Slumdog Millionaire–the Review

319 Comments

Here is the short of it.

I did not like “Slumdog Millionaire”. Or perhaps I should say I was not at all impressed.  Maybe it was all the hype, the Oscar buzz and the “It is soooo awesome” first-person accounts I have heard over the last few weeks that led me to go into the theater with unrealistic expectations. Perhaps.

First let us get the standard attacks on reviews one does not like out of the way.

Yes yes I am being contrarian to get attention.

Yes yes I am too idiotic to understand a truly great movie.

Yes yes I suffer from a third-world siege mentality where I am offended by anything that does not show my country in a purely positive light.

If we can now move beyond these, then let us proceed.

And yes. If you have not seen the movie, then perhaps you are better off not going below the fold (though I try my best not to give away the ending) if you want to “experience” without any pre-knowledge this supposed masterpiece.

There is a difference between clever film-making and great film-making. Make no mistake, Danny Boyle is immensely clever. “Slumdog Millionaire” is made as an out-and-out “crowd-pleaser” through proper audience-targetting which is done in the same careful way the Chopras target the lovey-dovey high school/college crowd and the Anil Sharmas target the uber-patriots.

This crowd-pleasing is done through punching together as many stereotypes that Westerners have about India as is humanly possible. People live in garbage heaps.  A character jumps into a huge heap of human excreta and without batting an eyelid comes running out covered in brown slime, as if its the most natural thing in India, to get an autograph of a star.  The hero, a Muslim, sees his family slaughtered by Hindu rioters and sees along with it a rioting kid (presumably) dressed as Lord Rama, in blue paint and with a bow and arrow in hand, standing as a sentinel of doom, an image whose indelibility in the character’s mind becomes a principal plot point.

A character is booked on the flimsiest of charges and then he is beaten black and blue in a police station and given volts of electricity.

What else? Let’s see.

Child prostitution. Check.

Forced begging. Check.

Blindings of innocent children. Check.

Rape. Check.

Human filth. Bahoot hain sahab.

Call centers. Oh yes most certainly.

Destiny. Of course.

But wait. Do Hindu saffron-clothed Senas not  run havoc through Muslim slums? Do street kids not get taken in by beggar gangs and maimed? Doesnt rape happen in India? Are those slums specially constructed sets? Why do you, third world denizen, get so defensive about your own country? Chill.

Well yes these things do happen in India. However the problem is when you show every hellish thing possible all happening to the same person. Then it stretches reason and believability and just looks like you are packing in every negative thing that Westerners perceive about India for the sake of “crowd pleasing”. Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed. On the flip side, nothing disquiets a viewer as much as when his/her prejudices are challenged. So Boyle does the safe thing.

Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and The Geek”.

Even though each of these incidents have actually happened in the United States of America, I would be accused of spinning a fantastic yarn that has no grounding in reality, that has no connection to the “American experience” and my motivations would be questioned, no matter how cinematically spectacular I made my movie. At the very least, I wouldn’t be on 94% on Tomatometer and a strong Oscar favorite.

But then you say—Boyle is constructing a fairytale, a dash of Indian exotica, a love story. Surely he can take liberties. Make the darkness darker in order to brighten the halo around the hero and heroine.

Ok I get it. That’s why the first shot of Taj Mahal is through filth, when any other shot would have done. That’s why the host of Millionaire is shown heartlessly mocking the fact that the contestant is a humble “chaiwala” as the audience laughs with him in a way that reminded me of Amrish Puri, rolling his eyes and saying “Tu to gandhi naali ka keeddaaaa hainnnn”. Even though this kind of class-based running down will never ever happen on “Millionaire” if for nothing else than political correctness , lets accept it happens just to heighten the drama.

Which brings us to the main weakness of “Slumdog Millionaire”. There are way too many things you have to “accept” in order to enjoy this supposed “glorious celebration of exotica” , too many plot contrivances, too many loopholes you can drive a truck through that you have to turn a blind eye too.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, after all movies are not logic proofs. But “Slumdog” sometimes gets so focused on the “scents” (excreta) and “sounds”  (pain) of India that it does not bother to even try to make some of the fantastic coincidences look even moderately plausible.

