Slumdog Millionaire, Indian-American movies and do we need Oscars?

Slumdog Millionaire swept through the Oscars, and yet, the only rejoicing I see in Indian newspapers is at  A R Rahman’s Oscars.   Our issues with the movie apart, the question is if we even believe it is an Indian movie.

Is Slumdog Millionaire a Hollywood movie,  a British movie, or an Indian one?  I watched the news on BBC the other day and found them referring to the movie as a British movie – Danny Boyle, the director, is British after all.  Hollywood treats Slumdog as an American movie, entering it in the Oscars under the main category instead of “Foreign film” which is what other movies set in India usually end up in.

What makes a movie Indian?  Is it an Indian movie if the director is Indian, if the producer is, if the cast is Indian or if the movie is set in India?  I’d say a movie is certainly Indian if it is set in India.  In the case of Slumdog, the cast is also either Indian or of Indian origin.

So then why do we consider Slumdog a British movie?  Does the director’s nationality alone determine the movie’s?  On that basis, then, should we consider Elizabeth to be an Indian movie because it was directed by Shekhar Kapur?

Does the producer’s nationality make a difference?  Saawariya was co-produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment, but that does not make it any less Indian in our eyes.  So why do we hesitate to embrace Slumdog Millionaire ?

Granted, most of the crew is British.  But even then, Slumdog Millionaire is at best an Indo-British movie, not a British movie.  Gandhi, on that basis, was also Indo-British, and interestingly, the first Indian Oscar (Bhanu Athaiya) came from Gandhi.

Which brings me to the other lesson from Slumdog’s success.  Many of us believe there are many Bollywood movies that are far better than Slumdog Millionaire, yet none of these received any Oscars.  Obviously, this was because all these movies competed in the “Best Foreign Film” category, and not in the mainstream category, where you can compete for many more Oscars.  The lesson for Indian filmmakers should be – sell the North American distribution rights to a US studio that will make a push for the movie at the Oscars.   We know that the Oscars are not just about having a good product but also about how well you market it to the judges.

We will probably see a lot more Indian films go this route in the future.  This should also be good news for desi viewers in the US who will have easier access to these movies, instead of waiting for the DVD or making time to go to the one theater or two that shows Indian movies (and only for a day or two).

But the million dollar question remains – why do Indians care so much for the Oscars anyway?  The Oscars are, at their core, just an awards ceremeony for Hollywood movies, never mind their nod to foreign films with a single category.   Why does Bollywood need Hollywood’s approval?

Bollywood (and Tamil and Telugu) movies, with their song and dance routines and decided Eastern appeal, are vastly different from Western sensibilities.  They have their own international appeal in the Middle East and Africa and parts of Europe.  We’ve all heard anecdotes of Raj Kapoor’s popularity in Russia and of Rajnikanth’s  in Japan.   If Hollywood epitomizes the West, Indian movies epitomize the East.  Our movie industry is just as big (or, in terms of the sheer number of movies annually, bigger) than Hollywood.  In many parts of the world, it is even more popular than any Hollywood movie.

And yet, we seem to crave for this seal of approval from the Oscars.  I cannot understand why.


64 thoughts on “Slumdog Millionaire, Indian-American movies and do we need Oscars?

      • I believe it is a British-American movie because it was made primarily for British & American audiences.

        Elizabeth is not an Indian movie because it was not made for Indian Audience even though it was directed by an Indian director. Same for Gandhi.

  1. I guess there is a general feeling that the oscars are fair as opposed to filmfares which can be bought (by cash, kind, dances. ahem! u know..). So if its an oscar, its deserving.
    May not be true but thats what makes em statuettes click.

    • I don’t know if any award can be bought, and I have no idea how the Filmfare awards work – if any marketing is involved. But the Oscars also need distributors to lobby for their films, try to convince each of the judges and so on.. so there is a lot of behind-the-scenes marketing involved in the Oscars too.

      • I will put differently what I have already said to buddy:
        Oscars have MUCH MUCH less “behind-the-scenes marketing” than Filmfares.

