Even that old iconic Bollywood blusterer, Amitabh Bachchan, has thrown his empty-headed two rupees' worth into the mix. "If Slumdog Millionaire projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations," he bellowed. "It's just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition," he added.
"The bitter truth is, Slumdog Millionaire could only have been made by westerners. The talent exists in India for such movies: much of it, like the brilliant actor Irrfan Khan, contributed to this film. But Bollywood producers, fixated with making flimsy films about the lives of the middle class, will never throw their weight behind such projects. Like Bachchan, they are too blind to what India really is to deal with it. Poor Indians, like those in Slumdog, do not constitute India's "murky underbelly" as Bachchan moronically describes them. They, in fact, are the nation. Over 80% of Indians live on less than $2.50 (£1.70) a day; 40% on less than $1.25. A third of the world's poorest people are Indian, as are 40% of all malnourished children. In Mumbai alone, 2.6 million children live on the street or in slums, and 400,000 work in prostitution. But these people are absent from mainstream Bollywood cinema.
Bachchan's blinkered comments prove how hopelessly blind he and most of Bollywood are to the reality of India and how wholly incapable they are of making films that can address it. Instead, they produce worthless trash like Jaane Tu, Rock On!! and Love Story 2050, full of affluent young Indians desperately, and mostly idiotically, trying to look cool and modern.
India is still a developing country, with only a 2 to 300 million of it's 1.1 billion souls living a middle-class or better life. Most people in India do not yet have access to clean water.
A couple of days ago my friend Rajesh Jain had a post on his blog wondering when India would be able to get it's own Obama and a government that would pro-actively address the many issues and opportunities ahead for the country. A comment by one of his readers, Antariksh Patel, hit home:
India's politicians, be they Obamaesque or not, have an opportunity to really step up to the plate as well.
But in the meantime, Indians will do what they did with the India outsourcing miracle (Satyam notwithstanding). They created global opportunities for themselves not because of their government, but despite them.
Coming back to Indian movies, "Slumdog Millionaire" is just an example of a movie about India getting global recognition not just because of the Bollywood establishment, but despite them.