Thursday, February 26, 2009

The mandatory slumdog rant

It has been a long hiatus indeed and what better way to make a comeback then with a rant about Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that nearly got canned post production, had its producers back out and nearly landed in the 'straight to DVD' pile before being rescued and going on to win 8 oscars. Now that is the feelgood story of the year!
I read Q&A by Vikas Swarup a few months after the book was released and came away with mixed feelings (maybe I reviewed the book on this blog, I cannot remember). However, after watching the movie I am compelled to say that the storyline in the book was far superior to that of the movie - in that the book actually had a storyline. The movie on the other hand is, technically, everything a movie should be. Fast paced, gut wrenching, emotion evoking and ends on a high note where you leaving feeling that all is well with the world.
Now, to the debate that is raging throught the blogosphere and the media.
'How dare this white man, Irishman no less, come to India, film our slums, call us slumdogs and win Oscars!' (Im not sure if the conclusion to this statement is 'where is our share?'!)
First off, slumdog is not an insulting term. It is a colloquial term for an 'underdog from the slums' - as Jamal Malik, the protagonist, was. Secondly, I don't remember reading or hearing the makers of this movie state anywhere that it was a documentary meant to reflect the state of slum dwellers in India.
Which brings me nicely to my point - this is a movie, a work of fiction and should be seen as one. Technically the movie has few flaws, if any. Just as the public is happy to watch something as far fetched as Amitabh Bachchan get off a helicopter and walk into his office (in K3G) so also they should accept a child jumping into shit to get ABs autograph. Just like a 'Lakshya' depicts Indian soldiers winning the Kargil war, so also does Slumdog depict the( highly unlikely) story of a chaiwalla making it to the hot seat of 'Who wants to be a millionaire'.
This is not exploitation. What is exploitation is expecting the movie-makers to provide for the future of the acting children and their families and the entire slum! If the same movie had been made in the UK these child actors would have signed contracts for a certain sum of money and that would be it. It would not matter if the movie won a hundred oscars or was canned!
Such behaviour begs the question - 'If the book Q&A had won the booker, would the entire nation be up in arms about it?' - No, because the book did not show things, it left them to your imagination.
Personally, I think that the movie was a soppy love story, which the book is not and herein lay its lack of appeal to me. People in general and people in the lower socio economic group who are struggling to survive in particular, seldom have the time or the inclination to firstly recognise 'love and destiny' at the age of 5 (was it?) and later pursue it relentlessly for 10 years!
The book was believable, the movie is not and this again should reiterate that it is nothing but a work of fiction. Making it out to be anything more would be insulting to the intelligence of Indians who consider Bollywood an integral part of their 'culture'.


Vik said...

Great blog! I couldn't agree with you more, even thought I haven't read the book. Hollywoody directing/screenplay with all the Bollywoody melodrama. Guess it was a winning combo.

Athena said...

Fastastic blog! couldn't find a better way of describing the movie.
the Indians are getting hysterical about it.It is a work of fiction and the Americans know it. In fact I'll not be surprised if they believe that it was shot on a movie set.
Overall a well made movie.

OnCloud9 said...

i so agree about the protests and criticism being ridiculous

it's just a movie

though a movie that i absolutely i guess we disagree here
it is one of the very few times i enjoyed a movie more than the book it is based on

Niral said...


Welcome to "The Mandatory Slumdog Rant"...