How much does getting facts right matter in a movie? Unlike the brouhaha over whether Danny Boyle’s
showcases slums for a Western audience or whether it tells a story with a backdrop of a large chunk of India as it really is, there’s the small but objective matter of a big error propagated in the film.
In the film, the protagonist, Jamal, is asked by the host of the quiz show the question: ‘Name the poet who wrote ‘Darshan do ghanshyam’. The options for the correct answer, as provided in the scene were Meera Bai, Kabir Das, Tulsi Das and Surdas. The correct answer, as provided by Jamal, turns out to be Surdas. Unfortunately, this isn’t correct. As a consequence, thousands of filmgoers are under the erroneous impression that Surdas is the author of ‘Darshan do ghanshyam’.
A small mistake goes a long way when propagated in a medium as far-reaching as a multi-Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie.
Surdas, the 15th-16th century poet and singer, never wrote anything other than the ‘pad’, a genre of Indian poetry.
‘Darshan do ghanshyam’ is not a ‘pad’. The poem-turned-song ‘Darshan do ghanshyam’ that plays a pivotal role in Slumdog Millionaire and Jamal’s journey to winning his Rs 2 crore, was written by Hindi film lyricist Gopal Singh Nepali.
The devotional song was used first in the 1957 film Narsi Bhagat, directed by Devendra Goel. The song was composed by veteran music director Ravi. HMV released various versions of this song sung by various singers, including Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey and Sudha Malhotra. So the only right answer to ‘Who wrote Darshan do ghanshyam? is Gopal Singh Nepali.
Music director Ravi confirms this.
(Rajeev Shrivastav is a Delhi-based film critic)