        P.S. Sorry for the capitals, it’s one of my wekanesses. 😦

    • Oscars are hardly fair and I can name several times when political reasons win over merit. A mediocre Holocaust movie is far likely to win awards than movies on other themes. Romantic comedies or even plain comedies never win at the Oscars. Does that mean they are inferior in quality?

      But either due to tradition or strength of its show, it definitely enjoys a good reputation among movie fans.

      • Which is why it was surprising that Kate Winslet won her Oscar for a sympathetic portrayal of a Nazi guard.

        Although on the other hand, the contest was with the portrayal of a 1950s housewife, revealing the emptiness of the perfect life with a house with white picket fences, which spawned the feminism movement in the USA; Betty Friedan then openly acknowledged the angst of such ‘perfect’ existence; ignoring that film probably reveals more about the American society now than recognising the Holocaust film.. 🙂

      • No award is completely fair. Not even the Nobel.

        It is about degree of fairness involved. Oscars are MUCH MUCH fairer than Filmfares. Or correct that “are” to “used to be”. That’s how traditionally oscars used to be. That’s why its reputation among Americans. Its reputation among Indians is a corollary of its reputation among Americans.

  2. Lekhni are you just putting forth all the arguments to have a debate in the comments section? Because you have conveyed all the viewpoints that could possibly be the case.
    You are right about the US studio/distributors. The bridge between British and American films is non-existent. Mainly because, most of the time, it would be an American studio that’s producing these British films. Harry Potter films are British films, they are even filmed in England. But the distributors are Warner Bros. It’s the same case for Slumdog Millionaire, with Fox Searchlights, that is a division of 20th Century Fox, specializing in distribution of British and independent movies. There are various British actors who are considered to be as much from the UK as from Hollywood. Be it Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Keira Knightley, Elizabeth Hurley etc. This hasn’t been the case with other European countries or India. Even Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, from Taiwan, had a production backing of Sony Pictures and Columbia among others, and therefore received 4 Oscars. But at the same time, a brilliant German movie like The Lives of Others, won only Best Foreign film Oscar two years back.
    The question is whether it is fair or unfair. I think the other countries just have to show themselves up more, with US studios backing, and worldwide mainstream releases, if they want to compete in the main Oscar categories. It is an altogether different question, if this is required after all. In my personal opinion, it is not. I see Oscars as the American Filmfare awards. Nothing more. Other than the worldwide recognition it brings, for which am ecstatic for Rahman, there is nothing much to it.
    I don’t want India to celebrate Slumdog’s success. Just like how I don’t want India to celebrate if and when Bobby Jindal stands for President in 2012. But for Rahman, I’d celebrate because he was produced in India! 🙂

    • I may have certainly made all these points in the comments section of my previous post on the topic, but I’m guessing most people are not going to read through all the comments (though that would be nice – it’s a great discussion) and certainly not my responses to those comments.

      So I am summarizing my views on some of the issues that were discussed in the previous comment thread which didn’t directly relate to the post.

      I’d certainly like to hear everyone’s views on why some of us don’t consider Slumdog as an Indian movie and why we like to see Indian movies getting Oscars. I’m with you that the Oscars are the American Filmfare awards – or rather, the way I’d like to put it is that we have our own Oscars in the Filmfare awards, so why do we need the Oscars?

      • Filmfare stopped being credible after it started separating awards into popular and critics categories. So a movie that earned big bucks was given a popular best movie and the movie that the judges really liked in terms of quality and merit got the critics best movie. WTF, right?

      • Filmfare awards are nonsensical. For the simple reason that it chooses among nonsensical movies. Even “quality” bollywood movies fall short of cheap Hollywood movies.

      • “so why do we need the Oscars?”

        Because winning an Oscar will give us a feeling of having conquered a foreign land, that too the USA!

    • There is no “Best Foreign Film” Oscar; it is “Best Foreign LANGUAGE Film”.
      Other countries only need to make their movies in English.

  3. Think its our love hate relationship to the west. We crave the Oscar Nod.
    And as far as this particular movies is concerned- its the denial of slums and poverty we want to question “what is Indian?” Had it been a ” fluffy” movie, this q may not have come up.

