Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Every (slum)dog has its day.

Kuppamnaai Latshaadhipathi

'Slumdog Millionaire' -- that's what I said above in Tamil. Worth a post so here I am.

Went for a night show with my usual 'kick' of anticipation, being a movie buff and all that. Did n't even want my usual popcorn right in the beginning. The experience began with angry tears -- mine. It's just that I stood in line to get a bottle of water and when my turn came, the twit behind the counter coolly attended another oaf instead of me, who extended his hand with cash (same as I did)...and the twit did the same with the NEXT guy too. I was outraged and asked the twit whether he knew what a queue was...and should he as the guy behind the counter not be the one to acknowledge a queue...??No answer is what I got. 'GRR' was followed by angry tears which I did NOT shed. Blinked them away.

Enough already with the rant, get on with the movie experience, Teesu. Got it.

The movie is about a boy from the slums of Mumbai -- rather, it is about 2 little boys and a little girl from the slums. The boys are brothers and the older one's name is Salim while the younger one is Jamal and the girl is Lathika (in the film). By a twist of fate (Mumbai riots), the three kids are orphaned and end up together because Jamal takes 'specially' to Lathika. They are conned into ending up in a sort of begging ring by a rogue, and face a dubious future there with a strong likelihood of some terrible atrocities and eventually flee from there just in the nick of time. However, Lathika does not make it with the boys and while Jamal is broken hearted about it, Salim's main interest is always shown as his little bro and not Lathika. Well, the rest of the story is about how Jamal can never forget or give up on Lathika and I suppose she loved him too although in a defeatist kind of way! Jamal gets himself onto a Q&A game show based on the popular 'Who wants to be a millionaire / Kaun banega Crorepati' show, again, all for love. (I used to watch the show here years before, just to soak in Amitabh Bachchan's charm:).
In this film, the show's smug, taunting host is Anil Kapoor while Irfan Khan plays the inspector who questions Jamal on his astonishing knowledge that made him answer all the questions, putting him in a position to become a millionaire overnight.

The film is good, no doubt. The characters seem pretty real as do the situations they find themselves in. I suppose British directors have got a penchant for starkness. Still, this film is not overly stark. The actors are brilliant right from the little children to the young men and women they become. And by actors, I mean to include Anil Kapoor (MAN, that guy is trim and does not seem to know the meaning of the verb 'age'!), Irfan Khan (plays an Indian cop to the hilt), the 3 protagonists, etc. But the thing is, we Indians have seen so much more from Anil Kapoor that this role is like 'jujubee' (trivial) for him/us. Naturally, he played the part well. Irfan Khan on the other hand is damn good usually, and in this, he seems to have underplayed it a bit which is brilliant I suppose, considering that the Indian cop generally speaking, is used to seeing the worst of life, and then some! Therefore, he goes from agitated to angry, to rude, to calm, to shrewd and observing, to being understanding, borders on compassionate and finally, to believing. Very nicely done.

AR Rahman. I may get booed for saying this, but we Indians already knew he is a fabulous composer / music director. The rest of the world is just catching on. To me, that's what this noise about Golden Globes and Oscars means. C'mon... how many marvellous creations of ARR's have we enjoyed? In this film sure, the songs are good, but nothing that steps out to be outstanding in the LONG list of great songs he has composed. Still, if it is the first for an Indian at the Oscars / Golden Globes, it IS great, but it is also true that India has not been appreciated enough for all that she has. Now's her time, eh? I would say that India has merely got a platform at the 'elite-global' level with Slumdog Millionaire, to show off the 'tip of the iceberg'. This of course, I mean in a positive way.

Some have criticised the film for portraying India 'slummily'. I beg to differ. Easy for us commonfolk leading cushy lives to be miffed that the poor side of our country has been 'shown up' on an international scale. But, the film shows how even people from the slums have a code they live life by, which I believe is sometimes far superior to us with the well cushioned butts -- literally and figuratively!;) ... Salim's love for his younger brother, Jamal's love for Lathika, the TV host's contempt and condescending tone (slightly overdone I thought), the police inspector lending Jamal a fairly fair ear, the really good acting by the villains, all these deserve a mention.

I like dogs but not slums, for obvious reasons. I strongly object to demeaning a person by calling him a slumdog. But I suppose, it can happen. The chilling scene where the beggar ring rogues prepare to blind a little boy and proceed with the ghastly act left me feeling deeply disturbed, horrified and terribly depressed, even if it is just a movie. I suppose we all know this happens in real life but we are so far removed from it that we are lulled into a happy and comfortable zone.

This film pokes you in the ribs and makes you feel the pain of a 'slum dog'. And then, it also tends towards fairly happy endings. So, watch it. We are going to win some never-before awards, so you have to watch it!
Cheers! Jai Ho and Jai Hind;).


Shyam said...

Obviously you loved the movie! :) I thought the kids were all fantastic, Jamal's pretty good too, but I didnt like Latika that much (as a grown-up) - the 13-year-old Latika was an absolute stunner, though!

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Agree about Latika. No, I did not loovve the film, but liked it quite a bit;)

vishesh said...

this is the best review of the movie I have read..I loved the movie :)