Saturday, February 7, 2009


The movie weekend marathon enters Day 2 and today was the turn of Slumdog Millionaire. But first stop was at the Tambolis for lunch. After a heavy dhansakh and religious sermons, time just flew by, just like that! So I picked up mom en route to Sterling (love the cinema hall, one of my favourites and still possibly the most affordable multiplex in Bombay during peak hours, flat rate of Rs 120/- per seat). Yes, yes, I know other cinemas offer Rs 60-Rs 80 priced tickets, but I am not an idiot to get up at 7.30 am in the morning and rush to the multiplex to catch the 8.00 am morning show. Sterling holds a special place in my life; I was stranded at the cinema hall with my neighbour Pervin, her pinky-pinky massi and her die-hard SRK fan brother, on the night of 26-11

So anyway, how did I find Slumdog? Well, overall it was quite nice. Almost everything that is shown in the movie about Mumbai is true. You don't like to believe, but it's true. Slums are very much a part of this bustling metropolis, the beggar mafia, the religion divide, and much of the stuff that is thrown at your face. But Danny Boyle may have gone a bit too far in depicting the despicable lifestyle of slum children if he thinks a young child would purposely drop right in the middle of a shit-pit just so to get ahead in the queue (completely drenched in shit) to get an autograph of Amitabh Bachchan. Common, Mr Boyle! I could see you were looking at cinematic excellence much like any gora film maker who likes to take pictures of slums, poverty, etc , but did you really have to show that??? And much as you thump your chest about the so-called lack of security, I do not think Amitabh Bachchan's helicopter must be landing so close to the slums that the slum children can come within a striking of AB soon after he lands on at the Mumbai airport. 

Still, these are minor complaints in an otherwise praiseworthy accomplishment. Direction, AR Rahman's music, cinematography, editing and screenplay were top-rate. Acting by most of the actors was pathetic. The boy and the girl were quite ordinary, and even a talent like Irfan Khan was same old-same old. 

About the movie's depiction about slums, etc., I really don't see what the big deal is. I know a majority of Indians would not have liked Slumdog Millionaire. Nobody likes to come face-to-face with reality, nobody likes to face the truth. Look, I do not think Danny Boyle or anyone senior associated with the production team thinks of India as only slums. Nor are they making any statement that US is still the greatest country in the world and India is a third-world country. The whole world knows that India has arrived. And no I am not talking of one of the most abused word in recent times: eight per cent growth. But yes, things here have changed. Yes the divide between the rich and poor have widened and yes there is corruption and societal divides here, but they're everywhere. To say that a gora film maker who makes movies of Indian slums is glorifying the vicious living conditions and sending picture postcards to his family in the US and endorses that these things happen only in India, is baseless argument. 

Sure it took a Brit director Sam Mendes to make American Beauty; a film revolving around the disjointed and dysfunctional typical American suburban family. If I'd be a an American and a suburbanite, I might have just as well been offended, but I do not think Americans protested against it. 'Crash' was another brilliant movie that portrayed racial killings, racial profiling. Some Americans may have protested; who knows. But an American did make this disturbing, yet classy movie, with racial discrimination going on in the US as its backdrop. Another movie that comes to my mind is Syrianna. Brilliantly captured the Oil/Gulf war/US-Iraq-Iran politics and the nexus between the US government and US oil companies in search of oil in the middle-east. All three movies; awesome, make by goras, loved and appreciated both in US and worldwide and swept almost all awards in the years they were released. And hello, didn't we see the beggar mafia in the Bollywood movie 'Traffic Signal'?

My point is do not politicise movies unnecessarily. The rawness shown in Slumdog is real and it's time we accept it. True, many foreigners like to see slums and poverty, but I do not think that was Danny Boyle's intention. I rest my case. 

K-Rate: * * * *  

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