Saturday, January 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

hmm , so this is a tough one, since I've been already heard so many very disparate ends of the story on this one.. where do I peg it? 

I think it was decent. If it had been an unheard of movie, made by some Indian director, which I'd seen unexpectedly while flicking channels, I'd have gone so far as to say, it was a good movie, with really good music, and a decent story. Kept a decent pace, however, it had its pathetic moments. As movies go, I'd say it was in fact, a rather "bollywood" movie, and anyone who knows me, knows that I don't mean that as a compliment. 

The problem of course is that we're no longer judging it in those circumstances, we're talking about a movie that's been hyped up beyond all measure, which lots of people have seen and formed strong opnions about, and which, rather surprisingly, has won a few awards and might win some more. Umm , ok, its a fine movie in lowered standards, and I can understand screenplay and music kudos, but best motion picture?? best director?? really ? 

ok, so firstly, I've seen too many really good hindi movies in the past 4-5 years, which no longer have even a passing resemblance to the formula bollywood model. And I no longer wish, as I did 10 years ago, that someone would make decent movies set in India, there are too many of those now, and most of them much better than this. 

Couple of grouses:
Fairytale endings - I've never been a fan of these, in books or movies. 
And I'm no longer inclined to make any excuses for silly sentimental boy "gets" girl ending.

The so called harsh reality - Just because a thing is "true", doesn't automatically mean that showing it in full glory makes for great cinema. eg. the slums. And, there are no easy "truths" anyway, and positioning everything as bad sad, and showing it as is, certainly didn't appeal to me.  
Sure child abuse happens, so did Monsoon Wedding show a long detailed shot of the uncle kissing the niece? Would that really have left even a tenth of the impact that the actual protrayal did? Was the point about child abuse, or about the fact that the hopeful message comes in the form of Naseer eventually banishing the said uncle? 
Sure the nazis might have pulled out gold filled teeth from the jews, but did Schindlers list have a long lingering shot of said truth? What it had was a bucketful of gold filled teeth placed in front of someone. Think and draw your conclusions. What it had was a hopeful ending of people having their gold filling removed to make a ring for Schindler. 
Anyway subtelity and leaving something for someone to ponder and chew over, was never bollywood style, and it isn't danny's either. Long lingering shots of the slums, the filth, the blinding, isn't my idea of elevated cinema, irrespective of who makes it. 

The optimism - I also have a serious issue with the tomtomming of the movie as one with a hopeful and optimistic message. I don't know if I'd really call it "optimism". The whole "it is written" just confirms the steretype of fatalism. I am a fatalist in some ways, but I don't think fatalism, when good things are fated to happen, is necessarily the same as optimism and hope. After all, a lot of evil is written as well. Speaking of "it is written" 

So, thats a long post for a movie that certainly didn't deserve such a long post. But in all fairness, I'm not sure if my usual short ," good movie, goes over the top in many places, but worth a watch"  would have sufficed for this one.  The previous line holds good, but only if you completely ignore all silly "best movie, best direction" things and forget that this is what a foreign director could come up with. I've consciously avoided the foreigners trying to portray India in a bad light debate, I think enough has been said about it. And by no means is this music Rehman's best, but you know what, the foreign awards can only come in a movie which confirms to foreign stereotypes. Guess thats ok, too, after all, I have better Indian Hindi movies to spend my money on. You can keep your 100 dollar bills, thank you, my real america. 


Anantha said...

Hi Tess,

Nice post.

I too admire the very idea of the screenplay.
Read Vikas Swarup's book Slumdog Millionaire ['previously published as Q n A', as cover page reads :)] too. The book is lot different story wise, and more of glorifying the 'real truth'..

Tess said...

@Anantha - Thanks! I'd like to read the book too. The very title QnA itself seems to convey a lot more than the slumdog stuff.