Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Before the media launches on to the Globes with a tag like Slumdogmania; before we link our weird notion of patriotism with an Irishman’s grit and grime take on the “real” India; before we sit outside the Taj Mahal and start praying for an Oscar miracle (as seen on Independence Day) – just hold on. And watch the movie.

Alas. It’s got nothing much for us Indians – since we know the story better. We know that slumdogs do not speak in faint-British accents, we recognize bad acting from good (the middle Salim is so blatantly a rich kid trying too hard to slum-dunk his way through) and we know India.

After reading all the reviews, I sat to watch the movie with the intention of liking it. I didn’t end up hating it in the end; but it left me indifferent. It was like watching a movie where one of the key themes is the indecipherability of Hindi to a foreigner – which it is not fo me.

Having read Q&A last month, the problem is that even the founding script of this movie is weak. The book is built on what we used to call (during skit writing sessions in engineering college) fatte. What if the questions in a quiz show are answered by your life?

Unfortunately, though a short-story might survive on a single fatta, you need moe than a dozen to sustain a novel.

The book, though written in effortless flair, gets quickly tiring after the first two questions – and too predictable. And it’s a book obviously written keeping the white man in mind – sample this dialogue where a satta player explains the game to the young Jamaal – “It is another name for illegal betting. Satta is organized by powerful underworld syndicates in Mumbai with a daily turnover of millions of rupees –“
Sounds more like an edification by a guide to a fat American in shorts and a videocam – doesn’t it?

Coming to the movie, the movie is just a glorified Bollywood love story. As far as the grit goes, the trial-through-shit scene falls flat (a director’s desperate attempt to recapture the glory of his most famous scene) and the realism has been captured better in Mithun flicks. When the young Jamaal breaks into a dance for his Lathika, the thought that went in my mind was that clearly the director had never seen a slum kid dance.

What holds the movie together is Rehman’s juggernaut of a score – shifting moods in a blink. The acting is mostly good – despite the accent, Dev Patel is good (I figure that our own chhora Shahid Kapur might have fancied a chance and shudder at the thought); so are the rest – especially Anil Kapoor (but then where Anil Pappu Kapoor shines as one of the best actors speaks volume about its grittiness – right?) Mahesh Manjrekar is cast as a gangster but thankfully he underplays it – I guess in a Bolly flick he would have hammed and screamed the curtain apart.
Watch the movie, leaving your baggage of reason at the same spot where you leave it when you go for masala flicks. But don’t expect either a Salaam Bombay or a TrainSpotting.

4 comments:

Makybe Diva said...

hmm interesting..

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2009/01/13/1231608705667.html

this one is in news even here .. second article I found in australian age .I guess i will watch it if i come across any more articles ...

TradeExpress said...

you thought stealer you. the moment before i clicked on your link and saw "slumdog" i was considering what i would write in my review of that movie.

ramya sriram said...

just finished watching the movie. Highly disappointing.

Faiz said...

watched it this weekend .. i kinda sorta thot it was well made only, tho dealing with stuff we in india know about (child beggar rackets / prostitution etc) :)) .. but then again, i'm firmly in the hoi polloi front benching movie segemnt ...

the thing is .. i'm not so sure an equally well made movie wud hav made it so far if it hadnt dealt with a slum-like context ..