Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I watched Slumdog Millionaire this weekend and I have to say I'm a little confused about how I feel about the film.
First of all, unless you're from another planet, it is impossible to walk into the cinema hall to watch this film without any expectations. It has been lauded with superlatives by critics across the globe and it has won 4 major awards at the Golden Globes this year. It is expected to repeat that performance at the Oscars next month.

With all these expectations, I walked in hoping to be 'wow'ed, I mean absolutely 'holy-smoke-that-was amazing' wowed. But to be honest, I was only just impressed.
Firstly, being an Indian, I felt the urge to dissect the film a lot more than others. There were plenty of moments in the film when I went "whoa! that was a little exaggerated". Would I have done the same if the same film was based in, lets say 'Mexico'? Probably Not.

Secondly, its the hype. This is a very good film, no doubt about it. But the hype surrounding it makes it look like a path-breaking must-see film, which it is not. It is a 100% filmi film, with all the right masala in it. The only difference is the way it is served.
Danny Boyle is one crafty filmmaker. He takes a good story (Vikas Swarup's Q&A) based in an exotic foreign land (Mumbai Slums), adds the right dose of shocking images, gets a great soundtrack by Rahman and infuses some symbolism at the right places, and voila!.. you have a potential Oscar winner.
Oscars and the like always seem a little weird for me. A little overrated, perhaps. Why should one lobby furiously for his film to win this award? Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose of the best film winning? I've never really understood the intricacies involved there. But I digress.

Coming back to the film, there are bits which are clearly stretched from reality for the sake of the film's narrative. I am pretty sure nobody would ever jump into a pile of sh*t just to get AB's autograph. Would News Channels be sitting idle if they found out that the game show contestant who's become a national phenomenon has been arrested without a shred of evidence? Which TV channel would allow its game show host to treat a participant in the same insulting way Anil Kapoor treats Dev Patel?
Which brings me to the actors. I was actually disappointed with Anil Kapoor. I like his range as an actor and the fact that he's willing to take on unconventional roles. But he overdoes it here. Also, I felt that the Host-Participant chemistry could have been given a little more depth and intrigue.
On the other hand, the 2 young leads Dev Patel and Freida Pinto have acted very well indeed.
Dev Patel shows great restraint & control in some difficult scenes. Earnestness, that's what his performance projects. Freida Pinto is disarmingly beautiful. She has a very expressive face, especially those eyes. And a smile which matches Madhuri Dixit's in wattage.
Irrfan Khan is great as usual. Mahesh Manjrekar is his usual annoying self. The real stars of the film are the kids who play the younger versions of the 3 protagonists. Their performances are ashtonishingly real and it is they who give the film the much needed emotional connection with the audience.
Great cinematography and a superb background score elevate the film to something more than just good.
(I thought the song 'n dance at the end was a cute touch too!)

At the end of the day, it is a really good work of fiction, aimed and marketed perfectly to its target audience.
A chaiwalla who doesn't know about the Indian Flag goes on to win 2 Crores after answering all of 15 increasingly difficult questions based on just his life experiences, which were mostly horrific.
Sounds intriguing? You bet. But does it sound plausible? Hmmm.. not so much.

(P.S. : I apologize to everyone who checked my blog in these last 3 weeks only to be disappointed with no new posts. Yes, to all 3 of you :))

(P.S.2: I've gotten hooked to Masakali song from Dilli 6. God bless Rahman!)


anoop said...

A good balanced review my friend.

Though I have not seen the film yet, I'm sure I would feel the same. But I have a good gift, of getting into a cinema hall with no expectations in my head. :)

I always felt that the oscars were over-rated; just hype. I fail to understand why indian cinemas lobby every year to bag an oscar or even submit films to the review committee. I'm sure there have been many films in India which could have bagged the oscars; blame it on the white mans lack of emotional perception!

narendra shenoy said...

great review. Thanks!

whoami said...

In my blog I did mention that it’s worth one time watch. I liked the background score and of course Jai Ho truly stands out.

Since most of the actors are raw they have really put in their heart and soul into the movie.

I must say “It is written” to win at least an Oscar ;)

I did miss your blogs. Welcome back after the brief hiatus!!!

whoami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whoami said...

I have been playing Dilli 6 songs in repeat mode for the past 2 days. Check out Genda Phool and Dilli 6 too. First time I am waiting eagerly waiting for the release of an
Abhisekh Bachchan movie. Hope ARR’s hard work does not go waste like Yuvaraaj!!!

Vivek said...

Somehow the book seemed so much more realistic.
Where was all this hype when the book came out?
Just proves that people don't read anymore.
Rahman did do this one well. I liked dilli-6 and Rehna tu from Delhi - 6 too. (Couldn't identify what instruments were being used)
Finally not the same stuff again.