Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A series of fortunate co-incidences

Lets play this little game. And no, this doesn't win you 2 crore rupees,oops 20 million.

You are a citizen in one of those first world countries. Close your eyes and tell me what are the images that you visualize when I say India. Like in Who Wants to Be Millionaire I'll also give you options to make your job easier.

a) Taj Mahal
b) Beggars (specifically child beggars)
c) Muslim dons
d) Religious riots
e) Slums
f) More slums

If your answer is all of them and not much else, you are on Danny Boyle's side.

Now second question. Which amongst the following are thoroughly realistic?

a) Policemen and constables conducting interrogations in impeccable English.
b) Boys growing up in slums who go on to become thieves to make a living and in the process gain something more than just cash, a British accent.
c) A game show being shown live across news channels with what seems to be the entire nation hooked on.
d) The contestant being recognized by random people in the street. The contestant then having finished his round, sitting alone in one of Mumbai's most crowded railway stations a few hours later.

Now, if you think the answer is none of the above then move over to my side. And sorry, you do not have much company here.

For someone who has grown up watching Pakistani terrorists and Canadian doctors speaking tamizh , the above points shouldn't seem like major issues. But then I choose to apply the same yardstick and therefore ridicule the happenings on screen. Besides the afore mentioned movies did not go on to win Golden Globes.

Frankly, Slumdog Millionaire makes for a riveting drama. If I was born and brought up in the UK I would have lapped up every single frame of the movie. But being an Indian most of the movie seems to me like short selling of the true India to pander to the sensitivities of the western audience.

As stated earlier I hold nothing against the movie or its basic plot and the execution. An adaptation of Q and A by Vikas Swarup, the narrative which crisscrosses between the present and the past, is a delight and is captured beautifully on camera, starting from the initial "chase sequence" to the game show. Every single actor fits the bill perfectly, from the young Salim and Jamal to Shaurabh Shukla as Sergeant(?) Srinivas. The movie , though , belongs to Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor. Dev Patel wins your heart (besides the money, of course) with an understated performance. But, I would stick my neck out and say that it is Anil Kapoor who delivers the film's best with a calculated over the top performance. Freido Pinto looks simple and stunning. AR Rahman's background score for this movie cannot escape mention in any review and to state the well known and the widely accepted, it is simply stunning.

On the whole it is a good drama and any more significance to it will depend on which side of the Indian border you reside in.

14 comments:

Jas said...

Agree to some of your points. But being a english movie, the dialogue's have to be in english where ever appropriate. Thats why the kids spoke in hindi whereas the grown ups spoke English. Reading subtitles would irk any non-desi viewer and wouldn't have a global reach.

The game show being watched by the whole nation. Yes, Kaun banega crorepati was a super hit. Every household was glued to the TV at that time.

D could be partly right. If the guy who is "sitting on the floor in a railway station" was SRK. Trust me, no one would ever notice.

Susa said...

Subtle reference somewhere in there to Tamil speaking Pakistanis. Beware Kutty, cities'll burn if others come to know of this slur on our good Captain's name.

S Balaji Srinivasan said...

"....the movie seems to me like short selling of the true India to pander to the sensitivities of the western audience." - perfect!!
I am pretty sure the movie will be a run away hit when it releases in India.

The Mudd said...

I concur on many of these points...
Especially how he gets the brit accent... ridiculous... when irfan khan and anil kapoor can speak wit the indian accent, why cant her... frikkin slumdog.
But "tell me what are the images that you visualize when I say India" .. the points that u mentioned are definitely not the only things that come to mind for a foreigner today... the point is that in spite of all this, this particular jamal won the 20 mn.
Yes, the news channels covering it is a glitch... but don u think the bigger comedy is that they play the episode almost live ??... i don think thats what used to happen..by the time hes on his way to the next episode, everyone has already seen the previous one (that happened one day earlier)...
N personally, I think Anil Kapoor did a terrible job.. "Who wants to be a Millinair".. they should've seriously got someone else to do it.
But yes, BG Score and Screenplay are impeccable.

Hariharan said...

jas,

for a film which is supposed to be hard hitting and "realistic", such things should be of not much concern.

and besides even the very little hindi dialogue which is there was apparently added much later to add nativity to the whole thing.. and regarding srk.. is that a point about the noticeable difference in appearance between movies and reality?

jas and mudd..

my point is not just about it being telecast in a news channel or it being telecast live, it is that both of these happen together.. as much as a media baiter that I am I still find this extremely hard to digest..

susa,

i am just trying to showcase Captain's film in a global perspective.. :)

balaji,

doubt it very much.. now that apparently amitabh has slammed the film, expect a horde of critics to switch sides and call the film terrible..

mudd,

agreed.. one thing which comes into their mind and I have missed out but Boyle hasn't is the call centres...

krishnan parthasarathi said...

