie:::::

    “What about “Slumdog Millionaire?”

    “I’m not a very big fan of ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” Mr. Rushdie said. “I think it’s visually brilliant. But I have problems with the story line. I find the storyline unconvincing. It just couldn’t happen. I’m not adverse to magic realism but there has to be a level of plausibility, and I felt there were three or four moments in the film where the storyline breached that rule.”

    After a pause, he added, “And I’m the only person who thinks this.” ”

    umm….No Sir. You are not alone. And what a bang-on observation. Nothing more needs to be said.

  58. Ray’s films are timeless and the themes are diverse in nature… if anyone suggests that it’s about poverty/misery, that means he/she never watched enough number of Ray movies (otherwise doesnot understand movie)…. Not seen Slumdog. But will be more happy to see an Indian director’s works being recognized globally.

  59. **I am now waiting with bated breath to hear about what Suzanne Arundhati Roy thinks about this film. :))))This is the precisely India that she depicts in her writings.

    ** Boyle missed a chance to bolster his movie by showing topless scenes of Anil Kapoor and his “luxurious fur” to Western women. That would have surely sealed the Oscar for him.

    http://www.screenindia.com/news/Anil-Kapoor-reveals-how—Slumdog-Millionaire—fell-into-his-lap/399115/

    What a heading! My head is spinning now. Maybe we missed something in the movie! By the way, in his effort to imitate both British and American accents, Anil Kapoor inadvertently gave birth to a new uber accent….it is just unbelievable!!! Imagine a north Indian person trying to put on those 2 accents together. Maybe we should name it Transatlantic Curry.

  60. Haven’t seen slumdog yet, but this is what another blogger had to say about the movie:

    http://imaginingindia.com/blog/
    The movie is at its heart, about aspiration, and about dreams coming true. This ‘common man’ Jamal, is not angry, like the Indian men of the 1970s. He is both hopeful and relentless, defiant and proud of his origins even as the people around him call him a ’slumdog’. He knows better – that it doesn’t matter where you come from, only where you are headed.

    So looks like it is possible to see beyond the ‘poverty depiction’ in Slumdog too, just as you have done with Ray.

  61. I lost respect for any such rewards like Oscar or nobel prize etc.

    When they can throw away Nobel prize on the staunch keynesian crook paul krugman, they hold no worth.

    Also, slumdog millionaire may win many accolades, after it is an Indian movie made by a “Non-indian”.
    About tare zameen par, I say its GOOD movie. and when i say it, its worth more than a oscar from my side to Amir and Darsheel. Although Amir may not worth my evaluation of TZP that much, and he may feel bad about loosing Oscar race.

  62. @ unpretentious diva

    Doesnt it strike you as odd or hypocritical that Amir Khan doesnt care for the local awards like Filmfare /screen etc but dreams of winning an Oscar. He went all out to push Lagaan and hoped TZP would make the cut as the best foreign film.

    @ Arnab
    I have enjoyed movies by Ray ( though not a bong – I remember watching Gopi gain baga bain or something to that effect as a child) as much as I would enjoy any Manmohan desai or David Dhawan film ( This is not meant to insult the great Ray) and i agree with your assessment that movies as any art form are highly subjective and depend on the individual’s experience.
    Your post brings about a distinction between rewards and awards – rewards are necessary to rake in profit as movie making is a money making business – Awards on the other hand ensure the movie lives on much longer.

  63. Once in a year, you write an entry, Arnab which brings few forgotten teardrops in my eyes. Tears , which come not out of cliched sadness but out of realizing the passion that seethes inside your written words and tears that brings memories to a ‘Parijayi’ generation like mine.
    Last year, it was your Durga puja entry; this year so far- this one came as a piece of nostalgia, argumentative Bengaliness and most importantly of truth that scums like Mr. Amitabh Bacchan (and his sons and grandsons and the whole nine yards of parasites that will continue to pollute Indian popular movies generations after genrations)can never understand and fortunately the ‘artist(sic)’ who lives inside Mr Bacchan will achieve greatness with movies like Ritubandho’s ‘Last Lear’ and will keep on gasping for International recognition that he never deserved.

    Kudos.

  64. @Mahesh
    Doesnt it strike you as odd or hypocritical that Amir Khan doesnt care for the local awards like Filmfare /screen etc but dreams of winning an Oscar. He went all out to push Lagaan and hoped TZP would make the cut as the best foreign film.

    And why should i care about it?
    It is Amir’s freedom to decide what award he will care for and what award he won’t care for.
    When the Kolhapur social service association called him for taking awards and accolades, he went there. its his righteous freedom to decide what award and association and organization he prefers for.

    About TZP and Lagaan, they are excellent movies on the Libertarian grounds. much much much better than fascist Rang De Basanti.

  65. @ Mahesh
    Doesnt it strike you as odd or hypocritical that Amir Khan doesnt care for the local awards like Filmfare /screen etc but dreams of winning an Oscar. He went all out to push Lagaan and hoped TZP would make the cut as the best foreign film.

    And why should i care about it?
    It is Amir’s freedom to decide what award he will care for and what award he won’t care for.
    When the Kolhapur social service association called him for taking awards and accolades, he went there. its his righteous freedom to decide what award and association and organization he prefers for.

    About TZP and Lagaan, they are excellent movies on the Libertarian grounds. much much much better than fascist Rang De Basanti.

    @ Moderator, I guess my previous comment has been trapped in spam box, please delete it.

  66. Slightly off topic…but can’t resist…

    I see a lot of people “protesting” about Indian movies being ignored by Oscars etc…but they should note the fact that every country sends one official entry and most of the times Indian officials fail to pick the right movie…

    Films like Satya never went to oscars while Jeans made it. Kanattil Muthamittal ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0312859/ ), was ignored and Devdas was selected. A world class film like Black Friday was killed by the system and censor while Hazaro Khwahishe Aisi was also ignored. They preferred craps like Paheli & Eklavya. Regional movies are always ignored by those fools. People with no cinematic taste gets to decide which movies should represent India and as a result when we get deservedly laughed at, we complain…

  67. [i]They preferred craps like Paheli & Eklavya.[/i]

    Wherever you involve government or government supported leaders, there occurs sluggish sluttish garbage.

    But then such Garbage one can see in the evaluation team for Oscar or nobel or any other prize.

