Monday, February 23, 2009


Yesterday was probably the first time I watched the entire Academy Award ceremony. It was also the first year in which I had watched virtually all the nominated movies, so some mandatory comments follow.

It was largely what I had expected. Hugh Jackman was charming, and his notes were dulcet. Kate Winslet won the award as expected; she wasn't bad, but she also did not really have tough competition.

But now about the big event. Much ink will be spilt over Slumdog in the following days. As I have mentioned before, it's a pretty good movie. But given the competition, I did not think it was Oscar-worthy. It is more of an experience than a movie. There's nothing wrong in giving an Oscar to an experience; it's just that I thought that Milk and Frost/Nixon were movies that were better-constructed. In any case, maybe I cannot take in the experience as well as Western audiences; for them it must be a much more exotic and fascinating experience than it was for me. Every one of my American friends said that he or she was mentally exhausted by the panorama of colors, sounds and smells. We usually call this panorama "Bollywood".

But what's all this hullabaloo about the movie back home? All the reactions to me seem to be misguided. Those who are criticizing the movie for being "poverty porn" (which is a neat phrase by the way) and for depicting the ugly undebelly of India are really missing the point. The movie is a story. It's fiction. And it's about a boy from the slums. There is no reason why it needs to portray India accurately. It's not some social commentary on the state of the country or a depiction of what India is. Those who are disgruntled with the movie for depicting India in a "bad light" are really barking up the wrong tree and wasting their time in my opinion.

The same thing goes for A R Rahman's songs and music. He is going to be treated like a Super-God in India now. But while Rahman is one enormously talented man who has created some of the best music ever in Indian cinema, his songs for Slumdog are way below the quality of some of his best songs. The songs are not bad, not bad at all. But they are trivial and wholly of average quality compared to his music for Roja, Bombay or Dil Se. In fact another movie which has similar styled music, Rangeela, is also much superior. The real reason why Rahman won these awards is simply because there was no competition. English movies are not exactly known for their songs. There were only three nominees for Best Song, and two of them were his! What were the chances? Even the background score for the movie is not outstanding and again, the main reason it won the award was because there wasn't much competition. In any case, I hope this does not give us another opportunity to suck up to the Oscars as usual, although it's nice and all that he won.

I was personally disappointed that Mickey Rourke did not win Best Actor. Sean Penn was marvelous, no doubt; it's just that The Wrestler was a performance of a lifetime for Rourke. I was also disappointed that "Waltz with Bashir" did not win. And Penelope Cruz for Best Supporting Actress?

In any case, now I won't have to deal with this for another year, only watch the movies which is a good thing.

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Blogger Chetan said...

In spite of the fact that I haven't seem the Wrestler, I thought Sean Penn deserved the award. I know how this sounds, but Penn was phenomenal. And as far as the best film category goes I wanted Frost/Nixon to win. That movie moved me. Very few movies have that kind of an effect on me.

You should watch Doubt by the way. Meryl Streep's character is too good to miss.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Poonam said...

But while Rahman is one enormously talented man who has created some of the best music ever in Indian cinema, his songs for Slumdog are way below the quality of some of his best songs. The songs are not bad, not bad at all.

I agree completely. Though I rooted for Rehman ferevently, I know he has a superior body of work than that. I was rooting for SM too though I didnt think it was an outstanding movie, bot because it was 'poverty prn' but because whatever it depicted I had known adn seen before. My reactions were subdues compared to my western counterparts who were new to it.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Wavefunction said...

Chetan, you should watch The Wrestler. Sean Penn was undoubtedly fantastic, but Mickey Rourke delivered a performance of a lifetime. I need to watch Doubt.
Poonam, I got the same reaction from my western counterparts.

8:09 AM  

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