Before I begin, let me tell you I went in to see Slumdog Millionaire with a lot of anticipation, an open mind and no prejudice. If anything I had desperately wanted to like the movie since I had been defending it without seeing to a couple of friends.
But try as I might I couldn’t find anything remarkable in the fantastic piece of wood that was the blank face of Dev Patel or the wide-eyed innocent freshness of Frieda Pinto that I havnt seen in the millions of faces at Andheri station.
I have read the book by Vikas Swarup and found the script was literally “loosely based” on it. That was the beginning of the disappointment. When everyone from Shobha De who called it a slap on the face of our pretense (or something similar) and Rajeev Masand calls it the reason why we go to the movies all I can think of is the double standards we follow.
I have no problem with a foreigner coming to India, making a quick list of all that’s brown and ugly and stringing it with a plot with more loopholes than Swiss cheese because
a. I grew up on AB flicks where a close up of the young child playing AB would transform while running with stolen chappati into a bell bottomed AB who now steals diamond necklaces.
b. I had seen a brilliant movie called Born into brothels, was amazingly touched by it and in an effort to know more found out how the cast and crew for all practical purposes “used” the children to film something appropriately suited for the Oscar palette . So if Danny Boyle with his English sensibilities decides to play up the stereotypes and pick up a couple of awards by the side, one cant really hold it against him.
Do I have a problem with only the underbelly of India being shown in a time when we are desperately trying to sell a Jaguar driving, Gucci wearing, LV totting Indian to the world? No, because I see this other India everyday when I make my way from the Suburbs to the town. I can delicately keep my hanky on my nose when we cross the swamp near Bandra but the stink will still enter my nose. But equally true is the fact that when I do get off at Churchgate, I proceed to work for a subsidiary company which contributes double digit growth to its Europe based parent.
As GreatBong writes in his review
Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and Geek”.
Even though each of these incidents have actually happened in the United States of America, I would be accused of spinning a fantastic yarn that has no grounding in reality, that has no connection to the “American experience” and my motivations would be questioned, no matter how cinematically spectacular I made my movie. At the very least, I wouldn’t be on 94% on Tomatometer and a strong Oscar favorite.
Even if we leave all the arguments about appeasing the Westerner we can analyse the movie solely on it merit.
The plot is implausible and full of loopholes. Had a certain RGV made it, the very critics who are lavishing praise and stars in their reviews would have found it repetitive and dark. The continuity would have been questioned. Salim just walks into a mega underworld dons life after killing another? If it had happened in an Abbas Mustan movie, it would have been fodder for a funny blogpost. Jamal comes looking for childhood love? How chweet, but imagine all those Sooraj Barjatiya and Karan Johar movies, how cliché! What would have been certainly termed as average or even regressive had an Indian director been at the helm is now being revered as a mirror to our society.
I have always unconditionally loved Rahman’s music, but even to my partial ears this is not the best of his works. I am happy he has won the Golden Globe and for the Academy nominations only for the simple fact that it may lead to more opportunities for him and perhaps and international audience for his previous works.
And the eyesore the last dance was!What’s Farah Khan doing when you need her?
Yes, SlumDog is an okay movie. You can watch on a lazy Sunday on your laptop. Neither is it the best of Bollywood nor is it a genius movie. If its getting international attention thanks to the lobbying skill of its makers at the Oscars, yoo-hoo but for me the Indian entry of Tarein Zameen Par which did not get a shortlist (Ishaan just had dyslexia-almost a western “disease” not TB combined with leprosy to show the real India!) is a far superior product any day. But then again maybe I don’t have the refined sensibilities to really appreciate a good movie. After all I loved OSO and Ghajini.