If the editorial views of four English-language newspapers, one from Chennai, one from Bengaluru, one from Mumbai and yet another from Mumbai, represent the views of the average Indian citizen on the Oscars won by Slumdog Millionaire they make querulous reading indeed. Deccan Herald (February 24) felt that though AR Rehman ?is already considered a master composer in domestic cinema? his Oscar win ensures that he has now ?arrived truly and surely in the international arena?. As for Rasul Pookutty'swin, the paper said that it ?underlines the ability of the new breed of Indian technicians to do international quality work?. As the paper saw it, thought the film had elicited ?some criticism? that it was ?allegedly peddling poverty porn?, the fact was that ?it is its positive spirit that has won the world over?. However, the paper warned that ?it will be completely wrong to assume that the success of this film will lead to a spate of India-centric films by Hollywood?. What was new was that ?for the first time a foreign director showed confidence in using so much Indian talent?.
The Indian Express (February 24) was just as sceptical. The victory of the film, it said, ?is just a flash in the pan, a sweet little feel-good moment and nothing else?. The paper said that ?it'sfirst and foremost a British film, not an Indian film and among the reasons for its success are that it followed the Hollywood model of story-telling?. It asked: ?There'sGandhi as a precedent. It won eight Oscars?and what happened?? The paper said that Rahman ?may find doors opening to him in Hollywood? and suggested that he capitalise on his win and bag a few ?non-exotic? projects. For all that, the paper concluded, ?let'ssavour his win for now? because ?this is a moment that'snot likely to be repeated?, and also because what the film had done was to make ?Rahman'sdouble-win special?a global recognition for a truly global musician?.
The Hindu (February 24) said the film was set ?against the backdrop of the cold and pitiless reality of urban India? but was ? a deserving winner?. It noted that ?the staggering interest and the delight and celebration? at the film'svictory ?is a reflection of a curious but revealing fact?, namely, that ?although it has been made by a British director and funded by a European company, it is seen by many as home as an Indian film?. The paper said that ?the style that permeated the film is a curious amalgam?one that represents a true cinematic union between Hollywood and Bollywood?. The Times of India was the one to take note of what Rahman said, namely, that all his life he had the choice of hate and love and he chose love, a nice tribute to the musician. The paper had no inhibitions in praising the film. It said: ?Hush, naysayers. This is Slumdog Millionaire'smoment and let'sput our hands together for the movie'sastounding Oscar success. Let'snot quibble now whether the movie is Indian, British or international. Or whether it is an exploitative celluloid portrayal of India'spoverty by a foreign director.? The paper pointed out that the movie is ?a tale of soaring optimism which is also an Indian reality?. It reminded readers that three Indians have won individual Academy honours ?and that'sa tremendous achievement?.
Most English papers also took note of the award won by the documentary Smile Pinkie. The Hindu specially pointed out that ?in the midst of the delight over Slumdog Millionaire?, we need to pause to also celebrate the victory of this life-affirming documentary about a real fairy tale?.
The documentary was made again by an American, Megan Mylan and was shot in Mirzapur and Varanasi and is about a little girl with a cleft-lip who was successfully operated upon by an Indian surgeon with remarkable finesse. The surgery was financed by an unidentified NGO called Smile Train. We have no information on the NGO and much less about the surgeon, one Dr Subodh Singh. We are told about the hospital in Varanasi where the surgery was conducted but all the information is so meagre. Shouldn'tcredit be given to the hospital and the surgeon and the NGO? Incidentally one would like to know how many such cases of cleft-lip are there in the country, how many of them have access to appropriate surgery and how much would an average operation cost. Has anyone asked Megan Mylan how she came across this particular case of Pinkie and who directed her to this child? And what sort of NGO is Smile Train? Does it extend medical help only in such instances of cleft-lip? Parents of cleft-lipped children surely would like to know more about the NGO and, of course, the surgeons who have specialised in cleft-lip correction. The fact that a half-hour documentary on the subject has won an Oscar is a good opportunity to do a longish article on the subject for the benefit of children with cleft-lips. Here'sa challenge to the media, both print and television, especially to the latter which, in recent times, has invited the attention of the Press Council of India. Apart from that this is an occasion to render real social service to the country.