  68. @Akhil,

    >Sorry, I don’t get the point of the post. You are ranting against Danny >Boyle because Big B said something about Satyajit Ray?

    No it’s because some people on my last post commented that what Boyle has done is exactly what Ray used to do. This is a sentiment I have seen on quite a few message boards. This post was written in order to make a distinction between the two.

  69. Beautifully written.
    TZP I did feel had a beautiful message and somehow never became melodramatic. It is one of the best movies to come out of Bollywood recently. I would also add Blue Umbrella to this category which did not do great commercially.

  70. I pray from my heart that people read your blog more than they do of the AB’s & the Khan”s . You are far more correct in judgement than them.

  71. Point put across pretty well but clearly very biased, however two facts emerge from this post:
    1>Anything against Bengali Director will not go good, I wonder why no-one responded in the same way when Amir commented about “Black”.
    2>Second and more important, when would we get mature?? Fair enough that the SDM is showing poverty in all the reels, but is it not there in mumbai?? Why don’t we say that Page 3 is pathetic because it is showing only the ugliness of the glamour world?? We won’t say that because it is not made by a foreigner.
    3>Now about oscars, I am not a fan of it, but other than few exceptions I liked the movies won/nominated. Anybody remembers “American Beauty”?? I believe people here understands the concepts of that movie which comments on the american society in a very dark way. Nobody objects to it.

    So grow up guys..Expecting something more unbiased/rational on this blog (when it is so serious)..
    In the end, I am ardent fan of Apu’s Triology (First watched in Bangali with a Bong friend helping me understand) and then with subtitles. But that doesn’t make Boyle’s work forgettable (Personal opinion).

  72. Funnily, I was thinking “just” the same after reading Mr. Bachchan’s comment – that Ray’s films are never about poverty. I mean, it’s ludicrous to take it that way and anyone who’s remotely paid any attention (and I think Mr. Bachchan, of all, should having been a part of one)…it’s about the warmth. It always is. There’s such a universal warmth in his depiction of the most humdrum of things…THAT’s what pulls you. Yes, there’s the economy of expression and the inner eye, yada yada, but what puts him up there, is ability to depict the humane in the mundane.

    Oh well, I could gush and gush and gush AND gush about the man:)

  73. @NEELADRI:
    POINT TO PONDER: wud Akshay Kumar have done the same if his CC2C and Aamir’s TZP were both nominated for the Oscars and Akshay beat Aamir there too?

  74. First of all Amitabh is growing senile.

    Ray is one of the greats of cinema. Does one really need to put across points and debate about it?

    Do not compare SM with Ray…it doesn’t serve any purpose. I do not think Boyle was glorifying poverty…sometimes we tend to read too much into a work of art. SM was a cliched fairy tale that has a feel good factor associated with it. Arnab..sometimes…sometimes you need to understand that not everything is a crusade. Cinema like any work of art exists as exclusive entities. Your diatribe against SM was your opinion…but I guess like all those people who so only poverty in Ray’s movies..you also saw only poverty in SM…sad.

  75. Okay, I am going to go out on a limb here and conjecture that when the senile old Bachchan mentioned Ray, he was actually railing against a cinema “type” of which Ray became the representative by dint of being the most famous. Others in this set would include Mrinal Sen, and several “art” directors.

    Of course, this does not absolve Bachchan or Nargis Dutt of the charge of pure ignorance. But the point they were possibly trying to get across just would not have the punch they wanted it to convey if they had mentioned Sen instead of Ray. Also Ray’s most famous film, regardless of Arnab’s fantastic defence, Pather Panchali, does depict back breaking, shattering poverty. Unfortunately this is the film that made him known throughout the world, which in turn made many people (including Bachchan, Dutt and many other Indians) think he dealt in India’s poverty.

    But leave this aside. If “Ray” was replaced by “Mrinal Sen”, would Bachchan’s comment have greater justification? I would still posit no. The reasons are obvious:

    This is film, a form of fiction. Terms like “exploitation” and “pandering” might or might not be true, but have no relevance here. We might as well accuse novelists of exactly the same things – oh wait…we do. And we ban them as well. Remember? I really fail to understand what it is about a popular film, by all accounts well-shot and acted that has raised the hackles of so many “nationalists” suddenly.

    Oh and it is the job of filmmakers to “exploit” our emotions. That’s why we go to the movies. To have out emotions, feelings, and senses exploited. If anyone believes otherwise, one is being wilfully ignorant.

    Second, to repeat a cliché – sorry poverty does exist. Anyone who lives in Mumbai and has travelled on the Western Express Highway through Malad, or through Sion next to Dharavi, or through Cheetah Camp will attest to that. Danny Boyle made a picaresque, fantasy film with that background. That’s it. Why are we expecting total verisimilitude? And Rushdie?!? Rushdie is a film critic now who is approvingly quoted by Yourfan? He has issues with the level of “plausibility”? hahahaha. And he thinks the film breaks “rules” of “magic realism”? WTF? What rules pray? Never read of them!

    One can have issues with Boyle’s filmmaking (e.g. Thalassa seems virulently “off the Boyle” – geddit ha! I loved Sunshine. I don’t give a flying f*ck about the realism of the physics, but that’s just me.), but the “poverty porn” reasons, and the “unrealistic” reasons just do not cut it. These arguments have been refuted by others in various fora, and in the previous post as well.

    Maybe it is because of the inherent weakness of these arguments in the first post that Arnab has been driven to try and knock Slumdog a second time in this one. Let Slumdog go now Arnab. Chhodo na.

    And yes, Amitabh Bachchan is an idiot. And Ray is great, and NOT just because he is a Bengali. The few idiots who say that Ray is loved and defended here just because he is a Bengali can go screw themselves, or get some education.

  76. Nice post… and like someone says above… it seems like something you’ve been dying to say for some time now…

    Don’t know if I’ve missed it… but I don’t think you’ve really ever taken up this “Manmohan Desai v/s Satyajit Ray” point earlier… and while this post does deal with that there are side issues like Slumdog and Amitabh Bacchan which kind of eat up the space…

    Would really love to read your take on “Mainstream Bollywod vis-a-vis Ray” or even “Arty Bollywood vis-a-vis Ray” if you ever get down to writing it..

  77. Ray depicts the tragedy of poverty in Pather Panchali & Aparajito. He portrays the beauty of simple peopl, the surprising nobility and unexpected resilience of the the human spirit afflicted by adversity.