But then again, as you said, it is a fairytale. Which means it has infinite license for taking liberties.

The thing is that the same people who are going ga-ga over “Slumdog” saying “Areee yaar, dont over-analyze. Dont see it from a realist perspective. Just enjoy the ride” will go and say “What! She cannot recognize Shahrukh Khan just because he doesn’t have his moustache” and ” Wait. Rahul Roy sings Jaane Jigar Jaane Man and just finds Anu Agarwal in the city of Mumbai by doing that ” and “Gimme a break. Sunny Deol can decimate a full Pakistani armored division with his bare hands and screams. What will these people think of next”.

The reason for that simple. Hindi movies are, by nature, downmarket and silly. English movies made by people like Boyle, even when they adopt all the conventions of the masala film, are not. Why? Because they have been validated by the “experts” as “life-affirming”, “glorious”, “celebration of the power of dreams”. So “Slumdog Millionaire” with its horribly cliched and predictable love story is a “monumental tribute to the power of love”. While Kuch Kuch Hota Hain with its equally cliched and predictable love story is “oooh sooooo bakwaas”.

Even with all the stereotypes and all the plot contrivances, I would have still enjoyed “Slumdog Millionaire” if it had managed to, at any time, transcend its  “masala”  origins to become something greater, as Oscar winners ought to. As the “Dark Knight” transcended its comic book origins to become a fascinating study of true evil.  As “City of God” goes beyond the depiction of poverty in Brazilian slums (which is never its primary morbid fascination) to become an epic about the cycle of extreme violence.

In this respect, Slumdog is never greater than the sum of its parts. The production quality is top notch but then again even Ramgopal Verma’s turkeys are technically very accomplished. There is not much scope for acting. However Anil Kapoor, who is slowly coming close to legally becoming a werewolf with his ear ornament makes his mark everytime he unleashes his fake American accent, though you keep expecting him to say “jhakaaassss”.

If there is anything unique about Slumdog is its use of the millionaire game show device to further its plot (even though the links between the plot and the questions are tenuous and sometimes extremely artificial), which I believe is one of the primary reason why people get caught up in the movie. The same reason they get caught up in reality shows  like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and get up and cheer when a total stranger gets a million bucks. However once one goes beyond that device, there really is nothing exceptionally unique to Slumdog, nothing that warrants all the hype and hoopla.

A big disappointment.

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319 thoughts on “Slumdog Millionaire–the Review

  1. you’ve correctly identified yourself.

    “Yes yes you are being contrarian to get attention.

    Yes yes you are too idiotic to understand a truly great movie.

    Yes yes you suffer from a third-world siege mentality where I am offended by anything that does not show my country in a purely positive light.”

  2. The review is so well written that it makes me want to see the movie. Quite the contrary to what the review is saying the reader to do! Glad to see you give a cogent argument, Arnab.

  3. Many of the things in the list of cliches that you give about India didn’t feel cliched to me. The thing about cliche is not really the bare essence of it, which very often is true (i.e. cliches have a kernel of truth to them), but something is a cliche in the way it is portrayed. Love stories by themselves are not cliches – love happens often enough in the real world – but it is in the way you portray it that a love story looks cliched.

    In fact, a clever way to exploit a cliche is to retain the basic essence of cliche but change everything around it. A love story by itself is cliched, but if you can set a lovestory between a coquettish slave owner’s daughter and a dashing scallawag in civil war US, it suddenly becomes “Gone with the Wind” and a classic.

    Example relevant to Slumdog. When the kid jumps into a pile of excretum, it does not feel cliched because the movie is not trying to make a point about the necessity of clean toilets (which is true enough) but everything to do with his adoration of Bachchan. Context is everything.

    I will agree that some elements feel introduced into the plot in a contrived way – Taj Mahal, call centers, and the Hindu Muslim riots. But I felt the movie had enough other good qualities – the kids, their humour, the background score etc. – to merit forgiveness.

  4. I see exactly what you mean.. In a sense, I find the relentless depiction of negatives here as off-putting as any Madhur Bhandarkar movie.. And, of course, the love story doesn’t really work at all. I am sure it can’t work for any Indian who has seen so many movies based solely on a touching love story. So yes, I was disappointed too. But I still think I liked it more than you. It is certainly a well made movie that is quite entertaining. Just not as great as it is being called. Not even close to that actually.

