Thursday, February 26, 2009

The mandatory slumdog rant

It has been a long hiatus indeed and what better way to make a comeback then with a rant about Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that nearly got canned post production, had its producers back out and nearly landed in the 'straight to DVD' pile before being rescued and going on to win 8 oscars. Now that is the feelgood story of the year!
I read Q&A by Vikas Swarup a few months after the book was released and came away with mixed feelings (maybe I reviewed the book on this blog, I cannot remember). However, after watching the movie I am compelled to say that the storyline in the book was far superior to that of the movie - in that the book actually had a storyline. The movie on the other hand is, technically, everything a movie should be. Fast paced, gut wrenching, emotion evoking and ends on a high note where you leaving feeling that all is well with the world.
Now, to the debate that is raging throught the blogosphere and the media.
'How dare this white man, Irishman no less, come to India, film our slums, call us slumdogs and win Oscars!' (Im not sure if the conclusion to this statement is 'where is our share?'!)
First off, slumdog is not an insulting term. It is a colloquial term for an 'underdog from the slums' - as Jamal Malik, the protagonist, was. Secondly, I don't remember reading or hearing the makers of this movie state anywhere that it was a documentary meant to reflect the state of slum dwellers in India.
Which brings me nicely to my point - this is a movie, a work of fiction and should be seen as one. Technically the movie has few flaws, if any. Just as the public is happy to watch something as far fetched as Amitabh Bachchan get off a helicopter and walk into his office (in K3G) so also they should accept a child jumping into shit to get ABs autograph. Just like a 'Lakshya' depicts Indian soldiers winning the Kargil war, so also does Slumdog depict the( highly unlikely) story of a chaiwalla making it to the hot seat of 'Who wants to be a millionaire'.
This is not exploitation. What is exploitation is expecting the movie-makers to provide for the future of the acting children and their families and the entire slum! If the same movie had been made in the UK these child actors would have signed contracts for a certain sum of money and that would be it. It would not matter if the movie won a hundred oscars or was canned!
Such behaviour begs the question - 'If the book Q&A had won the booker, would the entire nation be up in arms about it?' - No, because the book did not show things, it left them to your imagination.
Personally, I think that the movie was a soppy love story, which the book is not and herein lay its lack of appeal to me. People in general and people in the lower socio economic group who are struggling to survive in particular, seldom have the time or the inclination to firstly recognise 'love and destiny' at the age of 5 (was it?) and later pursue it relentlessly for 10 years!
The book was believable, the movie is not and this again should reiterate that it is nothing but a work of fiction. Making it out to be anything more would be insulting to the intelligence of Indians who consider Bollywood an integral part of their 'culture'.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

V-Day = D-Day

This is a very relevant article written by my aunt. She was a Supreme court lawyer and has worked for years with NGO's.


Laws of Manu ( Manusmriti) is the basic foundation of Hindu law and his laws governed the ancient Hindu society.

Manusmriti belongs to period later than that of Vedas, written any time between 200BCE and 200CE. Manu was a man. His laws govern the status of women in Hindu society in all aspects, from her birth up to her death.

Under Manu's laws women were like chattel with not rights whatsoever.From time of her birth, she was considered 'paraya dhan' that is someone else's property. She had no place in the family of her birth.

As a girl, she was controlled by her father and brother. After marriage she was under the control of her husband and in-laws.

So a Hindu female was never born free. Even in her death she depended on man to light her funeral pyre without which she would be unable to attend 'Moksha', liberation of her soul.

Thus in India it is mandatory that women's relationship with men are expressed only through religious, ritualistic rites as per ancient Hindu law.

For example 'Bhaidooj,' Karwachouth', 'Vatsavitri' etc. are religious occasions where women worship and idolize their brothers and husbands as their protectors. These rites are intended to pump up male chauvinism. Also this religious rigidity is a pointer to the suspicious nature of our men folk vis-à-vis women and also other men. Result is men-women relationship tends to be frigid.

Since women are chattel, men are protective about their herd and any outside women is treated as an object of sex. This is so because in the world I would rank Indian men as most hyperactive sexually. Our ever-growing population explosion is a clear proof of it.

Where the religion sanctions such hypocritical, prudish attitude and double standards towards sex , there can only breed a society where there is no room for a healthy, friendly relationship between the opposite sexes.

Valentines's day is celebrated in memory of St. Valentine, an early Italian priest regarded as the patron of lovers. Feast day is 14th February.

Going by dictionary meaning, 'Love' is an intense feeling of deep affection or fondness. Love also means sexual passion or excitement. The Manuvadis understand only the later part of the meaning. If they wider their horizons, they will understand that sentiment of love has depth and purity and if treated with respect, it can only grow and spread.

Since last few years , in India the youngsters have started celebrating this benign festival of the West. In fact it gives a pleasant opportunity to young people to express their love and affection to the opposite sex. Taken in the right spirit, It should be considered as an harmless outlet of feelings which are otherwise suppressed and tabooed in our orthodox society.

One is amazed at the vicious reaction of groups like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc towards this innocuous revellery of youngsters.

In Bhopal, probably six years ago, a brother murdered his sister for giving a Valentine's card to her boyfriend The murderer was made into a hero by VHP and Bajrang Dal.

As reported by Times of India( 13th Feb.2004)In Gujrath, Bijal Joshi was made Vishva Hindu Parishad's poster girl for Valentine's day.

Bijal Joshi was raped and murdered by her lover. The members of Dura Vahini, women's wing of VHP decided to use the case of Joshi to create awareness and induce fear among V-Day revellers and to stop children from "corrupting influence of western culture which is manifesting itself in gang rapes"

Have these rabid ranters any idea about the rapes committed everyday in India inside bedrooms between married couples, mass rapes on dalit women, who are so poor that their huts do not have doors. Rapes committed on minor girls.

Does VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini know how many women and minor girls are forced into flesh trade and repeatedly raped in a single day. Has VHP or Bajrang Dal done any constructive study in this field?

Another reason given by VHP etc. to oppose V-Day is " vulgarity depicted on V-cards"

Thus one can conclude that VHP et al will protect India from vulgarity, obscenity, rapes and murders of Western culture only on 14th February. It also follows that 'love' is a dirty word for them only

on 14th Feb. What happens rest of the time is not their concern.

It is unfortunate that depraved depiction of love in films, TV channels, pornographic website and literature etc is truly corrupting the minds of youth which is the real issue which should be addressed on a national level. In a male dominated society like ours, projection of women as sex symbols by mass communication systems , are making Indian women more vulnerable to the lust of sexually hyperactive but socially suppressed Indian males.

There are sporadic violent reactions by some bigots on non-issues only adding injury to our already fractured society.

Goddesses are worshipped only in temples. In real life Indian women by and large do not have any civil rights and liberties. In India where fifty percent population (women)is treated without equality, any respect, any care and who are under perpetual fear of abuse, is a pathetic blemish on the world's largest democracy.

No political party considers this as a very serious issue which needs to be considered on priority basis if India has to become a civil and just society.

Only those societies are strong and confident in whose social fabric liberties- civil and religious have been developed side by side with the growth of individual character in all classes of the nation.

Ranjana Bobde