    Durga dies because of the helplessness of her situation. Not because she is jumping into excrement for the benefit of foreign cinemagoers who need a break from the miserable state of recession ridden lives.

    ‘Boil’ wallows in faeces and slime to earn shock value. He can get away by raking the sh#t of India. If he even dreamt of pulling similar stunts in Pakistan, he’d be enjoying a Bakewell tart with Daniel Pearl by now.

    Boil has the right to film. We have a right to responsibly question his portrayal. Reputable cinematic institutions have a similar right to shun the lure of petrodollars (if there are any) and flush his movie, scatophilia shots and all, down the ‘pan’.

    The way that his movie is being feted aptly displays the mindset of such institutions. That is fine. That is their preorogative too. We each act according to our instinct and character.

    Comparing Boil to Ray is wrong. Ray films beauty. Boil mangles facts. And faeces.

  78. My two cents on “Slumdog Millionaire” :

    There are slums, dirt, crime and child labour in all cities more or less. But when it comes to India, these are the things that MUST be highlighted to get attention and appreciation from the west. This is a cheap publicity stunt, nothing else. And this is nothing new.

    The entire world (especially the west) loves to see India in this way only. Their perception will remain same. Remember that foreigner’s “I want dirty India, hungry India” dialogue from “Munnabhai MBBS”? They already have this perception and they don’t want to accept anything that shows modern day India in a good light. They won’t appreciate a civilized, neat and clean, modern India. They don’t seem to like the idea. That’s why “Lagaan” (about undeveloped India of 18th century) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (about dirty, crime-prone and dangerous India) get more recognition and critical acclaim than “Taare Zameen Par” (about a modern middle class family of today’s India) does.

    In addition to that I would like to say that some people may argue that “the western world’s perception has changed about India after the IT-revolution and all that”. I say NO. Reality is they just view India as a place where they get loads and loads and loads of efficient and hardworking laborers for a much cheaper price. Most of India’s IT high-fliers fall in this category.

    Sounds bad, but true.

    And, GB, as far as the Ray-angle is concerned, having watched all his films numerous times, I really can’t remember if he has even once “sold India’s poverty to west”. I don’t even remember him showing poverty in any of his movies when he actually could have done without it. People (with due respect to the Late Mrs Nargis Dutt) who say such things about Satyajit Ray’s filmmaking simply DON’T know anything about filmmaking – and this I say without being an expert in filmmaking.
    Let’s not forget that Mrs Dutt herself got her acting career’s highest claim to fame through “Mother India” which ironically was about Poverty.

  79. Only after reading the post did I come to know that there was someone called Satyajit Ray. I really feel sorry for him.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    I feel that everyone who are against the movie, are somehow jealous of its success. And about the portrayal of poverty in the movie, about the kid jumping in the sh#t, what is wrong with that, the kid was desperate to get the autograph and so he jumped. Well I completely enjoyed the movie, the music was fantastic. The child actors were fantastic.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    Get real people………….

  80. @ demonrodd : “Only after reading the post did I come to know that there was someone called Satyajit Ray”.

    Then you are really, really dumb.

    @ demonrodd : “I really feel sorry for him (Ray)”.

    Don’t worry, Ray doesn’t need your pity.

    We feel very sorry for you. You do need our pity.

  81. How sensitive we are about someone (a foreigner) showing us our own scabrous side!

    Personally, as an Indian I am far more embarrassed when movies like Chandni Chowk to China are released abroad. I’s rather they they think we are poor and dirty, than irrational and demented.

  82. Shan @ “How sensitive we are about someone (a foreigner) showing us our own scabrous side!”

    No, that’s not the issue. We are gaining increasing realisation that this is just a piece in a larger jigsaw aiming to portray the whole of India as a cesspool. And that is infuriating us.

    If there were 100 programs on India, 50 good, 50 bad, there would be no compromise of objectivity. Barring one programme on the Ganges, and Valmik Thapar’s wildlife films the BBC bought in the 90s in a moment of weakness, every single foreign program of more than minimal recognition has consistently, unfailingly, unflinchingly focused on slums, filth and poverty.

    If there were 50 programs on India, 50 on Pakistan, and all showed the equally predominant slums in both countries, then the ‘hatred of India’ argument would fall flat. Not that a disgusting portrayal of both countries would be satisfying to me. But we could say that their abhorrance is not India specific.

    Please name 3 foreign programs of reasonable acclaim that have attempted to depict an objective view of India?

    Even smaller ventures like travel programs are riddled with filth. One Discovery channel program showed all 15 secs of Jaisalmer, 9 of them a cows behind!!! Another program on Tanjore, while possessing mildly nice visual shots, spent time on elaborating that Raja Chola built the system out of fear of reincarnations, so that he wouldn’t be ‘reborn as a low caste or cockroach”.

    This is a systematic crusade, sometimes a concerted campaign, sometimes individually motivated, but unfailingly wallowing in the filth of Indian slums.

    And what about some objectivity? Which are the communities contributing to the slum population? I can safely speak about my city of Calcutta. The poor and destitute Bangaals (Hindu Bengalis murdered and thrown out of Bangladesh by their bloodthirsty non-Hindu ‘cousins’) first proliferated Calcutta with shanty towns. By sheer hard work and determination, most have overcome their obstacles and are living successful ‘gentrified’ lives.

    And what about Kolootolla? Like a festering, oozing and putrid sore, it is growing ever more wretched, ever more septic, engulfing outlying areas. This slum population, with their motivated idealogy of demographically explosive warfare, will always remain an inveterate, incorrigable slum population. They will slumify any city they inhabit (read ‘invade’).

    This is an irrefutable fact. What about Danny ‘Boil’ taking a few pains to explain the context of the undeserving slum plight India is forced to suffer in perpetuity? But that would be honesty, so forget it.

    So in the meanwhile, let’s blame the Hindu, even better, the Brahmin, for all of India’s afflictions. For slums. For child slavery. For attacks on innocent, peaceloving Ms (even though 3 MILLION predominantly Hs were murdered in 1971).

    I am glad this controversy has erupted. India needs to wake up and smell the coffee. It needs to realise how people really perceive it, and take steps accordingly. My brother’s movie camera was confiscated in Yemen as he did not have prior permission to film. And here we have ‘travel trips’ to the most intensely nauseating portions of Dharavi. Do you see the contrast?

