Monday, December 29, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

I watched Slumdog Millionaire last night and then slept over it to make up my mind whether I liked it or not. On waking up, I find that I like it, but not as much as the hype that has surrounded the movie. I think for this post, I'd go ahead and list what I liked and what I didn't like.

What I Liked
I like that the movie was not about India. Yes, it was set in India and played by Indian actors speaking Hindi and Indian English. However, the movie was not about India. The objective of the movie is not to tell the audience about India or how people in India live and behave. It isn't even to document the life of the slums of Mumbai. Instead, it narrates the story of a person from the lowermost strata of human society – that of a slumdog from a developing economy and the sheer irony of his life as he watches 2 Crore rupees being handed out to answer simple questions and his dreams wither away simultaneously. It is about how there are ways you can acquire insane amounts of money and yet that money can't really buy you what you want.

I like the way the movie uses Bollywood cliches and yet remains quintessentially a non-Bollywood film. Two brothers, born in poverty, orphans, fending for themselves, moving onto completely different paths in life and then uniting and one of them sacrificing for the other. Children captured and disabled for begging. Idealistic romantic love being crux of the plot. And yet, this is a movie that contemporary Bollywood cannot make. It needs Danny Boyle and the international stamp to carry it through. The likes of Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto cannot give a hit movie in Bollywood. A story centered around a gameshow can never be a success in Bollywood. It is a happy and a sad thing at the same time.

I like Irfan Khan. He has a small role, cut out in small little pieces which give him only a dialog or two every time he's on screen. And yet, he leaves a mark. After you finish the movie, you remember him.

I like Frieda Pinto. She does not have a face that can be successful in Bollywood. It is dark and sultry and not North Indian enough. It is good that the movie is not really a Bollywood movie. I hope she gets good work outside the country.

I liked how Indian the whole production was. The film was shot in India using Indian cast and crew. And according to the media, the entire production was done the Indian way. It gives a very distinct India feel to the movie. As an Indian, it may not mean much to me, but I can imagine the kind of impact the visuals will therefore have on a western audience. As far as I can tell all locations in the movie seem to be real locations. Just technically, I think it was very courageous of Danny Boyle to go ahead and make this film.

What I did not Like

I didn't like the way the game show host behaved. Kaun Banega Crorepati was not made in the same spirit. Amitabh Bachhan as a host was always polite and humble irrespective of the stature of the person in the hot seat. We got all sorts of people in the hot seat, from respected professionals to unknown housewives. And yet, Mr Bachhan was always the gentleman. Watching the movie, I found the kind of ridicule and contempt being piled on the 'chaiwala' highly irritating.

I didn't like Dev Patel's accent. Not that there is something wrong with it in itself. Just what with everyone around him speaking Hindi and Indian English, a wester English accent was grossly out of place. Danny Boyle should really have cast someone else. But then his argument was also valid. Actors seeking to enter Bollywood spent 6 hours in the gym every day. Those guys would just not have fit the bill.

I didn't understand why Jamal went to the game show at all. Yes, Latika would have been watching. So?

I guess I've ended up writing more good than bad. So maybe it is a good movie after all. :)

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. I also finished the movie today and share the same thought : it is good but not as good as hyped. And i think the reason for that is that we are Indians and we know a lot of these things already said in some or the other movie. I feel for the people outside it is a new kind of a presentation, something akin to City of God and Salaam Bombay. That's why the hype.
    I also hated the Dev Patel's english accent towards the end. But comparing the show host to Amitabh is unfair becuase it is cast as a different character. But of course, you are free to dislike him. Irfan khan is a gem which the Bollywood does not know where to put at all.

  2. @ Anonymous - Thanks for reading the blog. I agree that comparing the show host to Amitabh might be unfair but it is not illogical. The character is most definitely imitating the show - phrases like 'Computer Ji' and 'Lock Kiya Jaye'. And it might be just me but he is also copying the body language and diction of Amitabh. So an association is not completely irrational.

    I agree that the reaction of an Indian audience will be very different from that of a western audience.

  3. I guess both of them didn't have facebook profiles.. so had to go on the game show :P See that why social networking is soo important, and people call it a waste of time!

  4. @ Ankit - Perhaps he wanted to go on the game show so that he could earn money and buy computer and internet connection for himself and Latika.

  5. Very nice review and very interesting perspective on the movie. I agree completely on the Dev Patel issue, he simply 'sounded' out of place.

    I discussed this movie too, but placed it in a more Indian context. Your perspective is also valid.

    I also compared it to Swades. What I say might sound a bit contradictory in the context of my post on the middle class, but my position is that while the middle class is apathetic to India's politics, it is not apathetic to its poverty.

  6. I exactly felt the same way about" wat not liked points"

    If compared with danny boyle's last movie "Trainspotting"..this movies gives the same feel..

  7. @ NIKKIEE - I haven't seen Trainspotting. I need to.