Amit Sengupta Delhi, Hardnews
You open your eyes. It's Slumdog Millionaire and the Great Media Hype by the corporate and political elite. You shut your eyes, it becomes a rash, an epidemic, a disease, a black hole in bad faith, an invisible ghetto within ghetto, a bad poem, a shitty song, a morbid script, a sub-human zero sum game of a perverse democracy, a twilight zone of black bodies, open gutters, flies and mosquitoes, emaciated kids, bloated stomachs, jaundiced eyes, hard, wiry bodies, hardened by hard labour, sweat and the sun, and the resilience of compulsive, addictive poverty.
Great stuff guys, let's celebrate, India's hit the big league, the film's making millions, floating on awards, not so cerebral or classical perhaps, but a not-so-ordinary film either, the white man is no fool. The director and the jury are made for each other, and let's accept the genius of the white and brown team behind the camera, the magnificent sufi synthesizer, the great guys behind the editing and sound machine, the whole works, the unwashed brown, the white conductor who mixed all of it with meticulous detail: Danny Boyle.
Never mind if he is British and the producers are American, it is Indian poverty's eternal DNA which has turned the dialectic upside down.
Forget Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, Guru Dutt, the post- World War II European cinema geniuses and the entire genre of ex-greatness, or why the Oscars missed them; it's India the new superpower with a bomb where the Slumdog is the new kid on the bloc, the Johnny-come-lately of ring-a-ring-a roses, a fictional, mythical millionaire among the millions of the one billion mass of the largest democracy led by the three per cent sensex fat cats.
Capitalism's great magic realism: the faster you run, the more stationary you are. The miracle is part-illusion, part-myth, and only one goddamned dog can have the bone to chew. The rest can chew their saliva and sweat on an empty stomach trained with amoebiosis and half-unfulfillment of dreams and the daily meal.
In the late 1990s, Danny Boyle made an incredible movie: Shallow Grave. This was like ripping apart the bloated intestines of the Thatcherite generation of thick-skinned, Rightwing, cold-blooded, abjectly self-centric rich, who have not a bone of sensitivity or humanity left inside them. And, this lack celebrates in a dark internalization of brutality, like clotted blood inside eyes without emotion or feeling, anticipating a killing. The celebration of Slumdog reminds me of this grave that is so shallow that a million slums can evaporate inside it in just about one award-ceremony.
Okay, a film is a film, an award is an award and let's learn to appreciate success. But let's not shut our eyes to the Slumdog inside the rotting conscience of the nation-state, inside our blanked out minds forever hungering for some bloody victory, in the myopic, one- dimensional success of a false, artificial hope. Because an aesthetic moment of truth need not be completely devoid of realism, or bitter realism, or the possibility of authentic, meaningful optimism, in a nation where the rich are so few and the margins are so mainstream. This crisis, reproduces, in the enlightened realism of this underbelly, where the underdogs of democracy are dreaming with their eyes wide open, like slowdown capitalism's uncanny caricatures. That's why the hype stinks.