MF Husain on the movies that matter to him.. and the movies that don’t...
Right at this moment, I feel superstitious about praising Slumdog Millionaire. If I or anyone praises it to the high heavens and it doesn’t get all the Oscars it deserves, it’ll seem as if we talked too much about it. It’s better to be quiet and let the winners — particularly A R Rahman — bring glory to India.
Still, I will say that the one shot that will remain in the world’s mind is that of the boy falling into a pool of shit and running across the slum, covered with shit, to get an autograph from Amitabh Bachchan. That shot is not to be taken literally — it is a metaphor for the fact that politicians throw us into shit and we look for escape — in entertainment. In this tribute painting.. done after being bowled over by Slumdog Millionaire.. I have taken the imagery of two lovers from RK’s Awara with Raj Kapoor and Nargis in the rain, sharing an umbrella. And I have placed Amitabh right there simply because he wrote something on his blog and then in reaction, denied that he had written what was being said by the people and the media. Which means that whatever he says cannot be taken at face value. Amitabh is serving the nation — he always has served the current taste of the nation.
It’s strange that the two films which will be most associated in the global mind with India — Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire — dwell on the starkness of poverty. And it also took a westerner, Sir Richard Attenborough to make the most definitive film on Gandhi.
While not taking away anything from the marvellous films of Satyajit Ray and now Danny Boyle, I do wonder why the western audience essentially recognises the poverty of India. For most of them, we still live in the old days of fakirs and snake charmers.
The aesthetics of our great literary works and paintings are still to be understood. If Shelley can be quoted, why don’t they quote the great Kalidas as well? It is shocking that a collection titled The Indian Highway organised by Saffron Arts was vitriolically condemned by the critic of The Observer, London. The critic showed scant or no knowledge of Indian art and aesthetics.
Also I remember AR Rahman’s stage musical Bollywood Dreams had opened six years ago to very hostile reviews in New York. Today, I do hope Rahman is having the last laugh. He’s a genius who could not be denied his acknowledgement by the world. The cinema of Ritwik Ghatak and Adoor Goplakrishnan need to be justly estimated by the west. Mughal-e-Azam, Mother India and Pakeezah are among the three films, which I can mention off the cuff, that deserve to be associated in the western mind with the glory of Indian cinema.
Rab ne Bana di Jodi
Out here in Dubai, I have seen Rab ne Bana di Jodi 15 times. It is not a great film. Neither was Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! But both touched my heart because they refer to Indian culture, pure and simple — like the girl’s introduction scene in Rab ne Bana di Jodi, running delightedly at the preparations for her own wedding. Also, the character of Suri played by Shah Rukh Khan was the kind of young man you find working away anonymously in small offices in small towns all over India.
Chandni Chowk to China
Of the new lot of films, I just hated Chandni Chowk to China. I could not sit through it all. It treated the audience as if they had no common sense, forget brains.
Sorry to say but Ghajini shocked me. It was nothing but mindless violence. After Taare Zameen Par, I had great expectations from Aamir Khan. If his intention was to make money by any means, he has succeeded. How can a CEO of a company carry on a romance that makes no sense? How can he knock down dozens of men in places which are always deserted? And for one girl how can he kill hundreds? What kind of jungle law is this? How can children get the go-ahead to enjoy this kind of violence? This film should be condemned. I’d even go to the extent of saying that the Home Minister P Chidambaram should ban it.
Among our actors, of course I cherish Dilip Kumar. And nothing can dim my obsession for Madhuri Dixit. No one has surpassed her grace, her skills, her pure Indianness. And there is Naseeruddin Shah who is a world class actor.. he was so extraordinary in Iqbal.. and in the TV serial Ghalib.. he was born to play the poet.