On hearing about how Slumdog millionaire was getting rave reviews in the west , I was damn excited and ran helter skelter to check out the movie . My main thoughts was that the movie is based in Mumbai and directed by somebody like Danny Boyle so it would be really an awesome experience.
Also seeing some promos and I loved the fact that the movie looked “Indian” from the colors and people and the shots .
So you can imagine my disappointment on finally seeing the movie !!!
Let me explain
Some question for Mr. Boyle
Why is it that Irfan Khan and Saurabh shukla speak exactly how an Indian would speak English and our very own Slumdog Patel bhai speaks English in a pure Brit accent ?
Why is it that the cops, brother , goondas can mouth M@#$%#od every 2nd minute and our pure bred Slumdog doesn’t even utter the word even once! Even his brother speaks like how an Indian would speak english . I understand that the movie is in English and characters will speak English but then let everybody be equal , why to effect a pseudo realism by differentiating the characters by their accents ?
The younger versions of the protagonists speak proper Mumbai hindi and suddenly everything changes ? If Danny wanted he could have taken , instead of Dev, a proper Mumbai born and bred actor, just like he allowed Loveleen Tandon to cast the younger versions , but he didn’t .
Coming to the aspects of stereotyping – the movie was replete with the Indian stereotype.
Do Indians consider the Taj Mahal as a monument which they look up to or pray at times of severe duress? I don’t think so , then why shots of Taj were used so extensively during the critical juncture of the movie ( the final question at KBC).
The Amitabh Bacchan fixation – Again !!! but I will let it pass as it was shown very nicely and the young guy really made it believable .
The stark reality of Mumbai life coupled with the vibrant colour depicted , I read , was one of the most liked aspect of the movie - but I ask haven’t we seen this all in our homegrown movies like Satya , Ek challis ki last local, Mumbai Meri Jaan etc the stereo type of the stodgy disgusting policewallah, the brothel sequences, the menacing underworld don, the unrepenting gun-shots , brother kill brother sequences , money=power sequences , rape etc all these have been shown and shown better in some of our movies already . In fact if this style of filmmaking was released in India in the pre Satya days then it would have been a landmark cinema - no denying it . But in 2008 , for a viewer like me who sees almost every movie released , it is not something he hasn’t seen already.
Finally , why did they have to put the Bollywoodish dance sequence during the end credit !!! at that point I felt that the director is trying to make fun of Indian Cinema as it felt so out of place and forcefitted.
You may say that I am nitpicking, but I would say NO – nitpicking would be when I comment on things like we all know that KBC was never a live event and always prerecorded then why was it shown like being live ? anyways that was required for the flow and I understand that some cinematic liberty is ok.
Anyways now let’s come to the things which really stand out in the movie .
The first thing is that the director credits the audience with some degree of intelligence in simple shots like , when the protagonists see each other or speak to each after a long time they recognize each other immediately . This is very unlike normal Indian movies where brothers / couples/father and son don’t recognize each other if they are separated for couple of years! Lots of things are left for the audience to assume which I feel is a very nice touch. Small things like this make the movie stand out.
Most important - The music ..wow .. Rahman’s mark is all over the movie in every shot . In fact I think it is the background score which generates suitable excitement and tension at the right places . It is the music which stitches the narrative together .
Having said that , the movie overall didn’t appeal to me for the mere sake that it didn’t feel different . Which I really expected it to be . But I am sure that the western audiences will be lapping it up as it gives them a completely different way of story telling , vibrant colours and a cinema which is pretty exotic for them.
As for me , I just hope that Indian media doesn’t overdo the hype once Slumdog wins awards as if it is an Indian Achievement .
The only award which they should hold dear would be if Rahman wins which would truly be an Indian achievement and very well deserved , rest of the awards will be the achievement of the West only. For a movie which has only used an Indian theme for the western audience . For all you know it could have been Brazilian or Columbian theme and wouldn’t have been different.
Criticism is welcome.
The above piece was written prior to the Golden Globe results but now that I have seen the Golden Globe results, it validates what I have written . Western Audiences are lapping it up . The awesome thing is that Rahman won !!!!!!! quite an achievement .
Felt so funny when Kate Beckinsale kissed him and our poor ARR somehow composed himself. Kool stuff. Hats off to ARR for being the epitome of simplicity. I think the Academy should be forewarned about how to pronounce his name properly as RAHMAN and not as "ruhmen". Btw what the hell was David Duchovny’s joke about his name ? I didn’t get it and hope it wasn’t denigrating in any way.
Cheers to ARR.