India no slumdog to west, filmmakers reply to Bachchan

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) From Shekhar Kapur to Kunal Kohli, Sriram Raghavan to Bhavna Talwar - all leading Indian filmmakers disagree with Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan's off-the-cuff remarks slamming Danny Boyle's Golden Globe winning underdog drama "Slumdog Millionaire" for exposing India's "dirty underbelly".

"A film is made by a filmmaker's vision and sensibility, not nationality. Any film that tells a compelling human story and moves an audience will be appreciated by all. Human emotions are universal, be it an Indian or Western audience," Bhavna Talwar, who directed critically acclaimed "Dharm", told IANS.

Shekhar Kapur, internationally acclaimed Indian filmmaker, echoes the same feelings.

"Let's get it right - 'Slumdog...' is an Indian film. It is easily the most successful Indian film ever. So what if it [sic] the funds came from outside India. The funds for 'Bandit Queen' came from the same source and it is considered an Indian film. The funds for 'Chandni Chowk to China' came from Warner Brothers, but it is considered an Indian film," Kapur noted on his blog.

"Except for the director, screenwriter and one of the producers, everyone else of the 100-odd people that make a complete film unit were Indian. The film is also based on book by an Indian author," he added.

Bachchan, who has since backtracked, slammed the film on his blog. "'Slumdog Millionaire' projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots."

"Audiences do not judge a film on the basis of its maker, but how the film is made. Since 'Slumdog...' is such a good film, it would have got such a reaction even it were made by any director whether Indian or Westner," said Kunal Kohli.

Sriram Raghavan, of "Johnny Gaddar" fame, said: "A really good film made by and Indian will sure appeal world wide. And we do have films like 'Bandit Queen' and 'Monsoon Wedding', which have won raves reviews all over."

A crew-member from "Slumdog Millionaire" said on condition of anonymity: "The story of 'Slumdog...' is about hope and optimism and it is not highlighting the harsh reality of Indian poverty. That way we also have films like 'Chandni Bar', but they don't hit under the belt.

"'Slumdog...' has got nothing to do with a Western making the film. We also have a lot of talented here but they are scared to take the jump. We are half-hearted in our approach because we make films for money and so we are not honest in our projects. Danny Boyle being a Britisher believed in his project."

Based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup's bestseller "Q&A", "Slumdog Millionaire" have become the cynosure of all festivals around the world and won four Golden Globe awards apart from bagging 11 nominations at the forthcoming BAFTA awards. It is tipped to a big draw at Academy Awards too.

Swarup too argues the film does not portray the "underbelly" of Indian poverty.

"What it shows is that stories from India are finding increasing resonance in the world. There is a huge hunger about to know about India," Swarup, currently India's deputy high commissioner to South Africa, told IANS in an interview last week.

"The novel strikes a chord with ordinary people because it's about endless possibilities of life - anything is possible. The themes the novel explores like love, friendship and fate, are universal," he added.

Bachchan seemed to have overlooked and brushed under the carpet Indian filmmakers who did get global recognition.

Film maestro Satyajit Ray was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Oscar and Bhanu Athaiya bagged the coveted trophy for the best costumes for "Gandhi".

Moreover, Mehboob Khan's "Mother India", Vidhu Vinod Chopra's short film "An Encounter with Faces", Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay", Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" and Ashwin Kumar's short-film "Little Terrorist" won Oscar nominations.

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