    This should start causing the long deferred polarisation of society. Of those who wish India to remain a secular and tolerant regime under the overarching liberal values of its Hindu population, and those who wish India to descend in to bloodshed and mayhem by allowing and encoraging, willingly or unknwowingly, anti-India forces to multiply and arm.

    Of those who are concerned about the habit of continuing showing India in a disgusting light, and those who take pride in the fact that their country’s dirty underpants are being held up for spectacle and ridicule, unfailingly, unhesitantly.

    This is a good thing. We need more movies like SLUMDOG to wake us up.

    This movie is just a movie. Nothing more and nothing less. I have no cause with the movie per se. I do take issue with the broader context of what the movie weaves itself in to, a warp and woof of continuous India-hating propaganda.

    Oh, but they love India. Of course. They love to hate it.

    The end.

  83. Nothing new here. Still Ray worshipping. I know you have taken lots of pain to explain why Ray is a legend (which I believe!) and how his movies were not about poverty. But it just doesnt matter. Doesnt matter if it is stark poverty porn wrapped around with poetic symbolism. If you think Ray is great, then I dont know see any reason why Boyle ain’t the same. Ray could have made a million movies with no poverty, but the ones on the international arena were the ones with abject poverty on them which is the retainer for the western perspective.

    You write great blogs Arnab and I enjoy them. I also fiercely defend artistic freedom without the BS of mixing up irrelevant stupid notions (mostly felt by jumbled mind NRIs). But I just want you to come out of this false shell of hypocrisy!

  84. NRIs *generally* fall into two categories:
    1.
    I am so lucky I got outta that sh1t h0le! Now I need to find the whitest ar$e in town to kiss….
    Slumdog Millionaire? Oh man, that’s the greatest thing outta the West since Churchill. It is so realistic! You know, back “there” I had to hire a 7 year old from my village just to shoo away these cows galloping the road? You know you can get a slum dweller v1rgin for Rs 200 (i.e. less than 5USD)….and half the price if it is a second hand v1rgin? And how cool is the Mormon Church, where can I sign up?

    2.
    I am so guilty about leaving my Motherland. I am so out of the place in this alien place, but the money and the broadband and cable-access are too good to do a R2I. I am so guilty. So I owe it my fellow Indians to open their eyes and see the truths which I have learned here. Now that I am born again by the Rivers of Babylon I should show them what a REAL Indian, i.e. a REAL Hindu, must do and think. We are under attack by Christians and Muslims and the Church of the Sub Genius. Yes that’s what my Pracharak (who’s day job is code monkeying for Haliburton) says….
    Slumdog Millionaire? Grrrr, arfffff, grrrrr….. Absolute Falsification! Decadent West! Congress scum! British Raj! Ghazni’s invasion! Hindu Genocide! Jhodapetti Bangladeshis! Bihari scum! Biased BBC! We have Mahabharata! Ramayana! Dada Khondke… oops, I mean Shivaji Bhonsle! We discovered flight in 6000 B.C! We ruled Arabia in 1000 B.C! We turned back Alexander! Guruji and Doctorji ji Jai! We are IT superpower! We RULE Spelling Bees! We have BJP!

    Exceptions are far too in between. Videsh can do strange things to the Desi mind, you know.

  85. Kudos! Reads like a thinking person’s blog (unlike a half wit Bollywood “Superstar”). I wonder why the git is perturbed with India’s poverty. His own state is one of the poorest (THE most corrupt 🙂 ) So I believe the rant is more because of that.

    I agree with most of the points put forward. Finally, being a proud bengali, Ray is Ray, no questions! Period! If Big B has doubts, he might want to reminisce on some of his movies. Maybe he is pissed off because Ajooba did not get nominated, or maybe the great Laal Baadshah. LOL. Narcissism at its best!

  86. Matty Hayden’s vision of India – a third world nathion where side screen problem ‘hota hai’, is similar to the rolling in excreta kind of vision potrayed by Boyle.

    While on Matty Hayden, there were numerous side screen problems in Sydney test match b/w Aus and SA. would that make Australia a third world country too??

  87. @Ankur

    1>Anything against Bengali Director will not go good, I wonder why no-one responded in the same way when Amir commented about “Black”.

    Please not as to who brought up the Bengali angle. 🙂 Now there is a reason why some films are classics. Apu Trilogy is an undisputed classic. Is Black a movie of the same stature?

    2>Second and more important, when would we get mature?? Fair enough that the SDM is showing poverty in all the reels, but is it not there in mumbai?? Why don’t we say that Page 3 is pathetic because it is showing only the ugliness of the glamour world?? We won’t say that because it is not made by a foreigner.

    Poverty is incidental. Only the stupid morons like say the creators of Simpson are unable to see beyond the poverty of Pather Panchali. What about that cinematography, indirection, the atmosphere of foreboding and gloom, the composition and the script for a 1950s movie? In no way does the movie seem contrived and dishonest. In Slumdog’s case, the script is SO artificial that it is mindboggling as to how people could digest it. I have not a single problem with movie which take people to an incredulous world, like say the Matrix. But this script was just one cliche after another such that it became damn predictable after a while. Consider this scene: The 2 brothers are on top of a moving train and one perches down the side of the train to steal rotis from the passengers. They both fall down and lo and behold…which is that place where they fall down….precisely in front of the Taj Mahal. Aha ha ha ha ha. If you can digest that scene, why cant you digest scenes in Hindi movies where one moment they are in Paris and the next on the Swiss Alps in different dresses. Huh?:)) Moments like these and some of the quiz show answers ARE supremely contrived and stick out like a sore thumb. The film does deserve the Oscar for score, editing and music. I feel that the even though the cinematography is given a lot of praise, it owes a lot to City of God which used similar bright colors. Boyle is a technically accomplished director though. But it will be a great travesty if such an artificial film gets the best movie award. A lot of have been arguing above in the angle, “If 2 films both show poverty, you cannot say one is good and the other bad. That’s double standards.” Sorry. That’s bullshit. Star wars 2 and the latest Star wars movie, Batman Forever and the Dark Knight dealt with similar themes. Are those movies similar? I kinda lost my respect for the Oscars. A movie like this got 10 nominations while the Dark Knight wasn’t even selected in the Best Movie list. Amazing!

    3>Now about oscars, I am not a fan of it, but other than few exceptions I liked the movies won/nominated. Anybody remembers “American Beauty”?? I believe people here understands the concepts of that movie which comments on the american society in a very dark way. Nobody objects to it.

