18 November 2008

Fascinating Movie about India

Even though I am living in the spiritual centre of the world at Arunachala, that doesn't mean that I am not a person with ordinary interests. In this respect I love animals, gardening, nature and MOVIES (but generally not musicals). Even though lots of folk have multi-channel cable TVs in Tiruvannamalai, I have elected not to have a TV and instead watch the occasional movie DVD on my computer. But even when I don't watch them, I keep up-to-date with new movie releases. One that I am very eager to watch, when it becomes available on DVD, is a movie currently on general release in the States entitled "Slumdog Millionaire". I am below posting a fascinating review of the movie which currently appears on an International movie website.

For those who love India or are interested in learning more about this country, I believe this movie will be truly insightful.

"Slumdog Millionare" Review

“Bereft of original ideas, Hollywood has been self indulging in tiresome sequels and mining old TV shows and comic books to ensure sure takes at the box office the past several months. So what a relief it is to take in Danny Boyle's visually stunning Slumdog Millionaire. The director of Trainspotting and “28 Days Later” borrows heavily from Bollywood tradition to deliver a real crowd pleaser set in the slums of Mumbai, India. Although the film approaches the genre's schmaltzy melodrama, Boyle's dynamic camera angles and lively pacing memorably tour the Indian landscape and introduce its remarkable culture.

Having recently visited India, I found Boyle's adaptation of Vikas Swarup's bestselling “Q and A” delightfully authentic. Sixty years after independence, India remains a study in contrasts—amazing architecture thriving alongside garbage strewn streets ... extreme wealth arising from abject poverty ... unmistakable beauty adjacent to stomach turning filth. Slumdog Millionaire juxtaposes these contradictory images naturally throughout the narrative.

A deceptively simple Dicksonian story, Boyle begins as 18-year-old orphan Jamal (Dev Patel) wins the top prize in the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire—20 million rupees (a little over U.S. $400,000). Illustrating the still existant caste system, the show host (Anil Kapoor) ceaselessly condescends to the unflappable youth as a tea server and remains incredulous that an uneducated boy from Mumbai's slums can answer the multiple choice questions. Immediately after coming within one question of winning the top prize, Jamal is arrested and tortured by the police to discover how he is cheating.

This provides the framework for a series of flashbacks to see Jamal and his older brother Salim over three significant time spans. The police inspector (veteran Indian actor Irfan Khan of “The Namesake”) plays back clips of the show and insists that Jamal explain how he knew the answer, giving the youth opportunity to go back in time to tell his life story, ranging from the fateful day his Muslim mother was killed by rioting Hindus, to the terrifying time he and his brother escape a despicable creep who wanted to mutilate him for monetary gain, to how they survive by scamming western tourists at the Taj Mahal. A life of hardships endear Jamal, and we're clearly drawn in to his story and long for him to succeed at his true life's ambition to re-connect with his love interest Latika (Freida Pinto).

The rags to riches story offers no real surprises, but Boyle delivers big time on insights into the Indian lifestyle and culture. Dazzling visual sequences akin to "City of God" follow young Jamal darting through Mumbai's colorful shantytown—striking overhead visuals panning over colorful tin roofs. More than anything, Jamal's serious steadfast character acts as metaphor for India as a whole. He is a survivor, and even if he fails to become the latest TV celebrity by answering the final question, he remains content because his greatest wish will be fulfilled regardless.

Certainly the narrative itself remains sentimental, but we don't care. Those who've grown to appreciate traditional Bollywood fare may question the lack of a choreographed song number, but fear not. Boyle delivers that as well at the close of the film with a lively sequence over the film's final credits, making Slumdog Millionaire a great cross-over film that will introduce a much larger audience to India's very real charms."



Anonymous said...

Yes, I have also been reading amazing reviews of this film - it is getting great acclaim - even an Oscar nod. Looking forward to seeing it. Will let you know how it is.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

I've been reading the latest reviews on the excellent movie website: http://www.rottentomatoes.com
and the movie sounds great.