  4. “Hollywood treats Slumdog as an American movie, entering it in the Oscars under the main category instead of “Foreign film” which is what other movies set in India usually end up in.”

    lekhni, any feature-length film in any language – not just American movies – can be nominated by the producers/director to any category as long as the film was released in the US (LA county) and had at least a one week run. And Hollywood doesn’t automatically enter movies to be considered for Oscars, the producers/director nominate them. For example, 8 and a half (Italian), Amelie (French), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwan) and Life is Beautiful (Italian) were all nominated in categories other than Foreign Film (and including in Foreign Film).

    But you raise some interesting questions as to what makes a movie Indian or American or British. I doubt that there will be an objective definition/criteria that could be applied to movies to get an answer, as there’s some subjectivity involved. And with increasing global collaboration, it will be even more complex.

    I’ve come across many instances of prejudice in the US against Bollywood movies, even by people who haven’t seen a single BW movie yet dismiss them with contempt, or keep repeating that Bollywood movies are normally 3.5 hrs long – I’ve addressed some of these stereotypes on my blog. So, it’s understandable why Indian producers do not nominate their movies, or if they are nominated, don’t make it to the final five because the Academy members who vote on these movies probably have some bias towards English language/US movies or nurse those same stereotypes. And most Indian movies do have a different sensibility than Hollywood ones, doesn’t make any one sensibility “better” than the other. I doubt that the members of the Academy watch all the movies that are nominated, and then decide to vote based on some objective criteria that they unscrupulously apply to all movies. They’re after all humans and while they must watch a lot of movies, to expect them to watch *all* nominated movies before voting on them would be too much.

    • I agree that only Indian movies that run in US theaters are eligible to participate in the mainstream section of the Oscars, and it is that which made me talk about how more filmmakers will now tie up with US distributors if they want a shot at the Oscars.

      You’re right that the subjectivity on what constitutes an Indian (or a British or a Bangladeshi) movie will only increase with international collaboration – I guess we can settle for hyphenated identities then ? 🙂

    • But you raise some interesting questions as to what makes a movie Indian or American or British.

      I suggest the following: “A movie should be called Indian or American if its made primarily for Indian or American audiences.” Is an NRI movie Indian or American or Indian-American? None. It is an NRI movie because it’s made primarily with NRI or wannabe-NRI audience in mind.

      As to your other point, Oscars are awards of the American People, by the American People, for the American People. If someone want to sell them a non-American product, they will HAVE TO make extra effort.

  5. It is easy to trivialise this into a ‘colonial hangover’ sort of thing, saying that nothing is recgonised until the white people have recognised it, but that is not the truth.
    The reason the Oscar is actually something special, is because the nominations, voting and selection for the awards is done by people who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. That means, everyone who is associated with the movie-making business – actors, producers, directors, production staff, or rather, somebody who has a clue about how difficult or easy it is to make movie.

    As a viewer, all you see is the finished product, and your interpretation of it. Show me the Mona Lisa, and I see a funny-looking woman. Show it somebody who actually paints, studies art history, and knows a thing or two about paint, canvas, and the history surrounding it, and you will get something entirely different.

    Most of the Indian movie awards are open to _anyone_. Anybody can pick up the form for voting for ‘Best Picture’ when it is released in the Filmfare Magazine, or in the public Newspapers. Does this require somebody to have seen the movie? No. Does this mean you could sway these awards completely, just like Indian Idol? For the Oscar Ceremony, all the voting members are sent copies of the movie, they have to have watched them in order to vote. The Indian awards are a farce compared to the Oscars. This is why the Oscars are respected, and the Indian awards are not.

    A.R. Rahman got best music score based not on the greatest number of dollars earned, or records sold, but based on the fact that other movie-music composers, directors, and actors saw his work, saw it to be a work of art and honoured him for it. People who know a thing or two about making movies. This makes it an honour. But, unfortunately, in our country, movies are not considered an art form. That is considered ‘elitist’ and ‘snobby’.