    Well first of all….that’s not an apt comparision.:) An apt comparision would have been American Pie. 🙂 Both are cliche ridden but enjoyed by the masses. Most great movies have great scripts. Pulp Fiction, Chinatown, Casablanca all have scripts which work good as audiobooks and are taught in film schools. American Beauty has an unbelievable script written by Alan Ball, one that is just too good! Some of the lines in that movie are expositions about American life, human nature and society. That script works on many levels. And this script? “Bro we are in the center of the center. That was our slum. Its all highrises now.” Thats not a comparable script OK. The first script also never appears as artificial as the second. I agree that sometimes some increduility has to be incorporated to convey the point, like Spacey’s rose petal dreams. But just to name a few of the artificialities of this movie- call center worker swapping for a chaiwallah, 2 workers on a roadside dhaba saying in American accent to one another “You do the Rotis.” “Ill do the eggs.” The switch between English and Hindi with subtitles to convey stereotypes is so amazing. Of course this movie was made for American audiences! There is a scene where the lines are like Protagonist is kicked by a car driver. The small boy says in American accent: “This is real India.” The American tourist jumps on him and says,” Ill show you real America” and gives him a 100 dollar bill. Ha. Whom did you have you mind when you did that script? You see, Einstein! You miss the point. The complaint is not on the dark portrayal, but the ridiculous manner in which scenes of misery are arranged one after another so that it appears tedious and contrived at the end. The result is a collage, not a painting. It may look good. But not to someone who expected a painting.

  88. “Consider this scene: The 2 brothers are on top of a moving train and one perches down the side of the train to steal rotis from the passengers. They both fall down and lo and behold…which is that place where they fall down….precisely in front of the Taj Mahal. Aha ha ha ha ha.”

    Pretty illogical comment. A little thing missed out here is that the two kids are shown as grown older when they dust themselves off after falling from the train. The sequence was a segue for the plot to move forward. It is not as if they boarded in Bombay and fell into Agra. But then why let little details come in the way of bias?

    “But just to name a few of the artificialities of this movie- call center worker swapping for a chaiwallah…”

    Again you missed out – deliberately – the result of the exchange – disastrous. Jamal tried to converse with the caller using a few English terms and places he knew, and she banged the phone on him. So its not as if he suddenly became a smooth talking cal center executive. Again why let facts interfere with judgment?

    “There is a scene where the lines are like Protagonist is kicked by a car driver. The small boy says in American accent: “This is real India.” The American tourist jumps on him and says,” Ill show you real America” and gives him a 100 dollar bill.”

    Hmm…maybe that had a purpose. The boy is used to beatings and was using the situation to get sympathy (successfully) and the American couple was providing sympathy the only way Americans know – by throwing money. The boy won that round, don’t you see? The American couple are being made fun of here. Sheesh, I though that much was obvious!!! Apparently not.

    As for the accents grouse, that has been addressed many times in various fora. I don’t think that, like the poverty porn thingie, really makes sense or any logic.

    As for Dark Knight not getting its “due”, maybe that is the real reason for the anger? Saw something similar from ultra-liberals when Crash won over BBK Mountain. As for me – not that I loved DN less, but that I loved Slumdog more…

  89. Have been planning to comment here for some time but felt too lazy. Also, since I haven’t seen the movie I won’t directly comment on that. But balasangh parivar’s comment almost echoes my thoughts, so I thought of adding something. I am amazed by many of the NRIs’ attitude about India (Arnab, there are exceptions everywhere and I feel you are one). Most of the ones who have been here for a few years enjoy it immensely if anything negative comes out about India. These people love Slumdog Millionaire because it shows “reality”. They laughed and made fun of the commando operation at the Taj as it was happening. Negative criticism I can understand, but mockery and fun? As the news from Mumbai spread around, some of them switched to other channels, and some said, “The security is so bad in India. I wonder why this doesn’t happen everyday.” One might argue that the words are true, but if you can imagine the tone in which it was spoken, you’ll understand where my objection lies.

    It is not very difficult to understand the reason. They are ensnared in the luxuries of living in the US (which they are perfectly entitled to) and they feel they missed something when they see the people who stayed back in India are enjoying something good. When these people see a negative news item about India, they are happy as they find confirmation of their view that they are better outside and so they try to emphasize it by mockery and criticism. Any good news is met with cynicism and mockery in the other direction.

    To bring up something off topic, Arnab. You wondered why India didn’t take any action against Pakistan after 26/11 although the situation was exactly like 9/11? How could they, when so many NRIs sitting here in the US vociferously oppose the idea? This is the group that plans to go back in the near future – one of them actually told me that 300-500 people per year are expendable and is a small price to pay. India should concentrate on economic development and forget about such minor incidents. He also added that India may consider helping Pakistan to develop economically as that would reduce the terrorist attacks from their side. I stopped arguing with that guy immediately. In fact, more than one NRI has told me that the poor Pakistani govt. had no hand in 26/11 and India should not attack Pakistan as that would be an unfair attack against the Pakistani govt. for no fault of theirs.

    And these are not all stranger… some of them are people whom I thought I knew before they came to the US! Videsh does do strange things to the Desi mind.

    I do not know if I fall into the second category of balasangh parivar’s comment. Although he went over the top a bit, I cannot deny he has some truth in that. However, since I refuse to comment on the movie before having seen it, I hope I am not part of that fundamentalist group yet. I can only say this: the same movie would not have received this much attention (both positive and negative) if it was made by an Indian director.

  90. And may I add to the above comment that your putting of Apu in a modern context brought a tear to my eye? It is THE most touching interpretation of the movie that I have ever read. Kudos to you Arnab, only you could have done it.

    People who say Ray sold poverty to the world need to be reminded that he made more movies about the rich people than about the poor (Jalsaghar, Charulata, Monihara, Shatranj ke Khiladi, Ghare Baire are all about the rich and the problems of the rich. Even the main characters in Simabaddha, Shakha Proshakha and Agantuk (to name a few) are upper middle class. Many of these movies got critical acclaim and awards from abroad. Then why did Pather Panchali become his most well-known movie among the movie goers in the US? Again, that is because they love to see the poverty. You can paint a Birth of Venus, but you can’t stop people from saying it is just a naked woman’s picture like any other pornography.

