White Awake by Daniel Hill, Free for CAPC Members
White Awake brings us back again and again, gently but inexorably, to the truths that we’re so unwilling to face, steadily prying our hands from our eyes.
In Mumbai, the setting for Slumdog Millionaire, residents have mixed reactions to the film–some are thankful for the film’s pulsing, life-affirming portrait of their city, and others accuse it of reveling in India’s shame.
What I find odd is the cultural amnesia about a certain 1988 film called Salaam Bombay. The Washington Post article makes comments like:
“‘Slumdog’ is perhaps the first mainstream movie since Richard Attenborough’s 1982 epic ‘Gandhi’ — which won eight Oscars — to present an unflinching portrait of India’s abject poverty, its crime, corruption and communal tensions.”
“It’s almost unheard of for Bollywood filmmakers to shoot in the labyrinthine poverty of the Mumbai’s slums. India’s film industry is better known for its rollicking, four-hour, song-and-dance extravaganzas, which are escapist, melodramatic fairy tales that are typically filmed in Switzerland, Australia or New Jersey.”
I suppose Salaam Bombay! was technically neither “mainstream” nor “Bollywood,” but it was hardly obscure. Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Salaam Bombay! was the first feature film directed by Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake). I’ve previously described it to people as “Slumdog Millionaire without the happy.” If anything, it’s a much harsher portrait of poverty in the Mumbai slums. We can discuss which approach–Slumdog‘s or Salaam‘s– is more effective (and maybe I will, in a future post!), but it’s not as if there’s never been another movie about poverty in India. Why do we forget so quickly?
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