  5. It’s funny: I told a friend that there is a difference between clever and great cinema.

    Slumdog is clever cinema for sure–smartly acted; brilliantly photographed with a clever plot twist of using the the t.v programmer as a plot prop.

    But it is not great cinema as it is being portrayed by many–mainly in the Western media. For me the give way was this: A Muslim kid–you would see him lose his family to riots, right? I mean what could be more natural! Then the usual others things follow: The creepy slumgod who offers a Coke to the little kid and you can tell immediately that he is the bad guy who is going to inflict untold horrors on the innocent ones. Or the bumbling Western tourists who had no idea about Taj Mahal and would be fooled by a 10 year old and another set would rescue a little kid being beaten up by the ”bad” driver. I mean, how natural?

    I find such cinema distasteful not because it portrays ”reality” but exploits it for it cinematic purposes–whether prizes or footfalls.

  6. You took the words right out my mouth GB. Remember the Western tourist whose expensive car is taken apart. While the Indian starts beating Jamal, the kind Westerner takes pity and gives the kid money. Now I get this is making fun of Westerners trying to solve the worlds problems by giving money but as we all know Westerners do not always do that. The subtext here is very clear. I do not even need to say what it is.

  7. the so called appreciating class must b full of arundhati roy and ilks….otherwise its a maha bakwaas movie…i had the similar thoughts abt booker prize winner white tiger….

  8. The movie was not up to the hype .. It was certainly well made or in ur terms ‘cleverly’ made .. The facts tat bolster its success is the lack of similar contemporaries .. Music by A R Rahman was mind-boggling .. Cliches were there as expected .. But i felt ur review very prejudiced .. I expected atleast a single positive about the movie which was not depicted

  9. Interesting thoughts GB. Obviously you read many reviews and feedback articles on the movie (especially in the western media) before you went to watch it.
    I don’t disagree with you when you say its not a great movie. But i wont call it a disappointment. Far from it. It was an enjoyable movie, very entertaining and as you say cleverly made. I think what you are disappointed about is the kind of response this movie got in western media.
    Don’t blame Mr Boyle for taking liberty of making all those things happen to a single individual, its his job! Blame the western media for calling it “real”.
    Another point I want to correct you on, “something greater, as Oscar winners ought to”. Oscars are the biggest celebration of “Masala” in my opinion not of any cinematic greatness.

    I’ll tell you a movie that was a disappointment to me GHAJINI. What a pain to sit through it.

  10. The movie is an adaptation of Vikas Swaroop’s ‘Q&A’. I haven’t read the book. If Daniel Boyle has stuck to the story then I don’t think your review is justified.

    Child prostitution, forced begging and blindings of innocent children are part of the same criminal circle. If you have seen movies like ‘Salaam Bombay’ you may notice this is the kind of organized crime that exists in Mumbai and elsewhere.

    You failed to notice how a foreign director has been able to capture the back alleys of Mumbai and Agra effectively, the hysteria a game show like ‘KBC’ creates.

  11. @AJ:

    1. If someone sticks to a novel written by an Indian, how is it redeeming? The problem is not that Boyle is Western and hence has no rights to show the horror that is India. The problem is that the story (and I have not read the novel) as presented in the movie is fantastic and stereotypical and made cleverly to appeal to a Western audience. It does not matter whether it came from the pen of an Indian or the mind of a Britisher. If Boyle has followed the book to a T, then the book was equally disappointing. I read somewhere actually that the book took greater pains to explain the connection with the questions than the movie but then again thats what I heard.

    2. The movie does have an Indian co-director —I think thats what he was called.

  12. While I agree with your review, To be fair to Mr. Boyle, isn’t his book based on some book written by some Indian guy ?I have not read the book but is it not possible that he just adapted the book into a movie perhaps with slight exaggeration ?

  13. You really understand yourself well.
    Yes the life in mumbai that is shown in their is certainly the kind of Image people like Arundhati Roy would love t show the world. Yes, the movie does not even go near to reality.

    To some up I have a very bad taste for movie and I loves that movie.

