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Slumdog Who? Oscars What?

25th January, 2009

I did get my hands on the Slumdog Millionaire video. And watched it. Its good, its nice, but .. was it worth the 10 Oscar nominations?

And those 10 Oscar nominations include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, along with several music nominations for A.R. Rahman.

What? Seriously?

Well, don’t get me wrong. I did like the film – it shows the life of two siblings growing up on the streets of Dharavi, Mumbai (one of the biggest mega-slums of the world – interesting comparision in this Wikipedia graphic). They travel across India trying to earn their daily wage – even landing up at Agra (and ripping off tourists at the Taj Mahal). Finally, our hero Jamal lands up at a reality TV show and wins it all. Of course, to inspire the whole story, there’s a girl too.

Great. Very realistic (you can’t deny that what they potray isn’t real – in fact I’m happy they did!). From the child begging racket, to the Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai, from ripping off tourists in Agra, to the rise of a Mumbai gangster. All these things happen, though they’ve been brushed aside by our beautiful Bollywood to show the glitz and glamour of India (to the NRIs who would also like to brush them aside!). India’s GDP would grow at7%, how can there even be this side of India, right?

But I won’t say this was really a grand film. Compare this with the Gladiator, which won 5 Oscars and was nominated for 7 more. It was a historical masterpiece – personally, that movie had a greater impact on me than Slumdog ..

So is Bollywood Jealous?

And why not? Technically, Slumdog is a “2008 British Drama” – even though it was shot entirely in India along with an Indian co-director. It seems this British drama tag, along with its mostly English script, insured its place in the Oscar nominations.

And which other mainstream Bollywood film even came close? Only three Bollywood films have made it to the nominations list previously – Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan – and all of them did eventually lose. Somehow, Oscars always evaded Bollywood and its A-list producers.

Demand & Supply

And I think thats the reason – demand and supply. The Oscars have a lot of competition in India – there are many Bollywood alternatives to the Oscars. In fact, theres even a Bollywood Oscars!

For a film producer, getting a Filmfare award for his/her movie would translate to more sales than, say, an Oscar. After all, the intended audience of the Oscars is more US-specific. So the general Indian public doesn’t really care much about the Oscars. Demand is less.

So the supply sputters. Why would the Indian film producer invest so much time and effort to get his film nominated? He’d get his Filmfare anyway (if he did deserve it .. even if he didn’t!). He’d then go on to bag his next big project anyway.

Unless, of course, he’s Danny Boyle and he needs an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire to get his next project. AND it’s in English – not reserved for some Foreign Film category!

All this tamasha gets me to believe one thing – that the Oscars isn’t truly global. And it’ll probably never be – linguistic barriers still remain. Just like one radio channel in Bangalore can’t possibly serve all listeners with a multitude of mother tongues, neither can film awards serve all.

It’s time for the Babel Fish now!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 25th January, 2009 2:57 PM

    But the Oscars are a validation, a mark of approval from the more tuned into the nuances of cinema(guffaws) American society and we Indians(albeit in this case it’s in some twisted manner that the film is ours)- the Slumdogs- need it, no? C’mon you know we do! 😉

  2. kranium256 permalink*
    25th January, 2009 10:53 PM

    We, the slumdogs, should not give in to such temptation. The same goes with people saying Bollywood is way bigger than Lollywood, or Kollywood, and all those other ollywoods that we never really understood. Right?

  3. 2nd February, 2009 11:49 AM

    After Galdiator, the oscars stopped being a mark of validation. They’re now just about who grossed the most money…much like filmfare in a way. You can’t just point out slumdog getting 10 nominations…how about Dark Knight gettin only 2 nominations….

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