& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog's top dog

This is truly a proud moment to be a Mumbaiite. I'm no longer a Mumbaiite, but am quite happy with Slumdog's near-clean sweep at Oscars Sunday evening.

Mumbai is the backdrop to Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that made history yesterday winning eight Oscars. Mumbai’s Dharavi and the Victoria Terminus (now known as Chhatrpati Shivaji Terminus) are almost as important a role as the characters of the movie.

The movie isn’t just about poverty and deprivation. It’s a love story; and it’s about hope. Jamal and Latika finally live happily ever after! As in any true Mumbai Hindi movie.

The world's finally getting it.

Mumbai's called a city of hope for this reason. It's the classic Pandora's Box story: All the diseases are out there, but there's hope (always) still in the box. That makes the city so unique.

I haven’t quite understood the controversy that the movie has created in India. But I recall that even Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi the only other Hollywood Oscar winner with an India connection (it stormed the Oscars in 1982 and put Spielberg’s ET and Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie out on a limb) had faced far serious problems, with activist groups even staging protests against its filming.

Let’s for the moment put aside that issue and rejoice that a formulaic and archetypal masala movie – made in the true Hindi movie format – has won so handsomely at the Oscars. As the Toronto Star reported Monday, “Bollywood stormed Hollywood last night, as Slumdog Millionaire completed the final chapter of its rags-to-riches story at the 81st annual Academy Awards.”

Just as many Indians do, I find the use of the word Bollywood to describe the Hindi film industry (based almost exclusively in Mumbai) rather disparaging and one that puts the industry firmly into the wannabe category, which it certainly isn’t. But Toronto Star isn’t expected to share such sensibilities, especially not when almost everyone – but for a small minority – refers to it as Bollywood.

See the movie if you haven't yet. It'll inspire you. And you'll get to know my former home first hand.


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