Friday, November 28, 2008

"Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) - Movie Review

When Amitabh Bachhan took the hosting seat of “Kaun Banega Crorepathi”, the Indian version of “Who wants to be millionaire?” it had the initial suspicion of how a quiz show distributed among the regular people would even try to get some one to win the competition. Yet, many won a substantial amount of money no one expected to win and finally one contestant did win the one crore rupees named Harshvardhan Navathe.

The show worked for two reasons in my opinion and the first will be the hosting of Bachhan himself. He is the larger than life image who sat there talked with the contestant who grew up watching him kick bad guys on screen just like Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) did and the comfort level he was with them. Unlike the movie’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), he embraced them getting down in his husky masculine voice and the delivery of those conversations came out with the feeling that he really wanted them to win. Second will be the “common” person going out and have a chance to turn around the financial part of their life. That part of the fantasy was the adrenaline and the energy of some one winning gave a hope for the viewers that there is a possibility. That show was the beginning of the game show in Indian Television and ended immediately as the theme popped up dime a dozen.

“Slumdog Millionaire” works through the formula and the definite ending of a high note because as the show itself, we want Jamal to win. In a style of “The Usual Suspects”, Jamal is being interrogated with an initial torture in a police station by Inspector (Irrfan Khan) and a typical terrorizing constable Srinivas (Saurab Shukla). They question on his credibility in being successful so far in the completion. They believe that Jamal an uneducated can never win the contest and he is one shot way from the two crore rupees. The film runs through in three lines, one with Jamal’s interrogation, his flash back and the game itself. How come he was able to answer the questions when his childhood had enough time for a constant running from the law and the street slave runners? Danny Boyle gives a film in blend of Indian and his style of film making.

In the slums of Mumbai, I have seen and stayed for a week in the nearby vicinity of the places the film shows some ten years back. And Boyle with his co-director Loveleen Tandan gives those inhumane conditions to have a child hood with an unbelievable air of positivity. We flinch when the small kid Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) jumps in to pool of fecal matter to escape from the bath room lock his kid brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail) put when the celebrity Bacchan lands in the middle of the slum and yet when Jamal holds the picture of the star high up in the air to run soaked and smelling in the excrete amongst the crowd, it simply marks the energy of him. That bumbling attitude of him makes this formula work charmingly.

In no measure the film surpasses the greatness but I could not stop admiring how it found the place. The rags to riches story could have been made as sports film routine and sap it out till it was dry. But Boyle with his screenwriter Simon Beaufoy weaves an element of thriller, a twist and this journey of the kid along with a brother small stepping to be this gangster and finally running constantly for his love Latika (Freida Pinto). Growing up amongst the dramatic elements of Indian cinema, certain elements obviously would be a run on the mill and yet I liked it. I liked the way how each of the characters identified instantly by looking and hearing their voice which any one who would have watched those films would know about.

With a sufficient amount of film in Hindi, I had a complaint why did they drop it during when Jamal in his early teens (Tanay Hemant Chheda) begin to converse in a very good English. But the rate at which the kids are exposed away from the school to the language is immense that it amidst the nudge convinces us. It has a very regular acting from the leads and supporting roles. They have to be as the motion of the film is the story. It is the editing which runs the show.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the talk of the festivals and a strong contender for many awards. I did not find it extremely appealing in that sense of appreciation. It is what “The Bourne Ultimatum” is for thriller as that for the category of “pleasers”. It is a film for the people who go to films for “entertainment” and for the avid film seekers. It in its non-linear narration provides an interesting story and soothes every part of the genre in the books. It encapsulates the appeal in a much wider audiences and that is a great thing. Rarely films with substance propagate deep and wide as this does.

I mentioned the positivity in the darkest of times in the life of these kids and the locations were shot on those. Never have I seen the colours in despair appeal so much. Similarly the angles of camera by Anthony Dod Mantle placing us in the hot seat and from the corner of the ears of the host and Jamal tickle the enormity of the game show inspiringly. A.R. Rahman gives a peppy back ground score and I sincerely have to thank him for not using the traditional Indian Sitar music. Why does it is a thematic immediacy to use those instruments to give the feel of India? Rahman and Boyle understand that and they provide a racy beat and do see the dance number when the credits run.

For a person who has seen the Bollywood films, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a great film. It gives the city of Mumbai in its vibrancy of destitute with a charisma to it. It always keeps us informed and the shots of flash backs and the game does not stretch a bit. It sinks in as the immaculate completion of a jig saw puzzle. But some one seeing on the planes of wide range of cinema, the film is not great but good. I explained myself in differentiating views for this film as it gives in both styles. “Slumdog Millionaire” does appeal to all the critics in US for that reason for seeing an Indian film to perfection. It delivers that for sure but the routine I have seen growing up is hard to forget being repeated. I liked those repetitions for the nostalgia in subtlety but did not get mesmerized by it.


Aru said...

Ashok !!!!..
I saw the movie.
I immediately came down to read ur review. I liked the movie but i shud say i was surprised to see that you reviewed this like a average to a tending to an average movie types. I have nothing against the views but thought you should have gone ahead with much more praise for the work. I might be biased here because of the indian ethnicity attached to it , but i still think it was an amazing make.. I dont believe in statistics , but definitely will give credit to Rottentomatoes review and i wasnt shocked to see a meter rating more than Shawshank(though both movies are different types) ( Anyways these are just my 2 cents boss !

Ashok said...

Hello Aravind,

I guess I made sure to really say that I liked the film. I was very clear in my review about that. But I could not say it is a great film. It did not move me as the great films does. It is a wonderful and hopeful film. I am actually disappointed with myself that I did not like that film which had not much flaw to it at all. But hey, I got to be honest whether I loved or liked it right ? :-). I am sorry to have disappointed you in that but that is what I felt man. I am happy that you loved it and I liked it too and would definitely watch again in coming days.

Reel Fanatic said...

Great review ... I certainly agree that Boyle's treatment of Mumbai (as much as I can say without actually having been there) was at the same time both thoroughly realistic but at the same time charismatic despite its destitution for the "slumdogs" (and man, do I hate that term!)

Ashok said...

Thanks Keith for the comments !