  91. *”The sequence was a segue for the plot to move forward. It is not as if they boarded in Bombay and fell into Agra. But then why let little details come in the way of bias?”

    Ha ha. Do you know that this argument can be used in every over-the-top scene in the annals of Bollywood? So they are dancing around trees in Puna. Then they get richer. Their affluence allows them to buy a round trip ticket to Switzerland. So the sudden jump cut to dancing on the Swiss Alps is a “segue to move the plot forward”. Ha ha.

    * “Again you missed out – deliberately – the result of the exchange – disastrous. Jamal tried to converse with the caller using a few English terms and places he knew, and she banged the phone on him. So its not as if he suddenly became a smooth talking cal center executive. Again why let facts interfere with judgment?”

    Perhaps you should think a bit before using words like deliberately. Would it be fair on my part if I said that your efforts of defending this movie are ‘deliberate’ given your extreme love for Muslims? I was questioning the plausibility of such a swap taking place. I have a few friends who work in call centers in India. Again this swap….followed by….finding out his brother’s number thru a search….followed by …a call….all in such precise time….may be extremely plausible to you….but appears contrived (‘joratali’ in Bengali) to me. Sorry but I could not help that feeling.

    *”Hmm…maybe that had a purpose. The boy is used to beatings and was using the situation to get sympathy (successfully) and the American couple was providing sympathy the only way Americans know – by throwing money. The boy won that round, don’t you see? The American couple are being made fun of here. Sheesh, I though that much was obvious!!! Apparently not.”

    Oh really! :))So it was a backhanded compliment to Americans you mean? LOL. But the outcome did not match the intended satire then. I merely heard “Oohs and ahhs. What a tough life for a kid!” emanating from all sides in the theater in US where I saw the movie. Your prejudices are showing Shan…Americans throwing money….M’s being persecuted…..Modi attacking slums…Arundhati Ray like arguments….victims deserved to be victims….perpetrators are real victims….distribution of wealth…the marginal benefit of a dollar being of more value to the poor than the rich….the utilitarian philosophy that you so espouse fitting so well into your ‘perception’ of the movie.

    Also read about the Kolutolla slums by HHBB above will you. Wonder why you never responded to his beautiful comment.

  92. Great article.Good analysis.
    Infact there’re many other people who tried to sell Indian poverty,corruption etc. to the world not only through films but other media formats too.
    Unfortunately the posts are not referring to them.
    I watched most of Mr.Ray’s works and appreciate your perspective on the same.
    I have not seen any works of Mr.Boyle (to be honest never heard of him).Recently when I saw SM I was angered and searched the web to findout if anyone felt the same.I was disappointed about the great reviews in Indian media, which conveniently avoided the many inconsistencies in the film.Probably the great reviews of SM in international media and the nominations put tremendous pressure on Indian critics !!!
    I can only cheer for AR Rahman though it is not his best work.How vulnerable we are !!!Just few nominations made us accept the film.

  93. @Yourfan2:

    “Would it be fair on my part if I said that your efforts of defending this movie are ‘deliberate’ given your extreme love for Muslims?”

    Where did this “extreme love for Muslims” bit come from? You really are losing it Yourfan, when you insist on bring communalism into each and every post. Really it exposes your intellectual poverty and makes debate with you worthless.

    I had mentioned “deliberate” because you are obviously against the film and therefore seem to be twisting every scene to suit your already-arrived-at conclusion. That was it. I never said it because (to use your ad hoimenem method) I thought it was a manifestation of your extreme hatred towards anyone who is not a rabid, slavering religious fundamentalist like you. And why did I not do that? because that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

    “Do you know that this argument can be used in every over-the-top scene in the annals of Bollywood? So they are dancing around trees in Puna. Then they get richer. Their affluence allows them to buy a round trip ticket to Switzerland. So the sudden jump cut to dancing on the Swiss Alps is a “segue to move the plot forward…”

    Actually if they do show a sequence as you describe it (i.e. Pune to Switzerland as a result of, say a lottery win), it would be a logical segue forward. Think about it a bit, and you will realize this comment is different from your first comment, where you just mentioned dance sequences moving from city to city without any logic for the locational shift of the characters. And it is Pune, not Puna.

    “Again this swap….followed by….finding out his brother’s number thru a search….followed by …a call….all in such precise time….may be extremely plausible to you….but appears contrived…”

    Well, my sister and brother in law worked in a call center as well and the average time per call was set at 45 seconds. I daresay it was quite possible for Jamal to take/make three calls in the time it takes for the actual employee to leave his place to watch a segment of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Each segment between advertisements, if my memory serves me right, was around 18 minutes.

    Anyway, why waste time on this crap. I didn’t go looking for plausibility as you did – hence perhaps the differing reactions.

    “So it was a backhanded compliment to Americans you mean? LOL. ”

    Now I am really worried for your comprehension abilities. Here’s what I wrote earlier – “the American couple was providing sympathy the only way Americans know – by throwing money. The boy won that round, don’t you see? The American couple are being made fun of here.”

    That means – I’ll write this in really simple English now. Danny Boyle was making FUN of Americans. Maybe he thinks they are foolish. I do not know. But the sequence showed a street-smart (meaning, umm…clever) boy taking advantage of gullible Americans by playing on (i.e. exploiting their) emotions.

    “I merely heard “Oohs and ahhs. What a tough life for a kid!” emanating from all sides in the theater in US where I saw the movie.”

    Toughski shitski! Maybe you should choose your fellow theater goers next time. Next time collect some like minded people from your friend circle and go to the theatre in a group so you can wallow in righteous indignation about India’s portrayal together without having to cringe in the midst of “ignorant” Americans who refuse to see how modern India really is.

    “Your prejudices are showing Shan…”

    Ha! I posit yours are, and far more clearly than mine.

  94. Shan-

    * ‘I had mentioned “deliberate” because you are obviously against the film and therefore seem to be twisting every scene to suit your already-arrived-at conclusion.’

    See this is the kind of comment which makes a discussion with you worthless. You made a similar kind of accusation against GB after Rang De Basanti when you said that he went to the cinema hall “determines not to like the film”. Why would I have any agenda against this movie or any movie in particular? But when you have seen a body of movies, you tend to think of how good this movie really is as its being nominated for all sorts of awards. To quote GB from another thread, “Incidentally I do not go with the intent of “studying” either RNBDJ or SM. I go to see a movie. In both cases, I find cliches heaped on top of each other and the worst form of targeted pandering.”

