Saturday, March 07, 2009

World is going to the (slum)dogs

Apart from the four movies that Slumdog Millionaire was able to pip for the ‘Best Picture’ award at the Oscars, a few other films also bit dust owing to this Danny Boyle-directed film for another award that this writer wishes was instituted. The award is worst book-to-film adapation award for the year 2008. The other contenders would have been ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, ‘Blindness’.

Slumdog is as different from its source material, Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup’s ‘Q&A’, as the difference between listening to a song and hearing to it live. While the book is logic-defying it never demands your brain to be placed in pause mode and Slumdog, on the other hand, to quote Salman Rushdie, “piles impossibility upon impossibility”.

The movie kicks off with a boy trying to catch a cricket ball and an aeroplane that whizzes past distracts him. This is a trope that is visible throughout the film that those in slums cannot reach dizzying heights and are condemned to fall. To explode this myth, whenever Danny Boyle’s fascination with absurd wide angles and wipes allows, the protagonist Jamal Malik, a slum-dweller, enters a game show that is a variant of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ and thanks to his sheer dumb luck, Jamal ends up pocketing the prize amount.

How the questions are inextricably linked, somehow, to his pulp fiction kind of a life forms the crux of the film. As quiz master Anil Kapoor is menacing and lights up the proceedings in what, otherwise, is a stodgy fare. Some scenes of the movie are repulsive unlike Danny’s sublime ‘Trainspotting’ where Ewan Mc Gregor had to dip himself in the commode. Slumdog is a film made by a foreigner on India for foreigners. Case in point is a young Jamal falling into loads of feces to get Amitabh Bachchan’s autograph. This is supposed to be a shining testimony for the Indians’ deference towards their matinee idols. Danny does pander to some other firangi notions about India too like Taj Mahal, children begging on roads, nubiles turning into nautch girls, third degree police torture and, of course, the song-and-dance routine.

As a matter of fact, the movie does give some amazing chills too. That scene where a young Jamal escapes before his eyes are gouged in order to make him fit for a begging job is something that only Danny could have pulled off. Performances wise Dev Patel is unconvincing as Jamal Malik and is far cry from Swarup’s Ram Mohammad Thomas. He sleepwalks through his role. Freida Pinto as Latika, the childhood sweetheart of Jamal, is definitely over-rated. Her chemistry with Dev Patel is such that heating up a cup of coffee will be a huge task.

The moment you come out of the theatre a couple of Rahman’s numbers (‘Ringa, Ringa’ and ‘Jai Ho’) will stay with you and that’s it. The much-talked-about musical at the end is something Ram Gopal Varma pulled off in Rangeela in similar settings. That was 12 years ago.

If you are really game for some gut-wrenching drama about kids in slums, watch a Romanian film called ‘Underground Children’. Slumdog is a picnic if these two movies are to be compared.

Some recommendations:

Into the Wild: Whoever has heard the original soundtrack prior to watching this Sean Penn-directed movie will know that Eddie Vedder is almost giving a nutshell plot of what to expect while watching the film.
"Society you are a crazy breed; hope you are not lonely without me"
After passing out from college Chris McCandless (a fabulous Emile Hirsch) realises that job is a "20th century invention" and starts craving for "absolute freedom" which he will find when he goes, yes, "into the wild". The poster shows Emile sitting on top of a bus christened as "magic box".
Adapted from Jon Krakauer's book of the same name this is a real-life story. Sean Penn manages to be faithful to the book and, consequently, the viewer is privy to Emile's sojourn to Alaska. His brief encounters with a hippie couple, 16-year-old singer, a farmer and a geriatric who wants to adapt him suffuse the narrative with poignant moments. Some scenes are, however, in critic parlance, a strain on credulity. However, the denouement is sure to leave a giant-size lump in every viewer's mouth.


At 5:07 PM, Blogger Anju Christine said...

Hmmm (again). I didn't get how Into the Wild ended up being recommended at the end. What was the connection again?

At 9:41 PM, Blogger sowmitra said...

Hey I watched "Into the Wild" long time ago...It was good...ending was very different...probably one can't take it so easily...

At 6:46 AM, Blogger garcia kafka said...

I thought that ending was the worst part.. It was going so well and even Sean Penn had to pander to the juvenile Hollywood school of drama..

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Lavanya said...

The review is awesome. You put into words what I felt about both the book and the movie.


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