Robin Muneshwer (Sunday Stabroek Feb. 22) writes about the non-acceptance of Indians of the movie Slumdog Millionaire because of “its overly negative portrayal of India and Indians, embarrassed perhaps, that the world should discover that India, home to a million gods, has crime and corruption and poverty.” He further stated that: “For them, India is best represented by shows like Kasamh Se where everyone is rich and fair-skinned.” Some of the main characters of Kasamh Se—Jigyasa is very dark in complexion; Jai Walia, the star is not “fair-skinned” and so is Piya, just so you know. But to say that Soaps like Kasamh Se are true representations of life in India is like saying that Days of our Lives and the Young and the Restless are true representations of the American way of life.
Slumdog was made by a British man to suit Western audiences, that is why it has caught the attention of Western audiences. Hindi movies are made solely for the masses of India, as they are the ones who watch the Hindi movies. Hindi movies are not made to suit the interests of those who live outside of India—these days another set of movies are being made by American Indians who do not even speak Hindi in these movies and hardly have song and dance sequences.
The masses of India want songs and dances in their movies as song and dance are part of their way of life. They are called musicals!! The makers of Hindi movies know this and as they want their movies to rake in the cash—they provide what the masses want. The poor masses of India are like the poor fellow Salim of Slumdog, why would they pay to see what they face in their everyday life? The scenes are shot outside of India as this is the only way many of these poor masses—the ones you Mr Muneshwer suggested could be a “puerile lot” —can be able to picture what it is like in “the Swiss Alps and Piccadilly Circus.” At one time, some directors started shooting two sets of shots for the same song/dance sequences. One set in India for the people who live outside of India and another set abroad for the poor masses of India.
Movies for the masses are just that—an escape from reality that many need from the heart-wrenching poverty that they face every day. To suggest that the poor people of India could be “a puerile lot who wouldn’t know a half-decent movie if it was liquefied and poured over their eyes” is extremely bigoted and very sad. Not everyone is lucky to be born rich or to be able to even get a decent education. I suggest Mr Muneshwer watch Swades with Shah Rukh Khan and he may be able to understand some of the nuances of life in ordinary India. There are many Hindi movies that are about life in India—- Guru is good; a series of 3 movies—Earth, Water, Fire; or Laga Chunari Mein Dhaag, just to name a few that come to mind as there are too many to remember. Many of these movies were shown right here on the local television stations but maybe because they do not have song and dance—they were perhaps missed?
And just FYI, some of the Indian soaps while they too are not really based on reality, they have been tackling some touchy issues like untouchability, widow marriages, arranged marriages, etc. Most of the Masala Hindi movies—the big hits; deal with exactly what you Mr Muneshwer criticise them for not wanting to tackle—they’re all about “crime and corruption and poverty.” The star boy comes from some village to the city to become somebody. He encounters some rich corrupted scamps who try their best to defeat him etc, etc but their rich daughter falls in love with the same poor fellow and so with lots of songs and dances and dishum dishum in between either they both die—a tragedy or they bash up the scamps who end up in The Central Jail and the stars sing a song in the end—like how Slumdog ended in song/dance!!