The deal with Slumdog Millionaire

I watched Slumdog Millionaire a couple of weeks ago. I read reviews that were critical of the movie and some that praised the movie, so I went in with minimal expectations.

I ended up being surprised by the movie, mostly in a good way. I hadn’t realized that the movie would have a nice thread of suspense holding it together, which made it interesting to watch. The movie was also nicely paced so it never felt boring. There were parts of the movie which made me cringe because they were difficult to watch. More on this later. Overall though, it was a pretty good movie and definitely worth watching.

Now, to the controversy regarding what the movie showed about Mumbai (and India in general). I had no problem with most of the stuff that was shown in the movie. The poverty that was shown was essential to the movie, given that the main characters were from the slums. You can’t gloss over all that.

So, I cannot understand the holier-than-thou attitude that some people had about the movie. Is it not a fact that you see poverty and filth and squalor in India? Do we not see children begging, children working, children being exploited? Maybe we are so used to it that it doesn’t register to us. But, it is there and it is a part of the India we live in. That the movie was written by a Westerner and directed by another Westerner makes no difference–it was mostly accurate in what it portrayed. And, remember this is a work of fiction we are talking about.

Also, to the people who complained, I’d like to ask them why they don’t complain about the authenticity of most of the films that Bollywood makes? They’re so fantastic, and by that I mean fantasy-like, you might as well call them fantasy movies. Think of the number of Bollywood movies that show the “real India” as opposed to the ones that don’t. So, if someone’s showing a part of India that you don’t like to see on screen, tough luck. Do something about changing India rather than attacking the director and the script writer of the movie.

The fact that is probably hardest to digest, and this sorta hits you when you watch the movie, is that India is still a third-world country. In spite of the wonderful strides we’ve made, we are still a nation that has so many people who don’t make enough money, who can’t afford to eat a nutritious meal, and who don’t have access to clean drinking water among other things.

To go after Slumdog Millionaire is just ridiculous and it’s just happening because it’s a soft and an easy target because of its success. Please.

What I didn’t like about the movie was that it was sometimes over the top. The one sequence where the young Jamal tries to get Amitabh Bachchan’s autograph was, pardon the pun, a load of crap. It was over the top and unnecessary and it was unrealistic.

The other problem I had was with the accents of the brothers when they’re still children but slightly older (after they’ve escaped their horrible situation). They sounded like convent-educated English speaking kids and that part of the movie was jarring. The younger kids were so believable with their accents primarily because they spoke in Hindi. I wish the director (and script writer) would’ve stayed with a mix of Hindi and English for the movie because I think that would’ve made the movie feel even more authentic.

About the child stars who portray the youngest Jamal, Salim, and Latika. They were terrific and it was some of the best acting I’ve seen from children in an Indian movie. For me, they were the true stars of the movie: they were believable, you felt empathy for them, and you were moved by them. Credit should go to the script writer Simon Beaufoy (and Vikas Swarup, the author) for creating such realistic characters.

So much has been said about Rahman’s music but didn’t we all know that he was/is brilliant. It’s just that the world’s finding out about him now. He is really something and if there’s one person I’m rooting for in this year’s Academy Awards, it’s him. If he were a Hollywood composer, he’d be a highly decorated one, so here’s hoping that he wins an Oscar for his contribution to this movie.

If you have not watched Slumdog Millionaire, you should. It may not be the best movie of the year, it may not win an Oscar, but it still is a damn good movie and it is worth watching.


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