Sunday, January 04, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Twitterverse had been buzzing about this movie for a few weeks now. And I couldn't hold myself any longer. When I realized that I won't be able to download a good print of the movie off the internet anytime soon, I decided to look up which theaters it was playing in. I asked (who else?) Doni to go with me, and he (reluctantly) agreed even though He'd rather go watch Valkyrie.

I am going to describe and rave about the movie extensively here,(if you want the plot, go to IMDB) and I might unwittingly post some spoilers. So people who haven't seen the movie, proceed with caution. I will, however, try to color the spoilers blue so that it blends in with the background.

Let's first talk about the crew. There are very few Indian people involved in the making of this movie apart from the cast. Actually even the Actor who Plays 18 year old Jamal, Dev Patel, isn't Indian. He's from U.K. His parents were born in Kenya (Thanks @kg86 ) The Director of the movie is Danny Boyle (British) and Co-Director in India was Loveleen Tandan (Indian). None of the producers are Indian, Not Screenplay, not cinematography(which was beautiful, BTW) Production Design, set decoration, costume design, Makeup, sound department, Visual effects... The list goes on.. without Indian names. Still, the movie feels very Indian, and true to reality. I can't think of any other movie which has portrayed India without any embellishment making it more glamorous or more gritty than it actually is.

The movie starts off with amazing editing cutting from the shots of Jamal Malik sitting on the set of KBC and being interrogated/tortured by the police. One can easily assume the KBC part is the flashback and police torture is the present. On KBC, Anil Kapoor makes fun of Jamal's profession, a call center assistant. Calls him a Chai walla. I don't think either of the hosts(SRK or Big B) of the Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire would do such a thing and have the audience laughing at the contestant's expense. (That was for "Kamzor Kadi Kaun"). Something that one might find a little awkward in the beginning is hearing the actors speak 'hinglish'. Dev Patel's accent is not very Indian, (because he's british and he doesn't speak hindi) like the other Indian actors. Which can be explained by the plot(He worked at a call center and probably picked it up there.)

The police wants to know how he got all the answers right on KBC. How did he cheat. Did he have a wire? did someone give him all the answers? Jamal stays calm and composed despite the torture, and tells the cops he just knew all the answers. Then we go into the flashback of his life, which the movie is really about. The scene of the kids playing cricket at the airport immediately brought a smile to my face. Everything was shot/portrayed so 'honestly'.. the cops coming to shoo them away, all the kids running for their lives through the slum 'gully's and rooftops. The background music that is playing during this song is amazing. I got home and immediately downloaded the soundtrack of the movie. I marvel the way they shot the chases so smoothly through the slums. And after all that, it was all really beautiful too.

All the scenes in even the dirtiest, grittiest places, the mumbai slums, red light area, shores of the Yamuna river in Agra etc. are so beautifully composed, that you are in awe of them at all times. The events in his life are the key to the answers to the questions on the show. But the first question, anybody could answer. And has a very perky light hearted story attached to it. Of how he got Amitabh Bacchan's autograph. The second one however, turns the movie right around, and you get to see the dark side of life. As his mother is killed by a mob of hindus in the communal riots.

Some things, having lived in India, and watching the news everyday, hearing the grown-ups talk, one just gets to know about the life of these kids in the slums and on the streets.. so when I saw a van with 'orphanage' written on it, I could predict where the movie was going. But I hope for people who didn't know this dark underbelly of Mumbai, this was a pretty involving twisted plot. I was really glad that Salim does the right thing and they make a run for it, to escape the people from the orphanage who were making them beg for money.

And the rollercoaster ride continues, the movie takes an upbeat pace again. With M.I.A. song 'Paper Planes' playing while the kids earn money hawking stuff in the trains, travelling on the train tops, between two compartments, etc. The scene where they try to steal passenger's food is hilarious yet scary. Then they are in Agra, posing as tourist guides. Again, I believe people who don't know the history of Taj Mahal missed out on a few laugh out loud moments as Jamal screws up and tells the foreign tourists fake stories about Taj Mahal and everything related to it. You don't feel anything's wrong even when the kids are shown stealing money, or back in mumbai now, working at a hotel, re-sealing mineral water bottles..

At one point, I actually felt that the life of these kids is SO BADASS! I wished I had a childhood like that. Because even though they did get into a little bit of trouble, they always came around. They drink, they walk into a red light area, they rescue their old friend Latika... but here comes the disturbing part again.. Elder brother Salim is carrying a gun. And he shoots the orphanage owner! Then meets up with the gangster/don of their slum. I guess we all knew the big brother was the type.

Here on, the movie doesn't hit you in the face as much.. Because no more slum shots, Jamal is working in a call center, his brother is a rich gangster, And Latika lives in a nice house with the Gangster of the slum(I can't remember his name) He goes to meet her, and sees her condition, here is when the movie takes a little romantic turn. Jamal finally tells Latika he loves her. The scenes in VT again bring back the little hustle and bustle and life of mumbai back into the film.

We also see in the later half how the host himself gives Jamal an answer, but his guts tell him to not to listen to the host. And he answers the question correctly. That's what drives Anil kapoor to turn him in to the cops. The news channels are buzzing about this. And all of India is shown glued to their tv sets.. I remember it really used to be like that back when KBC first came on air. Because the biggest prize in 'Kaun Banega Cororepati' is the highest prize in the world in terms of standard of living. The difference from living in a slum to winning 2 crore rupees, is unfathomable!

Okay, enough disclosing the plot of the movie. I will just say, that in the end, there's finally a bollywood style song and dance sequence with the credits. Done very 70's bollywood movie style. I stayed and watched that even though I had to pee really bad. Final verdict, ***** 5 stars! Awesome movie! I love how the slums are portrayed as a very energetic, lively place instead of how people would generally look at it with pity and sorrow.


Cursed♪♫ said...

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Revati said...

Hmmm...I havent seen the movie as yet but thanx anyway...:P