Saturday, January 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A review

Since the release of Slumdog Millionaire much ink has flown on reviews, perceptions and criticism of the movie. While some perceived the movie as thought provoking and the reason to start a dialog on poverty and racism in India, others found it manipulative.

None other than Amitabh Bachchan criticized the movie on his blog as portraying India as a "third world, dirty, underbelly developing nation" (Amitabh has since done a u-turn and says he loved the movie), while the guardian film blogger Nirpal Dhariwala called Amitabh's view "an empty headed two-rupees worth". While Mr. Dhariwala's entry is scathing and funny to read, he dismisses all Indian cinema as flimsy which in itself is as exaggerated a statement as Mr. Bachchan makes. Not to be left behind, a slum dweller sues the Indian stars of the movie for insulting the poor. So it was with apprehension I went to see the movie.

Let me just come out and say I loved the movie. The story telling, the cinematography, the acting specially by the child actors was first class. The fairy tale romance was a nod to Indians who grow up on a steady diet of movies about forbidden love where the protagonists have to overcome odds and believe that they are destined to be together. Though the movie was made with a global audience in mind, a lot of depth and nuance was given to the story to appeal to Indians as well.

The story weaves through the life of Jamaal, a young teenager who is at the verge of winning a million dollars on the game show "Who wants to be a millionaire?". Suspected of cheating he is questioned by the cops which leads him to reveal events in his life that make it possible for him to know the answers. The movie poignantly transitions from Jamaal knowing the answer Surdas, who was a blind devotional poet to beggar mafia mutilating kids to increase their earning potential or Jamaal answering "bow and arrow" as Lord Rama's weapon, to Muslim Hindu riots in India where Jamaal and his brother become orphans.

If you think the movie is all about heartbreaks, there are a lot of beautiful light moments interlaced through out the story that brought a smile to my face. Jamaal trying to get the autograph of the biggest bollywood star, the kids stealing shoes or Jamaal trying to be a tourist guide. And the overall arch of the story is of love and hope triumphing over all obstacles.

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto the lead pair of the movie who play the roles of teenage Jamaal and his love interest, got a lot of exposure at the Golden Globes, the BAFTA, the VH1 Critics Awards, the London film festival and others. But it was young Jamaal who stole my heart.

The movie showcases some of bollywoods talent as supporting cast, Anil Kapoor as game show host, Irfan Khan as the detective and Saurabh Shukla as the assitant to the detective were in their element. Mahesh Manjrekar as the mafia don was scary.

Choosing A.R. Rahman to provide the music for the movie was no stroke of genius. This prolific forty year old music composer, record producer and musician, who time magazine labelled the Mozart of Madras has been nominated for the Academy awards and won multiple national awards and a Golden Globe. Rahman came out with some great albums last year and Slumdog is on the top.

The graph of the movie, like the story is also a rags to riches story. This low budget movie blew past major studio movies to win four Golden Globes including best drama. Slumdog has also been nominated for ten Academy Awards including three nominations for Mr. Rahman.

Take a bow Mr. Boyle. The world is applauding.

Update: Slumdog Millionaire won the award for Outstanding Performance by the cast at the SAG awards last night. Frieda looked beautiful in a blue Marchesa gown while the men looked dapper in black suits.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Michelle O

My take on Michelle Obama's fashion here earlier on this blog.

Michelle Obama wore a Isabela Toledo lemongrass color dress for the Inauguration ceremony. Though the dress was brocade and looked nice up close but on TV and from a distance the color looked too washed out, and the material reminded me of sofa cover fabric. It didn't help that coat was the same fabric as the dress and the ribbons to tie the coat looked messy. Michelle picked up lime green gloves from J Crew and Jimmy Choo pumps to complete her look. Michelle also was mostly standing by Jill Biden who wore a vibrant Red Coat with some fierce black stiletto boots which made her look like the frumpy one when compared to Jill's stylish look.

In the evening Michelle chose a white, georgette gown from Jason Wu. The style of the gown was great although Cal and I feel she should have picked a more vibrant color. Purple and red looks great on her. The full skirt complemented her but the stitching on the flowers looked incomplete. The dress did show off Michelle's arms beautifully. One of my friends said it looked like she had toilet paper wrapped around her. Ouch!

Both the designers Isabela as well as Jason did not know that their work will get picked by the First Lady. They submitted their designs along with other designers.

Update: Jill Biden chose a Reem Acra red strapless gown for the inauguration ball.


Cal and I loved this Narciso Rodriguez tan and black number Michelle wore for the pre inaugural concert at the Lincoln memorial.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Jodha Akbar

Over the holidays I watched for a second time, Ashutosh Gowarikar's epic drama based on the love story between Jallaluddin Mohammed Akbar, a Mughal emperor and Jodha Bai, a Hindu princess. Ashutosh, for the uninitiated is an acclaimed director from Bollywood who directed Lagaan, a movie that was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.

Ashutosh had a brilliant casting coup by bringing together Hrithik Roshan as Akbar and Aishwarya Rai as Jodha. Although the cast was the USP of the movie their collective beauty blinded me the first time I watched the movie from noticing the well researched story about the unusual alliance between a Hindu princess with the emperor of Hindustan.

Jallaluddin was a kid of thirteen when his father Humayun dies making him the emperor. It was also a time of great turmoil in India. The Moguls wanted to acquire and rule over as much land as possible while the disenfranchised Hindus were making all sorts of alliances. Jalal is thrust into battle since that young age. A certain brutality surrounds him, where he is expected to behead kings that he defeats in battle, where cousins and friends are after his life to take over the empire, where trusted muslim leaders are expecting him to not make friends with the hindus and where hindus trust him even less as they believe that he is not from their land. An alliance wedding with Jodha Bai, a Rajput princess gives him a different perspective. In the process of winning Jodha's heart, Akbar wins the hearts and minds of his subjects.

Ashutosh tries to pack a lot of history and detail in the three hour movie run. The mother who hands over a vial of poison to her daughter Jodha when she is getting married to the Mughal emperor, a defiant Jodha asking the emperor that she be allowed to bring her Hindu God in the palace, Akbar's relationship with his faith and God or Akbar never learning to read or write.

A lot of focus has been placed on Hrithik's character of Akbar and he is spot on. Although the first few scenes of him, you felt like you were watching a GQ spread, Hrithik's command on his diction and his acting capabilities eventually make you believe that he the emperor of Hindustan. Aishwarya on the other hand was not the best choice for Jodha. Though beautiful, her acting capabilities are limited and she seems to float through the role like she is a present day Rajput.

This review will not be complete if I did not mention the costume designer for the movie. Neeta Lulla did a fabulous job in designing both Jodha and Akbar's look.

Overall a watchable movie which could have been better if the director hadn't compromised by casting the most famous names in bollywood.