Friday, January 23, 2009

Riding the 'Slumdog' bandwagon, post Oscar nod

I have seen Slumdog Millionaire. Twice as a matter of fact. I liked the film. No, it's not my favourite film, neither it's the best film I have seen this year. There are several contender for that award. But this is not the topic of our discussion. Back to ‘Slumdog.’ I liked the film. However, I can empathise with those who are crying hoarse about the film being a 'poverty porn.' No, its not a very innocent film. There is an amount of exotica, a sort of 'It-happens-only-in-India' kind of element in the film. Remember the first swiping shot, of the kids playing on the tarmac of a runaway and the policemen chasing them through the mire of the famed Bombay slums. This is India seen by a foreign eye (and a very good cinematographer). But can you beat the beauty of the scene, the fast cuts, the joy of the children running, the vibrancy among the squalour? The background score? Here we rest our case.
Slumdog Millionaire’ is a Bollywood film made in Hollywood. Technically, it's world class, no wonder it has garnered several nominations in the technical category. It's 'Saalam Bombay' on acid, as the expression goes. It's a soap opera, a roller-coaster ride. I for one even wonder why people are talking about slums and poverty depicted in the film. When slums are a reality and part and parcel of the Bombay existence, why shy away from it, even if it's being seen from a foreign point of view. I mean, 'Shantaram' the novel, has more so called negative things to say about the Bombay slums, imagine Mira Nair is, probably, making a film on it, what would be the reactions.
The moot question is does 'Slumdog' deserve such hullabaloo? Yes and no. This is a good Hollywood film. That's it. I would give it four star out of five. I would probably give an award to the actor who portrays the young Jamal. He was a revelation. The first half-an-hour is the best part of the movie. Then it's a roller-coaster ride as I said earlier. Imagine, Jamal and Latika haven't met for years, but they are still madly in love. It's possible only in a fairy tale world. Oh, I love fairly tale worlds. But is it worth discussing it's implications, how it portrays the country Certainly not. India is far more complex than a pot-boiler movie can depict.

While I am at it, and since the Oscar nominations are out, like any film buff, I feel obliged to give my 'expert' commentary on the possible results to be announced on February 22.
Will 'Slumdog' repeat the Golden Globe act of a double whammy of best director and best picture awards? Unlikely, but not impossible. 'The Cu-rious Case of Benjamin Button' is a strong opponent. It's got 13 nominations, to begin with. And, to begin with, it's a 'Forrest Gump' with a twist. Remember, how the academy embraced 'Gump?' And it's epic scale has Oscar written all over it. After all, it's a good ol' Hollywood film starring Hollywood A-listers, in the style of Cecil DeMille (Now, that's getting little over-board.)...
The other three picture are way too small in the contention and is against the upfront positivity of both 'Button' and 'Slumdog'... ‘The Reader’ is about holocaust (haven't we talked about it enough!), ‘Milk’ is about a gay politician (very good, very good, but...) and ‘Frost/Nixon’ is about a 'bad' American politician at a time when we are just about got rid of another 'bad' American politician.
That reminds me, why on earth Oliver Stone's W. was not even mentioned at the nominations. Was it that bad? I haven't seen the film. Incidentally, Jose Brolin, who play Bush in W. has received a nomination for best supporting actor for 'Milk' ... Good for him.

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