Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

My friends Dola & Laura asked me what I thought of this much acclaimed film... Frankly, I did not think much of it, and I fail to understand why it has become such a critics' darling. On second thoughts, maybe I have an idea why: it's timing - Slumdog set in Mumbai happened to be released just before the Mumbai massacre in November 2008. And with the world's attention focused on this city and its misfortunes, it is easy to fall in love with this vibrant hopeful movie set in Mumbai, even if it is seriously flawed as a film. Yup, the sympathy factor.

First and foremost it suffers from an identity crisis - it cannot decide whether to be a fable, a fantasy love story or a gritty art house film. It tries to be all of these, plus throws in a healthy dose of Bollywood Music for good measure and mass appeal. Granted, many movies combine genres with great panache, but in order for a such a combination to be successful it has to do so seamlessly. And have a heart. And for me, this is where Slumdog fails. The present day story is inter-cut with events from the Protagonist's past: These flashbacks are intended to explain his current predicament and advance the narrative - however, they end up feeling forced and the back and forth slows down the story significantly, and create a disconnect from the main characters.

If you have heard that is extremely violent, you've heard right. And the violence is excessively graphic - so bad, that ultimately I felt numbed by it. In spite of it though, or perhaps because of it, this film succeeds in one very big way: it brings to light the awful and very real living conditions of the slum dwellers in India. And if this helps even a small handful of these children escape those conditions it would be worth it. They don't need to become millionaires, they just need a real lifeline out of there...

2 comments:

kevinsneel said...

Well, I enjoyed it. Sure, the back-and-forth thing was a bit of a gimmick, and you really do have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief, but it's a fairy tale ending, and does indeed help to dramatize the horrors of slum life.

Not an Oscar best picture for sure, but I still think worth watching.

Dola said...

Thanks Satarupa. Infact, I had been thinking, re thinking, thinking again whether I should at all go to watch the film. I will not now!!! Enough of this under belly! Yes, as you have said Satarupa, if a film like this changes the lives of these hapless slum dwellers even by an inch, it is worth. But please directors, (National and International) , do not exxagerate/romanticise a situation that is already sad and pitiable.