Salman Rushdie's Full "Fuck Adaptations" Speech
The day after the Academy Awards, Salman Rushdie made headlines in many unscrupulous publications after he remarked that the film "Slumdog Millionaire" (which won eight awards, including "Best Picture") irritated him, was badly-written, and was exploitative -- a sentiment echoed by many.

Never one to mind pissing people off in huge numbers, Rushdie wanted to make sure that he was pissing people off for the right reasons, and that everyone knew exactly what he said during his lecture at Emory University. In case he was unclear.

For this reason, he has published the entirety of his speech about film adaptations in "The Guardian," including thoughts about the upcoming adaptation of his own novel, "Midnight's Children."

From the speech, this is what Rushdie had to say about "Slumdog Millionaire" and director Danny Boyle, on the record:

"It's probably pointless to go up against such a popular film, but let me try.

The problems begin with the work being adapted. Swarup's novel is a corny potboiler, with a plot that defies belief: a boy from the slums somehow manages to get on to the hit Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and answers all his questions correctly because the random accidents of his life have, in a series of outrageous coincidences, given him the information he needs, and are conveniently asked in the order that allows his flashbacks to occur in chronological sequence. This is a patently ridiculous conceit, the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name. It is a plot device faithfully preserved by the film-makers, and lies at the heart of the weirdly renamed Slumdog Millionaire. As a result the film, too, beggars belief.

It used to be the case that western movies about India were about blonde women arriving there to find, almost at once, a maharajah to fall in love with, the supply of such maharajahs being apparently endless and specially provided for English or American blondes; or they were about European women accusing non-maharajah Indians of rape, perhaps because they were so indignant at having being approached by a non-maharajah; or they were about dashing white men galloping about the colonies firing pistols and unsheathing sabres, to varying effect. Now that sort of exoticism has lost its appeal; people want, instead, enough grit and violence to convince themselves that what they are seeing is authentic; but it's still tourism. If the earlier films were raj tourism, maharajah-tourism, then we, today, have slum tourism instead. In an interview conducted at the Telluride film festival last autumn, Boyle, when asked why he had chosen a project so different from his usual material, answered that he had never been to India and knew nothing about it, so he thought this project was a great opportunity. Listening to him, I imagined an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away."

Rushdie didn't like any of the other movies up for Academy Awards either, but he did like that new Batman movie. He especially liked the part where the Joker was all like: "whooosh."

Posted by miracle on Tue, 03 Mar 2009 05:46:58 -0500 -- permanent link

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