  14. The book is MUCH better! I was quite disappointed with the movie by itself, but especially about how much of the book it completely ignored! Greatbong, do read the book, you won’t regret it!

  15. Indian authors have successfully pilot-tested the sorrow mongering bit in Literature, and it seems it also works in cinema. Every director would want long term damage on the audience’s mind, so child prostitution forced begging and blinding innocent children would be real eye catchers. Let’s hope Indian based art does not remain confined to only these attributes.

  16. had been skeptical of the film since i had heard about it …
    u only confirmed my fears …. that it is a “selling india to the west” film …

    it’s intresting how u turned around the arguement with the example about an “African-American boy born in the hood” ….

    Will watch the film anyway … but thanks for this differing voice …and trust me you do back it up well with ur cogent reasons ….

    Very nice read ….

  17. The book by Vivek Swaroop (who used to be a diplomat) is very disappointing. It does have an interesting story, of a poor guy landing up in the Millionaire Show, where he has unbelievable stories to offer for each answer that he had given in that show (after being accused of cheating), but he’s depicted it poorly.

    However, the book is extremely clichéd in its treatment of the characters. After all it’s a populist book, like a masala flick. The movie, has exaggerated “stuff” even more.

    Whether or not it deserves to be nominated for the Oscars, is a dicey issue. I mean, it falls in the category of Forrest Gump like movies. Forrest Gump won Oscars (and we can hardly argue that the movie potrayed a realistic American life). If it has provided a brilliant cinematic experience…it probably deserves to be nominated.

    All said and done, the treatment of a bad book doesn’t a good movie maketh.

  18. I know exactly how you feel. When one alien takes each of your life-experiences and cleverly narrates it in order that few other aliens can chuckle at the accuracy of the narration relative to their own perception, such art can only be clever, not great. I don’t just mean the movie, but also the book. In that sense, Vikas Swarup is as much an alien as David Boyle.

    Extending this thought, one will also see that so many of our Indian English authors too have vaulted the fence and become alien. Your review points exactly to this gut-twisting feeling when one watches Slumdog, notwithstanding comments like that of take_blindfold_off.

    In fact Rohit succinctly nails such art when he says, ‘I find such cinema distasteful not because it portrays ”reality” but exploits it for it cinematic purposes–whether prizes or footfalls.’

    Thumbs up for this review GB

  19. Some of the negativity depicted was shown as “thing of past”. Many ves were also shown when Jamal returned to “mumbai”, such as rising buildings, call centers, millionaire show, an honest policeman (irfaan khan) :).

    Movie was definitely better than any crap produced in bollywood or any where else with Indian context. The ending song and dance made me like the movie ;).

  20. Although I didn’t see the movie or read the book, I am sure they are very good. After all everybody is praising them except GB and specially foreigners.

  21. You just saved me and my friends 12 bucks each. Thank you.

    I’ve actually worked on development projects in urban slums. I find films that show the lives of poor as unrelentingly dismal and full of horrors very dishonest, ill-informed and sleazy.

    To call a spade a spade, these films are basically voyeuristic in nature because the filmmaker is usually middle class or upper middle class and the audience is equally privileged.

    Since the poor aren’t the ones wielding the cameras, they aren’t the ones telling their stories. Thus there is no way to tell the veracity of these accounts and all that happens is that we are wowed by the technical finesse and the gritty, raw edginess of it all (especially a certain kind of hipster audiences in the US who love these sort of films).

    It’s the same thing with literature. First, there is the fictional license. And then, your readership, especially if you are writing in English is overwhelmingly privileged. They do not live these lives and will mostly swallow whatever you tell them.

    Which is how folks like Vikas Swarup (an Indian Foreign Service officer – that’s as privileged bureaucrat as you can get) and Aravind Adiga (Columbia and Oxford educated) get the accolades they do.

    Suketu Mehta did something similar in Maximum City but made the mistake of bullshitting about Vinod Chopra. And Chopra’s too much of a livewire to let that pass.

    I will never forget a discussion that I had with a woman in one of the slums I worked at, a whip smart person who spoke her mind. She asked me “Aap log hum gharibon se itni nafrat kyon karte ho”?