    Over here in India, the point of watching a movie is to walk into a darkened room and turn your brain off for 3 hours. To not use your reasoning faculty. Art never comes into the equation, and if you dare to suggest that a movie is a work of art, you would be ridiculed. And that goes for the majority (90%) of the movies made by the Indian Film Industry. Furthermore, the majority of movie story lines, and music is an out & out rip off of Hollywood story lines, and hollywood music. But then along comes this one guy, who doesn’t steal from others, and produces his own work – and so, he is honours. By his PEERS. By global peers. That is why Rahman getting an Oscar is a big deal. He got an oscar for doing what he always does – and which he does well.

    Finally, while I do believe there were many bollywood movies which were better than Slumdog, I don’t believe they OR Slumdog deserved an oscar. Because they were all awful.

    Just because something makes a lot of money, doesn’t make it ‘good’. Just because something is ‘popular’ doesn’t make it something of quality.

    • I don’t know much about how the Filmfare awards work, so I cannot comment on whether the way the awards are given out in the Oscars is superior. But as you mention, Slumdog did not deserve an Oscar, and I can name quite a few others (say, Crash) that I believe did not deserve the “Best Picture” Oscar. So obviously, the Oscars make mistakes too, which makes them less omniscient than you’d think.

      Besides, if we believed that only actors and producers should vote for movies, only artists for paintings and so on, if we extend the argument, then we’d never have a democracy – we’d say only politicians should vote in elections 😉

      • I am afraid that you have no idea how democracy works either. You vote for a memeber of parliament, who then elects a prime minister on your behalf. So it IS politicians voting for other politicians. And it IS politicians voting with / against other politicians who make the law of this land in parliament. In a presidential system, you vote for the leader, but everybody else is a representative. They are the one who make the laws, not you.

        Furthermore, what kind of bizarre logic is this? Becoming the leader of country is not an ‘award’? I don’t understand how you compare apples and oranges. A.R. received an Oscar for an achievement – something he _did_. Voting for a member of parliament, or the prime minster or anybody who is a leader is so that you hope they govern effectively. You think you are giving an MP an ‘award’ when you vote for them???

        If there other people in India, who liken voting a leader to voting for a movie award, I am not surprised our country is completely in the dumps.

        Second, I thought Slumdog Millionnaire was awful, as a _regular viewer_.

        But if you speak to a cinematographer, an editor, a director, and other actors, they will tell you it was a very well edited movie, that it was technically sound, that the children in that movie acted well, that some the scenes were well shot, that the music added to certain scenes was mixed well, that sound editing was very well done. They look at the movie from a holistic perspective. I look at it from almost purely content point of view. So the question of them ‘making a mistake’ doesn’t arise. It simply means the community of artists respect this movie. As a viewer, I feel the movie was undeserving of an oscar from solely from a plot/ content point of view. But I don’t know about the effort involved in shooting in slums, trying to convert a book text into a screenplay. Those things require effort. And therefore, only other people who have worked as hard in a similar field are in a position to judge how easy or hard it is. That is just common sense.

        When it comes to arts, or something which requires specialized skills, I would respect an award where the qualified people are the ones giving it to somebody, as opposed to an award where anybody can vote via SMS.

        It has absolutely nothing to do with ‘recognition from the West’ or some other cliche. That is usually just an excuse not to work hard, or try and be the best.

        Finally, it is not difficult to figure out how voting for the Oscars and Filmfare Awards works.

        Here are two links. It did not take much effort.

      • You’re right about the parliamentary form, but not about the presidential. The President is not directly elected. You don’t vote for the President either, you elect the Congressmen and the Senators (at the State and Federal level). But remember, these are the people who make laws, the politicians who matter. Any PM or President is only as powerful as his party’s majority in Parliament/Congress/Senate. If his own party representatives in these bodies lose faith in him, he’s just a figurehead.

      • Oscars were never omniscient and are less so nowadays. But I think you are trying to use that not-so-objectionable flaw to suggest that Filmfares – which are the exact opposite of omniscient – are comparable to Oscars.

