Danny Boyle showed Mumbai’s dirty underside to the world in Slumdog Millionaire, right down to its unwashed undies, and we didn’t like it. I recall Amitabh Bachchan raising hell and bitching out Boyle. Weren’t you the man who routinely played the poor guy who got slapped around by the system and bashed till you had watered down crimson paint streaming down in rivulets from various orifices in your body? The one who said that the poor were treated like the scum of the earth and had to stand up in rebellion… You said it and we loved you for it. But that was okay, we’re Indian and only we have the right to parody our own or tell it like it is… No white man’s supposed to do that. And making money out of displaying our poop and dirt is simply adding insult to injury. Getting the Oscar for it is akin to stabbing us right in the gut.
I was upset with Bachchan for bad-mouthing Boyle. I live in Mumbai and know it to be a merciless city for some. That beggars are maimed here, and in other parts of the country deliberately to increase their earning capacity is nothing new. A news channel had conducted a sting a few years ago, and a couple of doctors who performed these amputations on perfectly healthy men were caught and hopefully charged. But the world is a hypocritical one, and even though Chris Rock has free rein to splatter the side-walk with the N word, my five-year old nephew in America has to learn to be politically correct and not call people thin or fat.
“Excuse me, how much horizontally challenging content is in this milk… 1 per cent or two?”
I dread the day but it isn’t far off.
So now Freida Pinto goes and shows us for the bloody hypocrites that we are. She’s spot on… and even though the poor girl doesn’t have the required acting chops and probably never will, she does look amazing, beautiful, brown-skinned and saying it as it is… That people in India are fascinated by white skin.
It’s true… We gape at it when it alights from a flight at the international airport, we paw at it, molesting it at every opportunity we get, and no matter how dark brown we may be, we want to produce children that are fair-skinned, or acquire fair-skinned brides for our coffee bean coloured sons… God save the girl if she happens to produce a dark-skinned daughter.
Yes… we’re brown skinned and we hate it.
Much of our advertising budgets are spent on feeding into the psyche of the Indian man and woman, into that dark skin phobia. It’s nothing new, and everyone wants to make a buck. After all… a soap is a soap… is a soap… unless it can make you whiter.
My mother fair and light-eyed, recalls the visitors who came home or to the hospital or see us when we were born, my siblings and I. The old aunts and relatives who came to have a look, and would surreptitiously move the fabric that bound us, just to make sure that our hands and feet were as fair as our faces. What on earth did they think… that my mother had spent the entire morning applying foundation on our faces? But then the penny dropped… my dad is darker skinned, so they were curious that we seemed fairer.
So Freida gets a thumbs-up from me, and though after reading the reviews I refused to see ‘Miral’, I am actually contemplating buying tickets to go see ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. (I only hope she doesn’t have a big role.)