    Honestly, every time I see an ostensibly bleeding heart film like this, her words always ring in my head. Someday, hopefully, our poor would have the resources and opportunities to tell their stories, and we would be able to get rid of the intermediaries who are supposedly speaking on their behalf.

  22. areeeyaarrr…

    with all respect ur review is shit!srry!

    “use of the millionaire game show device to further”..

    is this the first movie u see with this game show in it? Js christ..for me its the 3rd one…

    Go watch some movies man!

  23. GB, great review! I do agree on the fact that in the very core, this movie too, is a product of the prejudiced perspectives of the western people on India. India? You mean the land of snakes and malaria? Its disturbing, for sure. And yes, there are still many more flaws to the film like the artificiality in relating all the questions to an incident or the stereotypical villainous ‘Millionaire’ host, or the fluent English spoken by the slumdogs as they grew up (It was all the more disturbing) and so on…

    But the point is that despite all these shortcomings, the movie still entertained me big time. Primarily because I believe the movie was not made to be a realistic take on the difficult living situations in a Mumbai slum. It was supposed to be an entertainer, a crowd pleaser, as you call it. And that does grand the filmmaker a lot of liberties in twisting the logics and facts about the film premises. It was never a serious movie, if it was that we wouldn’t see the hero and heroine dancing with a bunch of people in a railway station to some awesome music, after all that had happened with them. The film meant fun. And westerns perhaps, interpreted it wrongly!

    And all the technical achievements of the movie. No sir, RGV’s entire team wouldn’t be enough to do this! And some awesome music. Quiet faithfully I was completely absorbed in the movie from the beginning to the end, and that is certainly the story telling talents of a director. Again the movie is not as clinched as you argue to it to be. If it was so, the final question of the show would have be ‘What is the name of the third musketeer, other than Aramis and Athos?’ :)

    By the way, loved your blog and your style! Keep going!

  24. What a, what a, what a post!

    After going through all the reviews written (One critic says ‘What I feel for Slumdog.. is not just admiration, it’s mad love’, another says ‘Surefire Oscar contender’) and all the embedded flash ads on the internet (carrying the punchline ‘It is destiny’), I had felt the exact same disappoinment after I got out of the theatre. How can so many people be so wrong!

    I was trying to put together a reply to post in the ‘Comments’ section of all those reviewers’ posts. I’ll now paste this post’s link, instead.

  25. I agree with a lot of what you said. I felt it was a cliched Bollywood film from the 80’s. I also found the sudden change from Bambaiyya Hindi to British English very jarring.

    Yours is also one of the few reviews that agreed with my thoughts. This one might interest you too.

  26. The same way Arwind Adiga introduces the statement that North Indians consider South Indians as Negroes. (I have never heard of this one and I am sure that it is not true, maybe he had this notion himself and introduced it for the “Hype and Hoopla” value). Am not sure if the westerners who read this will start seeing South Indians from that perspective. Otherwise the book is well written.

  27. I liked the movie for the only reason that makes you feel otherwise.

    All the mainstream Indian cinema is busy showing an India where the characters go on vacation in Goa in BMW, go to USA/UK/Mauritius after a heart break, hangout at pubs, wear designer clothes etc etc… I do not question that there is a portion of India that is doing all this but then there are millions other like me whom I meet in everyday life who go through dirt and filth of India.
    And amazingly there is no mention of us in popular cinema. I no doubt understand that it is the audience that choses the kind movie that is made…So it takes outsider who has a lesser concern for pulling the money out of our aunties who can not look beyond an international locale and embroidery on the dress worn by the leading lady, to show the filth he has.
    While our film makers are constantly copying west, a westerner has shown that an entertaining film can be made in India, with Indian characters, Indian scenes (filthy or otherwise)… Hope the rajshris/yashrajs/vermas et all stop throwing such trash on me than they always do…

    As you are against the depiction of the India that this movie has, I welcome something totally different from what I always have to endure.

  28. I am a little surprised that Ayush Mahesh Khedekar’s performance in the movie was not found worthy of a mention in this review, which I thought was at par with the kids’ performances in Cidade de Deus.

