As the dust settles from Oscar extravaganza, I can’t help but reflect on the Brand Story implications of big-time winning movie – Slumdog Millionaire and the country of India.
In the case of Slumdog, which swept away 8 oscars, some say it represents the long due arrival of Bollywood and Indian culture into the west. Yet, this movie was directed by a British film-maker, with a strong western bias infusing the production, even if it employed a mostly Mumbai film crew and unknown set of local actors.
On one hand, Slumdog is being celebrated as a great victory for India, and signals its arrival on the global culture stage. But its not without its controversy…its equally considered an insult by many in India since it does not reflect any of the major Indian superstars or any other nod to Indian Bollywood productions (India is the 3rd largest movie-making center in the world after U.S. and Nigeria). Slumdog is even under attack for its depiction of “poverty porn” – an glamorized and highly stylized take on life in the slums. But since when does Hollywood try to act like PBS?
The movie soundtrack is one of the silver linings. A.R. Rahman, a well-respected Indian musician took home an oscar for his musical score of the movie. So perhaps this signals a defining moment for Indian Bangra msuic as much as India the country itself.
Controversy aside, I think this movie has captured the imagination because it tells an enthralling david versus goliath love story, at a time when the world is sad and depressed about the state of affairs. We all need stories to believe in, especially an against all odds tale of triumpth. It helps when its set in an exotic landscape that is made human and approachable, even if it succumbs to the trappings of Hollywood over-simplification.
At a time when India, and even Mumbia is reeling from the terrorist attacks of several months back, slumdog profers hope. It introduces India to a wide stage, even if at the cost of campy reduction. In the end, the Indian Brand Story won more than it might have lost.