        Even with their flaws Oscars honors much better movies and artists than Filmfares. Now you can argue that Indian movies and artists are aweful to begin with. But then why bother thinking about an award that is “of the Aweful People, by the Aweful People and for the Aweful People”?

    • First of all, I like the way you think. For the simple reason: You ACTUALLY think.

      I agree with you on everything but your comment seems to give the impression that Oscar actually succeeds in honouring best of the art of the cinema. It doesn’t. It’s an award for the Spielbergs, not Bergmans.

  6. Why do Indians crave for the Oscars? For that matter, why does any foreign film maker sound ecstatic when he/she wins an Oscar for their movies? There are a whole bunch of things that can account for this:

    1. Hollywood is one of the most richest film making industries in the world. Winning an Oscar, for a film-maker, is like getting an introduction to Hollywood. They will get plump offers, and loads of money – not to mention international releases. It would be stupid of them to not make use of such an opportunity.

    2. Oscars IS one of the most glamorous and publicized movie award events. We really don’t go gaga over Cannes even though it is truly an international film awards / festival simply because we cannot relate to most of the movies who are contenders there. But we know and have seen hollywood movies. No wonder we are cheering on the sidelines.

    3. Yes, Indians have a colonial hangover. And quite a few westerners do think that India is still a land of the snake charmers and what not. Now release a movie like slumdog that might actually strengthen these peoples’ unbalanced perceptions and you have a very worried pseudo patriotic community doing dharnas for banning the movie. It is almost like a guest coming to your place and discovering you have a dirty bathroom. Its embarassing.

    • I’ll agree with #1 (though it is debatable how much the “Oscar bump” will apply to an Indian movie) and with #2. if I get it, #2 just means that the Oscars are perceived as good because of the success of their marketing – it’s a great brand, and everyone wants to be associated with it. Instead of getting swayed by that, shouldn’t we work towards creating the Filmfare awards into a bigger brand, improving the process, inviting foreign films to compete (in a separate category like the Oscars) and so on?

      • Instead of getting swayed by that, shouldn’t we work towards creating the Filmfare awards into a bigger brand, improving the process, inviting foreign films to compete (in a separate category like the Oscars) and so on?


        Just think of what it takes to create a brand like Oscar and you’ll see where the problem actually is: India doesn’t count on the global scene. It’s awards are unlikely to attract the same fame as the ones insitituted in a superpower. Of course, awards need not & must not have their reputation dependent on the political standing of the country they are instituted in. They could develop a reputation solely on which movies and artists they reward. If Filmfares want to build such a reputation it needs to disqualify all Bollywood movies & artists from being nominated.

  7. “Over here in India, the point of watching a movie is to walk into a darkened room and turn your brain off for 3 hours.”

    Phoenix, you should really look up the box-office figures here in the US to see whether the top-earners are any different than walking into a darkened room and turning off the brain for 2 hours. OK, so you save one hour that can be used for reasoning activities – I’ll give you that. 🙂

    Here’s the website that lists the top earners for 2009 :
    (you can also check the previous years)

    Please let me know at what number in the list is a movie you’d consider art that stimulates, prods and questions; instead of making one “turn off brain in a dark room for x hours”; and where on the list are movies that won Oscars.

    This divide between “art” and “entertainment” is not unique to India – it’s just a reflection of reality that most viewers go to the movies to be entertained.

    • Monsters vs. Aliens at 5! Oh my God!

      I would like to refine Phoenix’s position thus:
      1. In Hollywood there is Art & there is entertainment.
      2. In Bollywood, it’s just entertainment.

      Also, Hollywood serves up a rich variety even in its cheapest movies, whereas in Bollywood it’s the same old crap over and over again.

  8. A few days back i was wondering how the Oscars are projected as this worldwide phenomenon while the fact is that these are just Hollywood awards. Reminds me of the ‘world’ series baseball which is contested by mostly American teams.

    As for the Indian obsession with the Oscars, i guess its on a bigger level the Indian obsession with the west. We in India are forever looking to the west’s approval for everything – not just movies!