  29. I liked the acting of Dev Patel. Had lots of hopes from Irfan Khan, well everyone has everytime he gets on screen, but sadly his role was quite short.
    P.S. GB, plz do a review of Religulous.

  30. GB, you are bang on target.. You forgot about the dance number in the end that is a) very badly choreographed b) no connection with the movie (another of your checked items) and c) It is there just because western audience wants to see bollywood dance numbers.. That gives out the real motive of the director(s).

  31. A movie review should be *about* the movie. Apart from the plot, there are certain other things that demand a critique in a review. Talk about performances. Talk about casting. Talk about the technical merits (or lack thereof) such as cinematography, background score, music, etc. Neither of which get any mention in your review. On these regards, I think the movie does score big time. And I feel a “review” should have addressed these as well.

    As for the plot cliches you point out, don’t many movies by Indian filmmakers portray such cliches (or all bad things happening to the same protagonist)? A recent example: think of the movie Amu (directed by Shonali Bose). Weren’t the 1984 riots central to the plot of that movie? Or another case in example: think of Lagaan. Didn’t Lagaan take poverty and suppression as its basic themes, and still celebrated the triumph of underdogs?

    Not that I expect that you personally liked these movies. Still, these and many other such movies weave a story around such “cliches” and make an engaging watch. And that’s the purpose, I think, a movie – at least such as Slumdog – is meant to serve.

    Finally, I have read several other reviews about the movie by “western” reviewers, and many of them do acknowledge the cliches the movie portrays (and those reviewers also fully understand that India is not all about those cliches). The movie’s strength lied in the other aspects you review failed to touch upon.

  32. If Forrest Gump can win Oscars, Slumdog has every right to claim some. Mr. F is a millionaire, sat beside John Lennon on a TV show, had Elvis as their tenant, was the table tennis champion and went to China, in short he had all the life experiences that one can dream of. Oh I forgot the war veteran part. And in the end got the girl.
    In Slumdog, Mr. Slumdog is a millionaire, sat beside Anil Kapoor on a TV how, had an autograph from Amitabh, got orphaned in riots, dealt with the underworld, and in the end, got the girl.

    If Slumdog is not good, neither is Forrest Gump. Yes, Slumdog is not a great movie but Oscars give the award to a lot of bogus movies. I won’t be surprised if this one gets some. In fact I’ll be happy.

  33. Absolutely spot on review. I had exactly the same notion about this movie. Bloody cliched western outlook. Boyle would have done himself a world of good had he watched Salaam Bombay before he made this caricature of a movie !!!
    A phoney and despicable representation of India. The depiction of the kid covered with shit is probably metaphorically quite correct in the way that US still unaware of how to clean up, covers the whole world with its own shit.

  34. Couldn’t agree more, GB. You just articulated every rhyme and reasoning that goes on in my mind when I have the same debate with my friends(they are hardcore SRK fan). Only difference is that I fail to put those thoughts into words so convincingly. This “crowd-pleaser” strategy is what almost every film maker, ad maker, news channel, reality show etc. is resorting to these days. And if one dares to question that, one has to be ready for immediate sermons on how he/she should “take it easy and not be so ‘aaNtel’ marka”. And that really gets my goat.

  35. Arnab there have been a host of movies that deal with the darker side of the American Dream.

    Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, which is a bleak, dark look at the life in a US suburb.

    Boys Dont Cry, House of Sand n Fog, Taxi Driver, Born on 4th of July, and many other such movies, which deal with the seamier side of US life.

    Arnab, while ur political posts are well researched, and factual, can’t say the same about ur movie posts, which seem to be just slapdash affairs put together. I guess writing on too many crap movies, has made you overlook the finer points of movie reviewing.

  36. Well.. I dont really understand much about the so called finer aspects of movie making…

    But I too found the movie a little too dramatic, boring and hyped.. !

  37. I loved the movie. I am a fan of Danny Boyle’s school of film making and yes that makes me biased. But you know what’s really bad about the film “Anil Kapoor” his beard and his awful swagger. Aggh!

  38. I don’t think the movie is a documentary version. It is a work of fiction plus a side of reality shown cleanly. I had an oppurtunity to talk to the sex workers and people in slums and I was able to relate to their experiences when I watched this movie.
    I think the movie was a better watch than the stupid love stories of bollywood.