"....the movie seems to me like short selling of the true India..."

Do you think the true India looks vastly different from what was shown in the movie? Of course ignoring the English speaking slum dwellers and cops.

Tamizhmarai said...

No da, I dont agree with you.

Firstly the movie was made for an international audience and it is alright for the characters to speak english if that is the best way to communicate to people. I read that Boyle wanted even Anil Kapoor to do a British accent and the reason Irfan and the constable spoke Indian accent was probably because they could not manage a decent British one.

Also, this is definitely not the image that outsiders have of India. They know about the economy, the malls, bollywood, software industry et al and yet none of the visuals in the movie are false. The slums do exist, hindu muslim fights go on, child beggars are there! It is unfair to say Boyle is focusing only on this darker aspect of India and is short selling to pander etc. If his movie demands only this aspect, so be it.

Hariharan said...

tamizh..

refer to my line on Pakistan terrorists and Canadian doctors. Those movies are also made for a tamizh speaking audience. Wouldn't you agree with me that we found that to be insanely funny. Why not the same with this? Same issue, why different yardsticks.

and regarding your point on what image the westerners have. They may know about the software industry but still for them India's unique "selling" points if you may call them are what are shown in the movie.

Hariharan said...

pk and tamizh..

my issue is not that he's showcased these particular aspects, but its that he's showcased only these aspects.

For instance if a movie was to be taken in the US or Uk focusing only on drugs, child pregnancies, prejudice against asians, unwarranted harassment of muslims and so forth , would that be taken as a so called attempt at honest portrayal and appreciated for the same.

Agreed that whatever he's shown does exist in India. But then so does a vibrancy which is unique to our nation. For so many thousands of years our nation has had people from varied social religious backgrounds who have lived peacefully. But then, by just showing religious riots he seems to define us as an intolerant nation when we are anything but. We are a nation of hope for millions , but this movie only shows the downside and whatever positive seems to happen is by coincidence.

Boyle (and also Swarup who wrote the novel) seems to have stuck to every single Indian stereotype.

And tamiz, I guess the reason foro my angst is there as part of your comments. While it is clear that the commercial aspects have driven the movie, why come now and proclaim it as some genial realistic hard hitting movie when it is anything but?

Vasu said...

I think this is a very nice review of the film....

It was entertaining in a sense that you did not know 2 hrs has gone by, but nothing more than that...

and the background score was simply brilliant....

Tamizhmarai said...

Kutty, yes it was funny to see paki terrorists in tamizh movies speak tamizh, albeit with a northie accent, but it made good movie sense to do that rather than have him speak impeccable urdu and have tamizh subscripts. It is funny to see slumdawgs speak with a british accent, but that leaves the viewer to foucs on the story. Same yardsticks, same conclusion!

And again, yes there are so many other things that India is known for (while the bit about being a tolerant nation is debatable in the present circumstances), but if the story is pivoted around a slum guy's rise, it will obviously have him face the tensions of his everyday life; riots, survival, dons, child beaggars etc.

I think Boyle does in a way shows the 'vibrancy' and 'hope for millions' towards the end when an entire nation cheers the victory of a slumdog irrespective of caste and religion.

For eg. what if I say "Bombay" misrepresents India because we are a 'tolerant nation' and Mani Ratnam is doing injustice by focusing only on the Mumbai riots when we are actually very peace loving etc. Well both of us know I am wrong as the director of the movies wanted to focus on those aspects, and it is fair to let him to do so.

I think the larger issue here is that you are piqued because it is a foreign director who has made the movie on us - and the portrayal of India in the movie is tiresome yet true.

Agreed, what is shown in the movie is not all that India is, but then it is not meant to be. And I think people do know that, just like how you are wary of the hypothetical US movie on drugs and child pregnancies.

The Mudd said...

ok gentlemen.. i got the solution.. go watch slumdog crorepati.. the hindi version

srikanth said...

Boyle (and also Swarup who wrote the novel) seems to have stuck to every single Indian stereotype.

That's the point.

For instance if a movie was to be taken in the US or Uk focusing only on drugs, child pregnancies, prejudice against asians, unwarranted harassment of muslims and so forth , would that be taken as a so called attempt at honest portrayal and appreciated for the same.

can u elaborate?

While it is clear that the commercial aspects have driven the movie, why come now and proclaim it as some genial realistic hard hitting movie when it is anything but?

Exactly. Who proclaimed?

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