Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Brown Swan

An Indian film wins 4 awards at the Golden Globe and then goes on to bag 10 Oscar nominations. It is not really an Indian production, such a thing has never happened before and most people out here hadn’t even heard of the film. Now that is what I call a perfect The Black Swan. No one saw it coming.

But then, how could it not be a hit. A R Rahman, Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Fox Searchlight, a feel-good film and the worst economic crisis in most people’s living memory. With the world going through such difficult economic times, a feel good film about money, about how it’s only the means and never an end in itself, that is just the kind of movie everyone so desperately wants to watch right now. So seemingly obvious in retrospect.

Slumdog Millionaire is about fate, attitude and human nature. It’s not really about India or its slums. It’s a lot like my other favorite feel-good movie – The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and based on the true story of Chris Gardner.

Slumdog is about the startling success of the underdog, a kid who never went to school winning millions on a Quiz Show where doctors, engineers and professors have failed. Now consider this. An independent production, a director whose last movie didn’t exactly do too well, a cast that is virtually unknown to international audiences goes on to win so many awards where major Indian cinema houses and superstars have failed. Notice the parallel.

In the movie, instead of admiring Jamal’s success at the quiz, the game show host suspects him of cheating. In real life, instead of admiring the success of the film as one would expect, many Indians criticized the film for supposedly maligning the image of an otherwise shining India by showing the slums. As a wise man once said, “As is the microcosm so is the macrocosm.” The same pattern repeats infinitely at every level of observation and as you look deeper you see infinite complexity, the picture of a fractal and chaos in all its ethereal beauty. Finally, enlightenment emerges from the fluttering wings of a butterfly. Or maybe not.