  39. “I read somewhere actually that the book took greater pains to explain the connection with the questions than the movie but then again thats what I heard. ”

    Yes. The book is essentially about HOW this slumdog kid got all of his answers right. So, in a way, it IS a fantasy. It’s BEING a fantasy is what causes the kid to get arrested and the police to investigate him. And the kid (so to say, speaking on the author’s behalf) justifies this being a fantasy right away in the second or third chapter of the book.
    When his lawyer asks him HOW he knew all the answers, he gives an example of a person he knows. In this example, the person (lets call him X) is a compulsive gambler. X has his share of good and bad luck. One day, X wins a huge sum of money while gambling. Stuff made of fantasy – but it happens. Call it coincidence, call it luck, call it whatever. But it happens. The slumdog kid explains THIS example to his lawyer – it happens. That’s his (and the author’s way) of justifying the whole story being a fantasy.

    In the book, the story could have happened anywhere. Vikas Swarup probably used India as the setting primarily for two reasons – (1) He is an Indian and can write about India with more conviction than any other country and (2) India, with it’s pregnant mix of the ultra-rich, the ultra-poor and everything in between, offers an IDEAL environment where such a fantastical story MIGHT happen to a person.

    The love story in the book is a completely different animal and is kept on the fringes. All it DOES, when it appears, is bring out the character of the kid. All of this comes together in the book, in a very entertaining way.

    I have not seen the movie, but felt compelled to write about the book, since so many have not read it. I recommend to you all – do read the book, even if you were not impressed by the movie.

    P.S:, No, I am neither Vikas Swarup, nor employed by him.

  40. http://passionforcinema.com/slumdog-millionaire-2008/

    Read the comment by “Chhatrapal” 

    Chhatrapal on December 28th, 2008 2:27 am Disclaimer

    There are few spoilers herein,(read at your risk)
    I was taught in municipal school (just outside Bombay) and that too in lower English medium, so please bear my English.

    I yesterday watched the film. And I said “it is written”. I recall Amitabh Bachhan running on the street, very young and restless and supporting his younger brother, who is growing noble, very noble , I recalled “Parinda” where Javed , jamal, salim, latika were all present but with different names. I recalled countless a,b grade hindi films where poor downtrodden become millionaire, because he has brother who was sometimes protective and sometimes bully and sometime an angel, the only difference is Danny boyle don’t want any of the kids to have mom.

    I was wide awake. I saw American lashing out dollar notes at the kids who robed them. I saw that slum dog knew all about Benjamin Franklin and not anything about Gandhi. And like every smiling American viewer I believed it.

    Raised in Maharashtra, I knew story “three musketeers “was never in the syllabus, not at least part of the syllabus of any municipal school in Bombay. But then it was a cinematic liberty. I can also imagine a young and exploited Indian girl can drive car. Come on they
    (those who were exploiting) must have exploited her by means teaching her “how to escape faster with the help of car” … now again that could be cinematic liberty

    I also watched a 10 year old kid , who was hardly taught English, can become guide to American tourist and also speak relatively good English.

    And after sometime it become his first tongue even while talking to his bro ( I am , taught in lower English school in Maharashtra , not able to even write good English. Shame on Me). F$$k you man , it is cinematic liberty.

    Oye dibakar said cumshots and I felt it was Indian porno for American audience. It was cumshot after cumshot , again and again, with same old manner , same old style, with same old characters, we see countless of times in “bollywood” films and yet it is ranked 105/ all time 250 and I asked why zanjeer ,prinda , deewar never made to that list.

    Because … because … (please don’t hit me PFC friends, I am also a slumdog) … because they didn’t show the poverty, they were made for Indian audience who lived in that poverty, they don’t show unrealistic story and screenplay through very realistically shot film

    Also because Danny boyle’s direction was superb and he made us forget all about the very bad very “formulaic “ screenplay , he made us believe that slumdog could be a millionaire , (at least there is some probability) , he shot on realistic locations, he edited like a Hollywood independent classic,and “rest is written “

  41. Poverty tourism with song and dance. That’s who we are because no matter how deep the deep end, we Indians always smile. My God, how the kids smile with their bare bottoms showing.

