First there was the cat, a tiger, to be more specific that made its author a winner to the world’s most respected English literary award, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2008 bestowed to Aravind Adiga for his debut novel entitled White Tiger.
Then came the Slumdog Millionaire, that made a lot of noise as a very strong contender in ten categories (and winner of eight) for this year’s Oscars.
Although this year’s Best Picture was not at all an Indian or Bollywood production, the actors and the story are portayals of the realities that hound the second most populated and the world’s 12th largest economy.
That’s two in a row for India. Make it three if you’d consider the original piece from which the Slumdog Millionaire was based from, Q&A, a novel authored by another first time Indian novelist Vikas Swarup.
Both creative works have received the nod of thousands of critics, and embraced by the world over.
I have read the White Tiger and watched Slumdog Millionaire. Both are similar in source, tradition and point of view. They share the same message. They show the same India: one dependent on the power of the reader’s imagination and sense of translating words into images while the other is vivid but weaker: using the lens of the cameras to reflect an honest truth, the biases of the production crew in staging their version of reality, and lastly, the perspective of the moviegoer as a passive audience in the unfolding drama.
Both were coming-of-age stories, backdropped by the clashes of poverty and prosperity, youth and maturity, crime and revenge, religion and spirituality, innocence and betrayal, fight and surrender, fate and destiny.
These are not new stories. These are old stories told in and from a new territory. Why does it get all the accolades from our American and English brothers? Is this a manifestation of the their conscience at work? Is this their mechanism to cope from the worldwide recession they started? Is this their way of saying, “Don’t look at us. It is more terrible over there”.
And these stories are also our story as a nation. I remember when Malacañang announced that the Philippines will be a first world nation by 2020, they must have been referring to the India model of development: rich in macroeconomic indicators but poor in human development. Big GDP and GNP figures while deeply mal-educated, undernourished and homeless. Very much Christian but morally bankrupt. Democratic but voiceless and powerless. Free yet imprisoned by our own misery.
That is my final answer.