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Jai Ho Oscars!
AR Rahman is a music director who has the power to sell his music. Just his name is enough. His name is assurance enough for good and original score. But why, may I ask, has this international recognition come today?

AND THE Oscars have been announced. The whole country is suddenly on its feet celebrating the Indian presence at the awards.

Slumdog Millionare won eight Oscars including Best Song for AR Rahman and Gulzar, Best Original Score for AR Rahman and Best Sound Mixing for Resul Pookutty.

Rahman is a music director who has the power to sell his music. Just his name is enough. His name is assurance enough for good and original score. But why, may I ask, has this international recognition come today. Is it simply because there was a “white man” behind the movie? I sincerely believe that Rahman has done work which is far superior to Slumdog Millionaire. Have we forgotten Roja or Dil Se or Yuva or Rang De Basanti. Lilting, heart-touching and soul searching melodies.

According to Rahman, until the Golden Globes, the western media wasn’t interested in his solo photo ops. They would insist that he stands next to Danny Boyle. But ever since he won the Golden Globe, he has been inundated with requests for solo photo ops. Suddenly, he has been catapulted into the big league in the West.

I am in no way undermining the success of the movie. I think it is a brilliant movie which has dealt with some sensitive issues like the love story between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl or street children without getting converted into a documentary or a glossy commercial film. Many who have seen the movie have a problem with the poverty shown. But why should we have a problem with reality. The real message of the movie is that if properly packaged and marketed, poverty is a highly saleable commodity and a potential megabuck brand.

Poverty has been sold by our film makers for ages. We are all aware of cinema by Satyajit Ray and Mira Nair. Salaam Bombay made by Mira Nair in 1988, glamorised Mumbai slums and street urchins. Suddenly Dharavi was on the map of the ever expanding “Slum Tourism”. Why do we need a foreigner, a Danny Boyle for his portrayal of India for the rest of the world to sit up and take notice? Our film industry has some really sensible film makers, but at the end of it all we needed a foreigner to make a film about India to be noticed by the western world. Stuff which amuses and tickles a westerner is probably the same stuff which will make an Indian cringe, even be embarrassed. A brilliant movie like Amir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par did not even manage to get a nomination. Shekhar Kapoor’s Bandit Queen, equally appreciated and criticised, did not bring in any great honours. I wonder why? And why do we criticise Indian movies as a collection of highly glamorised song and dance routines? Doesn’t Hollywood have its own share of no-brain, nonsensical cinema like American Pie, Legally Blonde and Dumb & Dumber.

What I would like to understand is the criteria for being nominated to all the international awards. As I understand, Oscar nomination is a lot about marketing, private screenings and lobbying. I would just like to add to this list another essential criteria – the film maker should not be from the third world.

I was overjoyed about all the awards, but I want to know what we are celebrating after all the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars. Are we proud of AR Rahman and Resul? Or is it that the movie is based on a book written by an Indian? Or is it that the movie is set in India? What exactly are we celebrating?

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