Slumdog millionaire is a docu drama Monday, Feb 2 2009 

A still from the film Slumdog Millionaire

A still from the film Slumdog Millionaire

The movie slumdog millionaire has attracted a huge controversy even as its sound director A. R. Rahman won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Soundtrack” and both Rahman and sound director Rasool Pookutty are waiting for the results of their Oscar nominations.

The IIPM has used stinging criticism of the movie for its advertisement campaign in national newspapers. Malayalam movie director Priyadarshan has said that the Bollywood had produced better movies of estranged children. However, many Westerners are in all praise for the movie. This, the critics say, is because they look down upon India.

However, it seems that Indians are over-reacting about the portrayal of poverty. Satyajit Ray and other Indian directors have portrayed poverty. Squalor is a reality in many streets of India not to speak of slums. If somebody realistically portrays the life of poor blacks in the United States, should the Americans be protesting?

The overall score of the film, however, is just above average. It is a fast-paced film with quick cuts for the Western audience. The pace is so fast that you may even find it difficult to follow the storyline. However, it was a brilliant idea to tell the story in a flashback against the background of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contest despite hiccups from the non-linear narrative. By and large, it is rather a docu-drama than a fiction film. However, a few sequences are unrealistic and would defy logic. For example, it is so unlikely that the host of the television show would turnover Jamal to police and the police would begin by torturing a person who had become famous. The host would not fail to foresee the damage that could arise if someone alleges that it was done to save the prize money.

It would also have been more realistic if the protagonist had rushed for Amitabh Bachan’s autograph after having a quick wash after his jump into the toilet pit. Of course, it can be argued that he managed to cut through the crowd because he smelled so badly.

The hero is a winner against all odds. That makes India a place of opportunity and emerging prosperity for him while the film itself show how hollow the perception is. The lot of other slumdogs have hardly improved through high rise buildings have taken the place of their old slum. It reminds one of BJP’s Shining India Campaign. Symbolically, the film rebuts Shining India.

Coming to sound recording, it hardly stands out. Yes, that is its quality– non-intrusiveness. Incidentally, Rasool belongs to Kerala though he is based in Mumbai. And A. R. Rahman has done better soundtracks for Bollywood films.

Correction: The spelling used officially for Pookutty’s first name is Resul.

Mumbai terrorist attack: Politicians at the receiving end Sunday, Nov 30 2008 

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

The politicians are at the receiving end following the terrorist attack in Mumbai— quite justifiably.

The Home Minister Shivraj Patil had to resign and there is demand for resignation of Maharastra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R. R. Patil. There was criticism against political visits to Mumbai by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Opposition Leader L. K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi while the fight was raging on.

The family of Maharastra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed by the terrorists, rejected financial assistance promised by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has been snubbed by the father of Major Sandeep Unnnikrishnan–  who died fighting the terrorists at Taj Hotel.

Mumbai police were too ill prepared to handle a terrorist attack. The situation is no different in other States of the country too. (See Kerala could be a sitting duck). The economic capital of India did not have a force that could be rushed to the spot within, say, 15 minutes. Late Karkare rushed their without proper support, protection or equipment to deal with the situation. He and his team became sitting ducks.

The politicians had failed to take precautionary steps despite many indicators that terrorists would attack India again. There were also intelligence reports. Mr. Patil saw 13 blasts during his tenure and did nothing to equip and train forces to deal with terrorism.

He has not resigned on moral grounds. Despite his best efforts to stay in office, Sonia Gandhi dropped him to save the face of her party. It could be taken as a dismissal for ineptitude.

Ms. Gandhi had to do so because of the ongoing and forthcoming elections. Well, the terrorists would have even timed the attack. It is in their interest that the Hindutva forces come to power in India, so that they would have an additional cause to brainwash people and wage war.

R. R. Patil, who commented that incidents like the terrorist attack happens occasionally in big cities (bade bade sheheron mein ek adh aisi ghatna hoti rehti hai) is yet to be shown the door. Remember that Congress leaders had reacted in a similar vein after the Bhopal tragedy and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Their insolence shows that they do not care for people. (Update: R. R. Patil, who belongs to the NCP and held the Home portfolio, has since resigned.)

It is no surprise that the Karkare family declined Narendra Modi’s offer, Modi being supporter of Malegaon model of terrorism. Until the other day, Mr. Modi was being highly critical of the ATS investigation into the Malegaon blasts.

For Mr. Achuthanandan, it dawned only late that he could use late Sandeep to his advantage like the party had done with its martyrs. Sandeep’s father, who had earlier declined to take a telephone call from Defence Minister A. K. Antony,  understands politicians. They come with wreaths and solatia when somebody dies because of their fault or neglect.

Mr. Achuthanandan should have respected the sentiments of Mr. Unnikrishnan and kept away instead of sneaking in with the help of police. If he had exercised discretion, the Chief Minister of the State would not have been snubbed by the father who said: “Mr. VS, you please go. I have no respect left for you.”

But discretion does not seems to be the strong point of the Chief Minister. His remark to the media was: “Not even a dog would have cared to visit the house, if it were not the home of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.”  (Translation from Mayalayam of the words: Athu Sandeep Unnikrishnante Veedallayirunnuvenkil, oru pattiyum thirinju nookumayirunnilla . ) The Opposition in Kerala Assembly has given notice for moving an adjournment motion in the House accusing him of insulting the family of a martyr.  (Updated on 2/12/08)