Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 120 Minutes
Release Date : 12th Nov, 2008 (USA)
Director : Danny Boyle, Lavleen Tandan (India) ; Co-writer : Simon Beaufoy; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar

As a movie, this one is engrossing and well-paced, a story nicely told, well-acted and well packaged. However, for a die-hard, 'India Shining', almost chip-on-my-shoulder patriot, it makes for slightly depressing viewing, raises a lot of uncomfortable questions.

I hate the fact that there are still so many people in my country, without food, water and sanitation (~600 million). I hate the fact that law and order doesn't exist, its almost the prerogative of a privileged few. I hate the fact the exemption list for our toll roads / highways takes 2 hoardings to list and the VIP list at airports expands every year. Both these things pointing again, towards a few people with all the power. I hate the fact that there is still a class divide, even in metro's, a clear division between the have's and have-not's, and that the have-not's are almost resigned to their fate. I hate the fact that all this is changing too damned slowly. And I hate the fact that there are still slums.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a slum dweller, Jamaal (Dev Patel), who, on a gameshow, answers all the questions and wins the jackpot (about $500,000). And for that, he gets tortured by the police, who cannot believe that an ordinary slum boy can do what a lot of other more deserving people couldn't. He gets harrassed, mis-led and belittled by the game show host (played with great hubris by Anil Kapoor), who also cannot believe that someone who serves tea is sitting in front of him. Slumdog is also the story of how Jamaal knew the answers - the life experiences that had painfully taught him the answers.

And its the story of his affection / bonding with Latika (Freida Pinto), another slum orphan, who criss-crosses his life regularly and his relationship with his elder brother Salim (Madhur Mittal), who's always been the bigger brother, more street smart, more aggressive...

There is nothing that is shown in the film that is not realistic - I think all that is shown could've really happened. You can almost touch the grime, smell the faeces and feel the tension. And I think Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy got the balance just right, it never got too depressing / too sordid, the story moved at a very good pace, the flashbacks here helping to change the mood ever so often. And most of all, I felt it was the casting that was spot-on. The young Jamaal and Salim (engagingly played by Ayush and Azharrudin respectively)
are so innocent, so frail, they get your sympathy straight away, despite the various things they try to steal. And the elder Jamaal exudes just the right mix of naivity, honesty and resignation, makes you warm to him and trust him completely. And Freida is just right for the elder Latika, with eyes that seem to have seen it all, yet looking young and innocent.

I enjoyed the film. There are some scenes that are burnt in my memory (the whole clip about how he knew the answer to who wrote the bhajan 'Darshan do Ghanshyam', for example) and there were others which made me squirm. It reminded me of a small passage in Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner, where it almost seems like you're a guest in your own country. But overall, as I've experienced in reality as well, in India, whatever your circumstances, there is always more hope than despair. And this film is a lovely depiction of that...

PS : I would leave kids at home for this one


rhythm fadia-maniar said...

u seem to have been busy for the last week i guess....looking forward to see slumdog millionare...n i totally agree that here in india there is more hope than despair despite everything...

Anonymous said...

I read the second paragraph of your review with lot of interest. And, wondered what are you doing about it, apart from spending your time watching and then painstakingly writing a review of every other film that gets released?

Unknown said...

grt movie based on india's slum....n it managed to do 200 cr before even coming to India...grt watching us

Divya Prakash said...

I watched this movie 3-4 times before reading yout review and i must say
movie is nicely observed by you. Some scenes of this movie hits one hard as an Indian.
Divya Prakash Dubey

Anonymous said...

The depiction of slums is not the issue here and we Indians most humbly accept our shortcoming ,infact I enjoyed the movie as a form of creative art ,but the problem starts with the stereotyping of the class conflict .....see anil kapoor taunting jamal on his slum back ground and him being a chai wala and more over the audience guffawing in that ugly way in response....wait a minute ..,can you imagine amitabh bacchan letting go such a volley of abuses .Anil does it not in a typical direct way but in a way which says much more than it appears to naked eyes .I dont think that was in good taste ..that brings out the primitive western instincts ,as the saviors of moral uprightness .a colonial hangover that never lets go..and the stereotyping of indians and more so as the inhabitants of the subcontinent .We dont disagree with the fact that there is class conflict ,but it exists in every civilisation to a certain extent ,thankfully our constitution strictly prohibits such discrimination on a public medium like television.We own up to our poverty ,our poor health services ,our corruption ,our politics.. we are trying to improve things and are increasingly successfull.To sum it up I would quote the director of "Dharavi " who talks about this BBC documentary being filmed during the course of of filming Dharavi .He was requested to help the BBC crew around dharavi .He says during a shot inside a hut one of the BBC crew comes screaming "stop.....theres a telivision set inside"....A telivision set is out of place in a slum ........! Somebody said journalism? Infact journalism with a script...This hasnt stopped us getting this far.... we have a long way to go and we assure the west , we will be there ....where no BBC ,danny boyle script can think of no time... !till than ride Tatas jaguar and Rovers ....our day will be when we see these in our countryside ..the common man being able to afford them.. Jai Hind.

Mohan Gundu said...

Hi Apurv, first, I really enjoy your blog, and it does the job of rationing my limited movie credits with Gauri brilliantly. Saves me from the CC2Cs etc which I may have otherwise succumbed to.

Regarding Slumdog, I see a lot of comment, but almost no one seems to have read the book from which it has been adapted. It was written by a career Indian bureaucrat, and amazingly, it was his first book. So all the raving and ranting about the West viewing India through this lens and that is simply ignorance - that the whole story was written by an Indian. The book in fact has a lot more. I recommend it the next time you are on a long-haul, and there is a twist in the end as well!

Having said all that, the movie makers have done a fantastic job of adapting it for the screen and the younger protoganists were really good.

Thanks again for saving me from a lot of the trash.

Apurv Nagpal said...

Anonymous (2nd comment)
I do what i can
And i consume, to try and keep the trickle down effect, going

Apurv Nagpal said...

hi ! Mohan
thanks for your comments - I enjoy watching and reviewing and am glad its saved some of my friends some misery.

I havent read the book yet but will definitely do so...


Apurv Nagpal said...

thanks for your comments
while watching, i divorced all propoganda thoughts from my mind - it is a fact, having lived abroad, that CNN / BBC etc are terrible at showing an impartial depiction of events, its really coloured with what they want to message us. in that sense i find it worse than the ex-Russian news etc - at least you knew that was propoganda, while this is far more insidious.
however, as a film, this was nice, well made, engrossing. If this had been set in any other poor country, i would still have liked it. Forget my thoughts as an Indian, its a good film. My rating is for that