Notes on Slumdog Millionaire and other Bollywood Fantasies.

“Look, I know a lot of people love that movie and its winning a lot of prizes and its a dazzling piece of work, but its a lie. Its a big lie from beginning to end. It sets something very cycnical, which is “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in this prism, this materialistic technological prisim through which this young man relives the tragedies of his life. And then it kind of sweeps that aside in the end with this burst of bollywood romanticism so that you leave the theater singing and dancing. Its a pretty remarkable sleight of hand; I’m surprised as many people fall for it as do. I enjoyed the singing and dancing too, but I dont think its a particularly profound movie.” – David Edelstein on Fresh Air, 12/23/08

Too many Indian films cash in on the hopes of the country’s poor, that they might one day escape the country’s crushing social and economic limitations and by some miracle marry a wealthy beauty or  parlay their meager assets into a wildly successful business. This modern version of the Horatio Alger myth is a misrepresentation of reality in India. To portray India’s social and economic possibilities as they really are would be to acknnowledge that the vast majority of the country will remain in substandard living conditions regardless of their talent, potential, work ethic or skin-tone. Its not so much that the country is poor overall, its that theres a large adn impenetrable gap between its small class of wealthy and its large class of extremely poor. Portraying it as otherwise encourages passivity and misplaced hope. I’m not saying that hope is a bad thing, but I do think that hope for something that can never happen should be replaced with work for practical economic reforms and the hope that these effors will take India along a path of widespread prosperity. It would be good if they stopped perpetuating the fantasy that India is a land of equal opportunity, and maybe if that happens more people will work to turn their country into the place their movie industry portrays.

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Filed under movies, Politics, Rahim, review

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