Monday, February 23, 2009

Cheers to optimism

Ok, almost the whole world would be talking about the Academy awards. Almost every Indian would be going gaga over the great Indian success story. Almost every person even remotely associated with the movie / India / Mumbai, would have an opinion. Granted. Then why am I writing about the same phenomenon? Well, I wrote before on the Slumdog Phenomenon, as I'd like to call it, and I write again, since I feel very happy with the results, more so, because this whole event is an example of the power of hope.

The Slumdog victory is no tiny achievement. 80% strike rate! As though working on a checklist -
X Best Picture
X Best Director – Danny Boyle
X Best Original Score – A. R. Rahman
X Best Original Song – "Jai Ho", by A. R. Rahman (music) & Gulzar (lyrics)
X Best Adapted Screenplay – Simon Beaufoy
X Best Cinematography – Anthony Dod Mantle
X Best Film Editing – Chris Dickens
X Best Sound Mixing – Resul Pookutty, Richard Pryke, Ian Tapp
OOPS! Best Sound Editing – Tom Sayers
OOPS! Best Original Song – "O... Saya", by A. R. Rahman & M.I.A. (lyrics) (cos the other song took its place!!!)

But why is the whole world talking about the Oscars? Well, it is a dream for everyone who is even remotely related to the entertainment industry to be feted at the Oscars. Kate Winslet very cutely described this alluding to her shampoo bottle that she imagined to be an Oscar all through her childhood. A R Rahman called it a dream come true, speaking of the power of love that brought him to the Kodak theater. Why? Because the Academy and the judges are all accomplished in their own right. There's a saying in Tamil that goes as 'Vasishtar Vaayaal Brahma Rishi' which means, that being feted by the pinnacle of the field is the best compliment one can get. So when the best in the art anoint you to have given the best performance of the year, it is something to feel very very proud about.

So while everyone is talking about how Slumdog swept the Oscars, and almost everyone says that India has finally found global recognition blah blah blah, here's my POV.

First, so many 'Indians' detracted the movie saying that it was a portrayal of the filth called India, about how everyone outside our country took morbid pleasure portraying an India of nightmarish proportions! Many so called 'patriots' even went on to say that one must boycott the movie, since it portrays India in poor light. Back then in my post on My take on the Slumdog Phenomenon, I had spoken about this view held by people, and how totally parochial the view was. And now, as some people who believe that creativity is border-less and knows no language or religion got together and made a movie about the power of hope and optimism, almost everyone wants a piece of that victory pie!

When the nominations were out, I rather strongly believed that Slumdog might not make the cut. My main point of contention was that Slumdog, as a movie is much too 'happy' to win an Oscar. Take the year 2005 for instance - Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood is a great guy who makes great movies. But the movie left you feeling so sad! Gladiator - saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. Lord of the Rings - Return of the King - Confused!!! The Departed - Shaken. Slumdog Millionaire - Smiling, happy! Doesn't seem to fit, right? And then I thought - maybe since the times are so dire with the words recession, unemployment, losses, meltdown doing the rounds in all discussions, maybe at least somewhere the feeling should be good and happy, perhaps even in a movie theater for those 3 hours. Maybe?

The movie, according to me is a tribute to the spirit of Mumbai. I know it sounds cliched, but look at some aspects. This city gives you the Bindaas attitude. A life of having to fight the traffic, the crowds and the commute distances sort of gives us Mumbaikars the 'Kya Farak Padta Hai' nature that teaches you to fight all odds to survive. Mumbai teaches you to be street smart and the way the 'Slumdog' even gets a job in a call center, shows the never-say-die spirit that eventually allows almost all Mumbaikars to survive, and the hard working, fortunate ones to even make it big! This city gives people the will to fight to reach a goal. Like how Jamal has the strong wish to find Latika, and the reason why he participates in WWTBAM was because she sees the show. And at the end, the movie leaves you with a tangy happy happy feeling - much like how a hard core Mumbaikar eventually feels about his city - No matter how much one might crib about this city, when the time comes to pit Mumbai against another city, a Mumbaikar is ferociously in love with Maximum city - the taste of the city can never turn bitter for a Mumbaikar.

Some may argue that the city has nothing to do with these attitudes. I say, what is a city without the component people???

For me, this movie symbolizes Mumbai and the spirit of hope and optimism. Hoping to meet the love of one's life, hoping to survive, hoping to make something of one's life. And so, I guess the best way to sign off from this rather long post would be to quote another one of my favorite movies, multiple Oscar winner again - The Shawshank Redemption. "Hope is a good thing, maybe one of the best things, and a good thing never dies." Jai Ho!

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