    Thats what it was! “Deliberate twisting”….”already-arrived-at conclusion”….you see why its futile discussing with you?

    * “Think about it a bit, and you will realize this comment is different from your first comment, where you just mentioned dance sequences moving from city to city without any logic for the locational shift of the characters. And it is Pune, not Puna.”

    I still maintain that the entire scene appeared extremely tasteless to me. One kid is holding the other who is trying to fetch a roti through the window. Not only is this pure bs, but requires a certain suspension of disbelief just like the much maligned Bollywood movies do. So what you see as a directorial flourish is in my estimation pure bs. And I am entitled to my opinion.

    * “Anyway, why waste time on this crap. I didn’t go looking for plausibility as you did – hence perhaps the differing reactions.”

    Neither did I. But the mix in this movie was just like a masala Hindi movie barring songs every 10 mins. I am quoting from an IMDB review I posted on the other thread:

    “Everyone in the movie but Jamal and Latika, who remain blank slates as characters, is hateful and repellent. Boyle heaps calamity on top of calamity for so much of the film that its facile, simplistic conclusion wrings impossibly false. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your film be both a gritty, slice-of-life indictment and a frothy romantic soufflé. The end product is like “City of God” meets “Moulin Rouge!”

    That is precisely what caused my discomfiture. I could not have agreed more with the above sentences. So the movie appears contrived and artificial, not any more or less than a masala Hindi Movie. I agree that the production values and editing of this movie are better than the average Hindi movie, but that IMO is not a good enough reason to find this movie quite vapid.

    * “That means – I’ll write this in really simple English now. Danny Boyle was making FUN of Americans. Maybe he thinks they are foolish. I do not know. But the sequence showed a street-smart (meaning, umm…clever) boy taking advantage of gullible Americans by playing on (i.e. exploiting their) emotions.”

    And to answer in simple English, that is what your perception is. That the director from the 51st state is giving a backhanded compliment to the average person the rest 50 states. That the rest of the world will laugh at Americans when they see this, but Americans, foolish as they are according to you, will not get that the joke is on them. My interpretation of course is completely different as I have said above.

    *”Toughski shitski! Maybe you should choose your fellow theater goers next time. Next time collect some like minded people from your friend circle and go to the theatre in a group so you can wallow in righteous indignation about India’s portrayal together without having to cringe in the midst of “ignorant” Americans who refuse to see how modern India really is.”

    Not worthy of a response as I do not see a movie based on whether it is based on India or Zimbabwe. My point was to show how the majority interpreted that scene. But of course, they are ‘foolish’ arent they?

    Finally if you really want to engage in a constructive debate, lets talk more ‘meat’, rather then innuendos, name calling and stupid phrases like ‘deliberately twisted’.Ok? I gave you the reasons why I did not like that movie. It appeared hackneyed, disjointed, done by a director and a scriptwriter who did not do their due diligence and one which is given far more credit than it deserves. It may get the Oscar given their dubious nature of selection and being the flavor of the season, but I am pretty sure that this one wont stand the test of time. I think it is not a worthy nomination in the best picture category. This is especially true given the other very fine movies of the year like Dark Knight, Milk, Revolutionary Road and Benjamin Button.

  95. Arnab,

    To any Bong (whether great or ordinary)dragging Ray whenever poverty, Indianness & cinema are contextual, is as cliched as daal-bhat or a bland machher -jhol.

    My opinion, is unlike you & me , most of the so called movie-buffalos have neither seen the movie made by Satyajit Ray, nor they have any idea of the literary masterpieces the movies are based on.
    I am not really sure whether Mr. Big B has seen all of ray’s movies. Like, I know the son of the most poetic actress in ray’s movies have not.

    Enjoyed the links, especially the cascade of orange on the hills.

    Ullas!
    ~fe~

  96. First, absolutely agree with observations on Ray. Brilliant filmaker, who knew the art of subtle imagery. Those who say “he sold poverty to the west” should do their homework before making such comments.
    Second, Slumdog is a good film. By no means is it great.
    Third, TZP is a great film. I loved it. Yet, its very upfront and simple. It is lesser on scale when we consider innovations in cinematography, abstractness and symbolism – the very things which are the hallmark of Ray cimena.

  97. With all due respect to everyone I will like to point out that those who think that the basic object of Ray’s movies were exposing reality or exploiting the poverty in any form have either never watched Ray’s films or have never understood a bit of it.
    Anyone who has ever watched Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen will understand why inspite of its prehistoric technology it is still today by far better than any of those over-hyped bollywood trash like koi mil gaya( a retrograde copy of ET with added spicy love twist), Mr. India , Krrish … you name it.
    I feel pity for those arrogant fools who are overwhelmed by the trash that Bollywood(the Johars, Roshans, Khans, Chopras,….) feeds them.
    Greatness is not justified by prizes/oscars/film festivals only time can tell what is mediocre what is good and what is truly great, However attempts to compare the retrograde with the classic only exposes our inner cultural malnourishment.

  98. You Bengalis need to get a life. Like Pavlovian rats, mention Ray, mention Tagore, mention Subash Chandra Bose and you shall all come charging out like the light brigade. There is no parallel of your ilk in the country.

    When Ray does it, there is human spirit, when Boyle does it he manipulates. Truth is after all nothing but a conveniently moulded perception!

    And yes, bollywood has to be crap, long live Uttam Suchitra!

    Phew!

  99. @ Phew : You Bengalis need to get a life.

    Darn it Phew, now you’ve esposed it. For hundreds of years Bengalis merrily existed with no semblance of life whatsoever. We thought no one would notice, and would wink at fellow Bongs on the silent success of our conspiratorial subterfuge.

    And now you some along with your exposures and ruin it for all of us Bongs. Narokeo tomaar tthain milbe na, hotocchara.

    @ Phew : Like Pavlovian rats, mention Ray, mention Tagore, mention Subash Chandra Bose and you shall all come charging out like the light brigade.

    You are so right. An overlooked fact is the contribution of Pavlovian rats in the Crimean campaign. The complex relationship of Lord Lucan, Raglan and Cardigan with the British forces that led to the light brigade charge is miniscule compared to the contribution of the rats, who played a vital role at the defence of Inkerman Hill too. Tennyson immortalised the role of these noble creatures in his epic poem, but the lines were deleted by the wily Bengalis. No doubt of the Brahmin mien.