    It does beat me why Slumdog was even considered for the Oscars – it was a British produced movie. I doubt though if just having a US distributor will make Indian movies eligible for Oscars, even if it may have worked for the British Slumdog.

    • The “world series” baseball thing is funny, isn’t it ? 🙂 The second issue – why we seem to need the West’s approval – is more puzzling. Is it an extension of our attitude of always wondering “log kya kahenge” ?

      As to why Slumdog was considered, see Amit’s comment above.

      • If you are really puzzled – as opposed to not just dissatisfied – I again suggest the following: West is rich and powerful. We want to be like West someday. So we worship everything in the West.

  9. Hey…so nice to see you writing about something other than the economy! (I mean, I love your posts, but reading about it starts getting me depressed now :()

    About SM – first of all, irrespective of the nationality of the director, it IS a british/french production – ergo – NOT an Indian film. It would still not be an indian film had the director been Ram Gopal Varma, for instance. But, if it were indeed RGV who had directed the film, I feel he would have captured the essence of the country the way see it, for good or for worse. Every person’s perspective is moulded to some extent by their nationality – it’s only to be excepted – and Danny Boyle’s vision of India is colored by what he’s learnt through media/books etc. and has not been shaped though years of growing up here.

    You mentioned Shekhar kapur’s Elizabeth. Again, it’s a british production and a historic drama where deviations and personal interpretations are limited by facts. And I haven’t watched the film – but I’m sure kapur’s upbringing must have had some subtle influence on the film. It’s inevitable – that’s why a director is called an autuer. Take for instance, Mira Nair’s Vanity fair – if you’ve watched it, you’ll know why I insist on a director’s nationality leaving an impact on the films he/she directs.

    • Danny Boyle is from Manchester in England. Yet if you watch Trainspotting – and then visit Glasgow, specially the areas portrayed – you will see that he has a special talent for depicting gritty reality as well as being, what we call in electronics, high-fidelity (degree to which true to the original signal).

      If you watch Elizabeth – and then spend some time in Victoria and Albert Museum’s famous textiles collection as well as read texts and poetry from the era – you will see that Shekhar Kapoor was true to the epoch he depicted rather than his cultural upbringing.

      And on Vanity Fair, see above for Elizabeth. If you have read the book before watching the film, you will see why Mira Nair has been true to the epoch once again.

      I think we over-estimate the impact of the director’s nationality on a film. 🙂 The ‘auteur’ bit is a theory not a complete causal explanation of films and their direction. There is nary a baguette or a beret in sight, but plenty of fantasy and guns in Luc Besson’s films. Is that how you imagine the French live? 😉

    • I never tire of repeating my points 🙂 so once again I put forth the following characterization: “Identify a movie by the Audience it was made for.”

      Satya: Indian
      Slumdog Millionaire: British-American
      Elizabeth: British-American

  10. I don’t understand why you included Tamil and Telugu cinema as components of Hindi cinema –
    “Bollywood (and Tamil and Telugu)”.
    What’s with the name Bollywood anyway? Why not just say Hindi cinema?

  11. Lekhni, some quick points:

    1) The category isn’t Foreign Film, it’s Foreign-Language Film. There’s a big difference between the two. To be nominated in the latter category, a film has to be predominantly in a language other than English (not completely sure what the rules are these days but there was a time when at least 70 per cent of the film had to be non-English – don’t know who sat and calculated these things but you get the idea…) So it’s not like there was a choice about which category SDM could be entered in. Once they had decided to enter it for the Oscars, it had to be in the main, English-language categories.

    2) Whether a film is officially “British” or “American” or whatever has nothing to do with what it’s about or how many people of what nationality have worked on it – it’s determined purely by who has produced/financed it. Having been produced by Christian Colson, SDM is a British film. (As an earlier commenter points out, it would have been a British film even if Ram Gopal Varma had directed it.) Now of course we can continue to say things like “it’s an Indian film in spirit” etc, but in any official context (such as a news article or a Wikipedia/IMDB entry) it has to be designated a British movie. If the BBC had called it an Indian movie or even an Indo-British production, there could have been a legal case against them.

