First Watch · Movies

Slumdog Millionaire


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Yes, its absolute and resounding triumph speaks for itself. Stamped by Golden Globe and Oscar wins, Slumdog Millionaire has definitely achieved what no film did before. It put India on the world map, penetrating millions of hearts across the world. It narrated a simple love story with an unmistakable Indian emotion that transcended global boundaries. It won international recognition for some sparkling Indian talent.

Now, is it fair that Slumdog Millonaire also shines the spotlight on Indian slums? The first response would be No. But then, why not? Slums are as integral to India as the minority rich or the growing urban elite. They co-exist with high rise apartment buildings. Not only that, a Jamaal, Salim or Latika living in these slums regularly serve wealthy families for a meagre salary. So why isn’t it fair that their story be told?

The most important thing is it captured the Indian spirit. Agreed, it showed us images of hatred, murk and violence. Of suffering poverty, battered souls and mindless exploitation. Yet, the main characters gleamed through the dark with characterisic spunk and kept us glued through a story of love, perseverance and hope. Jamaal’s relentless love for Latika is believable only set in Indian context.

Slumdog Millionaire‘s flaws are pardonable in retrospect. Dev Patel was awkwardly miscast, his body language and accent were not slumdog. The Oscar-winning script was sluggish during the interrogation scenes. Plus, the factual errors already publicised.

The obvious next question is Danny Boyle. What did he bring to the story that an Indian director could not? The film got its exquisite fairy tale quality thanks to Boyle. He sketches a redeeming picture of the degenerating Salim. Latika retains her spirit in captivity. Jamaal’s idealism is endearing. Most significantly, Boyle brings forth an outsider’s point of view which adds a certain objectivity and humour to the story and characters.

Some are sore about Danny Boyle’s Golden Globe and Oscar wins, arguing that an Indian director would have been ignored for the same effort. That’s not true anymore, AR Rahman won. An Indian director wouldn’t have directed it like Boyle simply because it is hard to be objective about your own story or situation. These kind of films usually end up being quite serious and gritty despite their good intentions. Boyle did deserve the wins and fittingly described Mumbai in his Oscarspeech as: “Unending, inseparable, unborn.”

In contrast, Rahman’s winning speeches were disappointing though it was thrilling to see him win. “Mere paas maa hai“… oh come on! The composer was representing India on an international platform. This wasn’t the time to be self-effacing, this was the moment to do India proud and he let us down. The Gulzar omission was especially notable after Danny Boyle credited even Longines in hisOscar speech!

On a positive note, the film will throw open more opportunity doors and avenues for Indian talent. Freida Pinto and AR Rahman would probably benefit the most.

As for the dissent over the title being disrespectful. It is pretty clear that Slumdogis a metaphor for underdog. A slumdog lies dormant within each of us, waiting to unleash, hoping to win a million rupees and the love of his life like Jamaal did.

Only for Jamaal, it was written…

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Photo Courtesy: Official Facebook Page Slumdog Millionaire
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