    @ Phew – There is no parallel of your ilk in the country.

    Oh I don’t know. Mention the BJP in a positive light, and you suddenly see frenzied people thronging around you at the drop of a hat, dancing around menacingly and arhythmically in a most disturbing manner. Mention the contributions of the RSS and suddenly hordes of angry humans emerge from nowhere and start flexing their biceps angrily at you as if you’ve knowingly peed in to their payesh… have you seen the muscles on some of those shondamarkaa housewives? Scary. And hairy !!

    @ Phew – Truth is after all nothing but a conveniently moulded perception!

    No, truth is truth. Indians are getting indignant, and rightfully so at the carefully cultivated misperception of India being shrilly peddled as fact. They want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the triuth to be told. What is wrong with that?

    @ Phew – When Ray does it, there is human spirit, when Boyle does it he manipulates.

    Well, let us take the topic of nud*ty. The bareness displayed in the Venus de Milo, Apollo of Belvedere & bare-breast*d Didarganj Yakshi, is in such a completely different league to that displayed in the centre-spread of Raz*le magazine, that they cannot be compared in the same breath.

    So my friends’ freeflowing appreciation of the immaculate beauty of of human sculpture conveyed in my photos of Venus, Apollo and Didarganj Yakhsi, is of a completely different order, nature and universe to that of a pubescent boy expressing his ‘freeflowing’ appreciation with a copy of Razzle.

    Do you see the distinction? Ray deals with the tragedy of poverty, the poetry of destitution, and the realistic nobility of people experiencing them. This is the sublime art of poverty.

    Boyle wallows in faeces. This is the vile pornogra*hy of poverty.

    @ Phew – And yes, Bollywood has to be crap.

    No, it doesn’t ‘have’ to be. Not always.

  100. “Phew” — I think you need to get a life. One should not even speak of Slumdog and Ray in the same breath. Slumdog is totally commercial, over-dramatized, absolutely unsubtle saga of unrealistic heroism. It has some slick editing and some brilliant music, agreed. It also has some good cinematography, nothing innovative though. But before making any comparisons (if there exist any), watch Ray, and try to understand it. In simplicity lies greatness. In abstract lies art. You don’t stun audience by throwing unexpected scenes at them every split second. You daze them by leaving them in mind-blowing afterthought, after the movie is over. Afterthought about characters, actions, sequences, consequences! But of course, if you are of the genre of people who thinks Slumdog is great movie, then well, who am I even trying to talk to?

    Btw, I am not connected to Bengal even remotely.

  101. Will “Slumdog”or Adiga’s White Tiger be the new face of Apu’s World?

    Will it be irreverent of Ray, the iconic Film maker or of the new techie children who no longer hold in awe the huffing and puffing Train a-la apu and durga?

    Is there a continuity in these dissimilar worlds or its mere suggestion is blasphemous?

    Have we managed to take Ray out of Bengal to the other parts of India, yet?what about sub titles or dubbing in Hindi?
    or are the “bongs only” celebrating in blissful isolation?

  102. First of all, what on earth do you understand about Cannes or the Academy Awards, you who have been brought up with the most degrading and ridiculous movies ever, that only ridicule Indian people to the rest of the world?

    I find it very interesting that several Indians find the love thread through the movie slumdog millionaire as “illogical” and difficult to understand. As a westerner, I don’t find long lasting or deep love for another person difficult to understand at all. It happens a lot in our society. Clearly it seldom happens in yours. I also don’t find it difficult to conceive that poor people can love just as intensely and that they too are human. The strange view from Indians about this movie must mean that too many Indians are simply incapable to love in that way, and are rather cold hearted.

    I am sure the concept of 1) undying love, 2) lasting love, 3) successful love, 4) love for a girl who is not a virgin – are not at all India, but something that could only be a reality in the west. This is why a western audience likes the story in the film, and can accept it and identify with it and see beyond the surface that it only depicts poverty, while in India love and humanness seem very poorly understood and the people only see poverty when they see the film.

  103. Definition of intellectual : Take the path which is not taken by common man.

    All you intellectuals: Have you seen Lage Raho Munnabhai? This movie has done what even Gandhi himself could not do. That explains it all. Whatever be the art, if it inspires and touches mass, it is effective.

    I saw Pather Panchali. Did not like even 1 minute of it. I am a common man, who takes things as they come. Not in a particular perspective. I never tried any other Ray’s movies after that!!!

    Yes, I am the biggest fan of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I know everyone will say, what a silly guy. Same to you.

  104. From The Telegraph article: “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences conferred the honorary award on Satyajit Ray on April 23, 1992.” & “He had really wanted to go and he was very sad that he couldn’t. He was 91.”

    Don’t they have a copy editor at Telegraph? Ray was 71, not 91. The award wasn’t conferred to him on April 23 1992. That was the day he died. The award ceremony was on March 30th, & his televised acceptance speech at Belle Vue would have been shot earlier than that.

    These are basic fact checking errors that 2 minutes of Googling can correct!

  105. I don’t understand what people’s obsession with realism is all about. You know what’s another word for realistic? Boring. If I wanted realism, I’d walk down the street to get Mexican food, and maybe stop by a Borders and pick up some magazines. You know why they don’t make movies about me shopping for magazines? That’s because nobody gives a shit. And that’s what ray’s movies are : me shopping for magazines, with no Mexican food. Everyone always thinks that directors are super smart if they use symbolism, like somehow conveying something visually gives the movie some validity it wouldn’t have had if the same message was conveyed through dialogue alone. But nobody ever asks: why? Why do pretentious artsy dipshits think symbolism is the holy grail of filmmaking? If you took the symbolism out of the movie, would it make any difference? That’s a rhetorical question, and the answer is my fist. Nobody cares about artsy gimmicks. Focus on making the movie not suck instead, assholes.

  106. Finally!

    I had read the piece by Mr. Bachan and was livid at it. Apart from my personal feeling that he is not the greatest actor of our country, I was outraged as to how someone who is just an actor and who has done truck loads of crap movies in his own career, can take potshots at an auteur so supremely talented as Ray.

    The problem is that once we elevate people to the status of demi-gods, they are ready to dish out shit on whomever they please. Glad someone brought this out. Nice work, man!

  107. Pingback: bingomad123 comments on "When Satyajit Ray Came to Hollywood"

Have An Opinion? Type Away

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s