    3) Oscars are competitive awards. All competitive awards are by their very nature erratic and whimsical, given that they are determined by any number of factors (of which “merit” is just one – and even that is completely subjective. The tastes of the jury members might be completely different from ours). Any lengthy discussion about the whys and wherefores of the Oscar (or Booker, or any such award) is bound to be futile. I’m speaking from lots of painful past experience!

    • I stand corrected on the name of the category 🙂 So it is the producer’s nationality that determines the movie’s, is it? So then Saawariya would have been an Indo-American movie, I suppose? Interesting, thanks for the info.

      I completely agree with you that the Oscars are likely to be as subjective as any other award, though I’m very curious about your painful past experiences 🙂

      • Saawariya was produced by SLB (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Films and Sony Pictures Entertainment India. So effectively the producers were Indian although the studio financing the project may have been foreign. Financiers and producers can be two different classifications. You could take a bank loan from UBS and produce a movie but that wouldn’t make it a Indo-Swiss movie, right? I may be wrong and hope some professional from the industry shed some light on this.

      • Patrix: in the example you give, UBS wouldn’t be the official financier of the project – the bank loan would be a prior transaction, it would have been taken in my name and I would be accountable for it; the UBS name wouldn’t be attached to the film. But you’re right, there can be ambiguity about who produces and who finances, and whether the latter is actively involved with the film.

        Lekhni: the “painful” was an exaggeration. Basically, there was a time when I used to have a lot of fun analysing the Oscars (pre-nominations, post-nominations and post-awards), trying to understand all the parameters that went into award selection etc. E.g., the holdover award for an actor who was nominated several times in the past without winning, the sympathy award for playing disabled characters or for an actor who had just survived a near-fatal illness in real life (Elizabeth Taylor in 1960.) Oscar history is full of fascinating examples of all the factors that have to align for someone to win a particular award. But I lost the energy for it eventually!

      • Jai, it’s when Dorothy discovers the “wizard” behind the curtain turning knobs and levers, and putting on the show.

      • To Jabberwock:
        Try debating about the degree to which a factor determines the final award. Every award is determined by both artistic and extra-artistic factors. The quality of an award can be ascertained by the degree to which artistic factors are important. It is difficult to determine this “degree”, VERY painful in fact, but in leads in constructive directions.

        To Lekhni:
        Oscars are definitely subjective, but it honors far better art in their own taste than do Filmfares.

  12. The movie has got some interestingcoverage. For all reasons ! For some reason, the Oscars notbeing won by anybody elsehas increased the interest value !!


    It doesnt matter…there are movies that will be produced. And movies that will be seeen. Some of them will be nice. Some will be otherwise. Some will win awards. All will be written about. In varying quantum !

  13. Lekhni

    I had an argument on Twitter with an American who said SDM was a Hollywood film because it was released here first. My counter-argument mainly was that at best the film was Anglo-Indian or Indo-British because those were the two main collaborators (funding came from Film4, a subsidiary of a public service broadcaster; although the European Commission has recently claimed their part too as they gave some money through the EU MEDIA programme), and that if the first territory for marketing were the criterion then all Chinese manufactured goods were technically American. Needless to say she was not pleased 🙂

    Despite a contrarian argument, my view is that this is a truly global film in its character, its genesis, its success. Never mind the position I took in the argument mentioned above; it is very Cicero to argue several sides! 😉

    In my review of the film, I had a late ‘related reading’ addition – the review of the film in The Telegraph here. I said: “.. it is weird to call it an Obama era film, or somehow suggest it is a very British film. Granted, the excellent Director and the source of funding are, but the story line of poverty juxtaposed against obscene riches in modern metros is not, nor is the cast, or the setting, or as the reviewer concedes, a third of the dialogue. But I understand, in a moment of cynicism absent in the film, that once awards are laden at someone’s doorstep, everyone wants to claim that person as his or her own. An award winning athlete is British/ American but an award losing athlete is always Indian-born/ Jamaican-born/ someotherplace-born British/ American. Moment of cynicism over. If anything this film is winning people over because it is a global story.”

