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Slumthoughts

May 22, 2009

So I finally watched Slumdog Millionaire…a lot of people had heavily recommended it to me…and perhaps because of the great expectations I don’t think I loved it as much as many others did. I felt it was directed and edited VERY well, and I loved the snippets of ‘real India’ that were incorporated into the film (like Salim pouring tap water into an empty mineral water bottle and then gluing the ‘seal’ on). The chase in the beginning, life in the slums, that was very well done. A lot of credit is due to the co-director (India) who was Loveleen Tandan I think. Great production values, and I think Salim was the best actor in the movie.The hero was too childish to be believable as someone with guts – Jamal looked prepubescent throughout the movie, even at the end, AFTER winning. That was probably intentional, but he was too much of a kid for me to have that suspension of disbelief long enough. Frieda Pinto looked like his older sister more than his love interest.

I felt the movie did not live up to the hype. It wasn’t ‘one of the best movies you will see for a long,long time.’ In fact I think Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor were slightly off and they would have been absolutely STONE-COLD BRILLIANT were this a Bollywood movie. Saurab Shukla was perfect – his drawled-out gaali in the first few moments was beautiful. Mahesh Manjrekar probably didn’t need to put in too much of an effort – he’s like this in most of his movies. Slumdog was too dramatic for my taste – reminiscent of The Kite Runner, in fact, which I felt was a pretty bad adaptation. Good production values, lots of pretension, lots of effort to portray foreign cultures as they ‘really’ are, but ultimately too much Hollywood glitz shining through the fake dirt.

As a friend said – ‘I’ve seen better Hindi movies’. Sums up my thoughts very well. A.R. Rahman has come up with better musical scores – Jashne Bahaara of Jodhaa Akbar is far better than Jai Ho, and the video is certainly better choreographed! No, this is certainly not Rahman’s magnum opus.

I also thought that the film was politically fairly neutral, and the portrayal of Muslims tortured by Hindu activists was a brave move by Tandan (I’m guessing she’s Hindu too).

The movie, however, did not show enough of ‘India Shining’ which is possibly why it bombed there. The Blue Billion and ‘India is at the center of the world’ mindset seems to be popular in India nowadays, and it wasn’t exactly reinforced. Then again, Slumdog was based around the life of someone who grew up in a slum, not someone born and bred in a mansion, not one of those fabulously wealthy Indians we read about. This was someone from the majority, and, well, the majority didn’t like seeing themselves. I remember reading an article in TIME that pointed out how cinema is an escape for most Indians, and they had no interest in seeing their lives reflected on the silver screen. It would have been difficult to relate to Indian characters in India speaking English all the time too. The feeling that this would have been better off as a Bollywood production persists – it would have felt so much more natural. Great masala movie, as has been noted by Indian film critics.

Ah well. I’m watching a lot of movies nowadays. Catching up on four years of barely watching movies (relatively speaking, of course). I’ve seen two movies spoofing film industries that I enjoyed quite a bit (Luck by Chance and Tropic Thunder) and now that I’ve watched two Hollywood productions on the trot, I’m switching to some old-fashioned Bollywood. Um. The next two movies I watch will PROBABLY be Jodhaa Akbar and A Wednesday!

No, NOT the feel-good film of the decade. Not in my opinion.

No, NOT the feel-good film of the decade. Not in my opinion.

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