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.


meena said...

The child actors were very good. I felt disappointed when danny boyle made no mention of them in his golden globe speech. In fact, those boys had much bigger roles than did Freida Pinto.

..however, still resent the fact that this essentially bollywood movie needs to be wrapped in slums to be loved by a global audience. Loved Darjeeling Express much better.

girlie girl said...

LOVED this movie!! I thought it was portrayed in such a classy manner!

I liked that Freida mentioned the kids' names in her speech yesterday when they won the "best cast ensamble" at the SAG Awards.

Joules said...

meena, I saw Darjeeling Express also. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. (I usually have low expectations for Owen Wilson movie). Plus the movie had some very funny moments at unexpected places.

Missed seeing Slumdog glorified at the SAG Awards. Love this picture from HHC:

Freida sure is a beautiful girl.