Being an ardent fan of his music, it was an enthralling experience for me to see A R Rahman accept his Academy Awards in the Best Song and Best Original Score categories. (I was even more out-of-control than Anil Kapoor!) Many congratulations to him, Gulzar (who shared the Oscar for his song Jai Ho, but was not present at the ceremony), and also to the entire cast and crew members of Slumdog Millionaire for a spectacular victory.
Bollywood is a widely recognized “brand” in the West, but Slumdog Millionaire will be remembered as the movie that made Bollywood a household name in the United States. And as Vir Sanghvi mentioned on his blog, any conversation about World Music will be incomplete now without mentioning A R Rahman.
Meanwhile, India remains divided in its reactions towards SM. There are those who scorned at its “negative” depiction of India. And there are those who, in spite of the fact that the movie is produced by two American studios and directed by a British man, are celebrating its victory as one of their own.
In my opinion, the movie is fantastic and quite entertaining, but over-rated. (For the record, I am neither disappointed nor offended by the portrayal of India in this movie. I don’t think that it is any director’s responsibility to show the complete picture of a society.) But I am happy for the movie’s success and especially for the global recognition that it has brought to A R Rahman, Bollywood, and Indian movie industries.
Since the dawn of multiplex cinema in the last decade (in India), we’ve seen Bollywood slowly starting to grow out of the singing-and-dancing, good-guy-bad-guy format and becoming more experimental and creative with its craft. And then… here comes Hollywood, embracing the feel-good, rags-to-riches, escapist nature of cinema that we’ve just started to shed off. Will the global success of SM create a reprisal of escapism in Bollywood movies or will the mingling of talents beween the two biggest movie industries in the world accelerate the growth of meaningful and artistic cinema in India? Well, I guess both can happen simultaneously, as Bollywood and India are big enough that they “dwarf even the sky”! (Danny Boyle’s quote from his acceptance speech last night.)
P.S. This article suggests that there’s an inverse correlation between global GDP and the mood of cinema (“as the wealth and prosperity ballooned, cinema became darker”) and tries to explain why a feel-good movie like Slumdog Millionaire won in this year’s Oscar race.