Monday, April 6, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire, Brecht and Me

We watched Slumdog Millionaire last night. I had borrowed a dvd from my brother and we had been meaning to watch it for past two weeks.

You must have had enough of Slumdog Millionaire by now. Actually, given the hype and the kind of coverage it is getting all over the media, I didn't expect much from the movie.Of course I had heard of the movie, and had sworn not to watch it ever since I learnt that it starred Anil Kapoor. (He annoys the heck out of me). Anyway I am not going to discuss the merits or demerits of the movie here.

What got me interested in the movie was the controversies over it in India. The patriots are indignant. And perhaps they have a right to it too. But what I don't understand is statements like, "this is not the real India." So, since these people don't fall into the accepted and propogated picture of the "Incredible India", they aren't 'really India'? What must it feel like to be disowned, or worse to be condemned to ínvisiblity'. Because that is exactly what the media and these patriots would like to have. Or so it seems.

For some reason, watching the movie reminded me of Brecht. Although most of the things my teachers had so diligently drummed into my head leaked right out and got washed down the kitchen drain. Some memories cling. Like enacting Brecht and being wholly thrilled by it. Reading Mother Courage's Children, and being moved to tears. And the fact that Brecht had initially tried to create a farcical theatre. He had hoped that this would shock people out of their complacency. But he didn't achieve this purpose. Because people or the audience were removed from the action of the play, at a conveniently safe distance .They could watch the play and say, hey, it's fun. But that 's not us. Apparently, his plan didn't quite work out.

I think in this case, it's quite the reverse. The audience was presented by some ugly realites in this movie which weren't wholly palatable. Hence they are in denial and keep shouting, 'this is not us. This is not reality." Some critics of the movie say, there is more to India than this. Yes, but that is India too!

P.S. The movie shook me out of complacency. There are so many human beings living such miserable lives, not far from us. And yet they are invisible to us. Perhaps we don't want to see them. But they are still all around us. What are we doing to improve the situation? Condemning them to invisibility or pretending that they don't exist is not the answer.

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