    That – apart from the mechanics of it not having been nominated as an ‘International’ film – is probably why so many have so many opinions on the film.

    Oscars by the way are a product of great marketing, like many things American. Many artists rate the Globes and the BAFTA equally highly because almost always those outcomes determine the outcomes at Oscars too. So does the public’s view even matter? These awards are all the industry’s celebrations of its own achievements and its own people. No?

  14. The Oscars have been diluted in stature. Why is a Foreign (Indian) melo-drama deserving of all them golden statues? How many back room deals, cash and other things done to get all of this to happen? Hollywood picks a stray off the street every year and save them from euthanasia. This is no different. Slum Dog is nt a movie that I would want to see. No interest whatsoever. Why would I want to see how Indians live in the gutter…they’ve been doing it for a while now.

  15. Benchmarks are set by quality, and if they manage to retain and strengthen the benchmark over time it acquires a certain credibility, the same way as we might go for a Nikon or a Cannon over other “lesser” brands.

    Oscars is no different. If the whole world sees it as credible, then well, everyone will be wanting it too.

    So long as favouritism, political interference, expedienc even, and other considerations do not taint it, it will remain a benchmark.

  16. I guess the lines are blurry when it comes to deciding which country a film belongs to. As others have pointed out before, officially, I think most people lump it as where the producers’ come from. If the producers have an Indian division (eg. Sony Pictures India or Warner Bros. India), then it’s still an Indian film. But, if the producers are based entirely outside India, then it’s no longer an Indian film, maybe? Of course, all of this is too complicated. And doesn’t do justice to the cast and crew of the film. They might argue that they want their talents recognized as representative of India or Britain or whichever country they belong to.

    Personally, I dislike tarring any person with the nationality brush. There’s a certain amount of jingoism involved in this. Freida Pinto, the actress with the smallest role and the most hype, said that she didn’t feel the need to wear a sari because she is an “international” actress now. I admit I giggled about the ridiculousness of it all – wondering if when all lumped together, her role exceeded even 5 mins in the movie. But, it highlighted an important consideration for me – how do the people who worked on this movie want it to be recognized? Most of them are proud of their own work in it and by extension are happy that their home countries are proud of them. Why should any country try to claim the film as it’s own, when we just want to claim the individuals who made it happen?

    That is why, if I want to think of a FILM as Indian, I’d much rather ask myself whether I thought the sensibility was Indian. Of course this is a very subjective question, and the answer is going to differ depending on who you ask – and I think that’s why a lot of us don’t think Slumdog Millionaire is an Indian movie, while another lot does. Personally, I did not identify with the characters, the way they spoke (and not just because they spoke in English – the sentence construction was awkward and the dialogues were of a Western sensibility), their actions or their aspirations. Many of the characters were drawn from age-old Hollywood caricatures. The romantic story at the core of the movie did not get a good build-up. For a story about true love and destiny, the audience never really got to see too much romance. The interaction of the adult Jamal and Latika was limited and stilted and just too awkward to watch. If nothing else, Bollywood gives us robust love stories. It is unthinkable for a Bollywood film to have a lead pair that appears together for less than 15 mins in the entire movie. And we’re still supposed to cheer for them. Pfft. The missed-connection sort-of-love-stories is more of a Hollywood construct. In Western films, at least the art-house kind, one just begins by assuming a pair is in love rather than being told in so many words. Also, the movie was made to explain India to a western audience, not to Indians. And therein lies the entire crux. That makes it a Western movie for me; not an Indian film.

  17. Hi
    Well, Im currently studying British-film for my a-level media, and Slum dog Millionaire, is categorized under British film as; Danny Boyle is British and furthermore it reinforces the concept of realism, which is the main ingredient that makes British films British. Furthermore it is funded by fox light, which specializes in indie and British films, and has funded many notable films such as ‘Bend it like Beckham’ ‘The Full Monty’ etc…

    • I say the following on the supposition that you are not an Indian:

      You probably liked it because it gave you a completely new experience. But if considered on artistic merits the movie was aweful.

  18. Pingback: Praising the Oscars, trashing desi awards | The Imagined Universe

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