    On a personal note, Danny Boyle irks me because of that “Choose Life. Choose whatever…” forward that I get as many times as I am told the Taj Mahal is an ancient Hindu temple called the Tejo Mahal.

  42. Was kinda disappointed after watching this one with all the hype going around. I liked Boyle’s earlier ones a lot better (Sunshine, Millions, 28 Days Later). And I’m sure Trainspotting is still his best.

    The only time I got pissed with the stereotypes was when they showed the call centre, but I guess that was to be expected.

    I’ve seen several comparisons of the movie with City of God and had gone in expecting something like it (plus the love story). No wonder I was disappointed.

  43. The thing is that in Western minds India has been “set in stone” in these friezes. First came the British victors with Utilitarian “affection” and White Man’s burden, then came Marx with Oriental Despotism, then came the BBC with the bias of a sore loser (who were the original source the Americans tapped when it came to India), then came Spielberg with chilled Monkey Brains and then came Ben Dover with…. okay, you get it? When most cracka’ folks watch a movie about India they expect these familiar stuff and not the rise of India…. let alone the nuances of Qualified Monism and all.

    PS: Sunshine had me on my knees kow towing….. pretty much epileptic with appreciation and awe. Cillian Murphy’s always a pleasure to watch.

  44. Good review there, but I’d still say this movie deserves the hype its getting:

    Great Soundtrack: check
    Great Editing: check
    Great Cinematography: check
    Tip to Bollywood with the ending credits: double check

    Your right that this movie, accentuates all the stuff that’s wrong with India, but this was done intentionally. Boyle wanted the movie to be ‘hyper-realistic’ and the aim is to bring out the story of redemption of love against all the odds. As the cop says, “the story is bizzarely plausible”. A movie is ultimately all about the emotions it elicits in the viewers. I was enthralled by it and I’d definitely recommend this to others.

    To people who haven’t seen this as yet, go see it!

  45. Good review there, but I’d still say this movie deserves the hype its getting:
    Great Soundtrack: check
    Great Editing: check
    Great Cinematography: check

    Tip to Bollywood with the ending credits: double check

    Your right that this movie, accentuates all the stuff that’s wrong with India, but this was done intentionally. Boyle wanted the movie to be ‘hyper-realistic’ and the aim is to bring out the story of redemption of love against all the odds. As the cop says, “the story is bizzarely plausible”. A movie is ultimately all about the emotions it elicits in the viewers. I was enthralled by it and I’d definitely recommend this to others.

    To people who haven’t seen this as yet, go see it!

  46. ” Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed. On the flip side, nothing disquiets a viewer as much as when his/her prejudices are challenged. So Boyle does the safe thing.”

    That is why Arundhati roy get audience in West.

  47. In the end art sets out to create an emotional response in the viewer. Which is what makes it so subjective.

    I loved Slumdog Millionaire. Despite that fact that I think GB’s comparison with the hypothetical movie about the African-American kid going through everything that could possibly go wrong with a child in American is 100% correct. Yes, the movie relied on cliches (which happen to be based in truth as no-one is denying). Yes, the coincidences were ridiculous — but it was a movie _about_ ridiculous coincidences! Just like Crash, another recent Oscar winner.

    In the end it comes down to whether the movie had an emotional impact on you or not. If it didn’t, that doesn’t mean you’re a fool or a cold heartless SOB. It just means you did not care for the premise &/or did not connect emotionally. If it did, that doesn’t make you a gullible bleeding-heart softy. It’s art. It’s _supposed_ to be subjective. Perhaps I could make a deep philosophical argument about how one’s response to the movie depends on one’s attitude towards the element of randomness in life — whether one believes you’re the master of your own destiny or that random s**t has a huge role to play in life — but really, why bother?

    I have hated a number of Oscar-winners. Many of my favorite movies have been completely neglected by the Oscars, which are a basically a complicated glorified popularity contest. “I kissed a girl” Katy Perry has a Grammy nomination; c’est la vie. If we all responded the same way to every painting, movie, or song, the world would be a very boring place.

  48. I haven’t seen the film and when I do, am most likely going to like it too, but thanks for a different point of view. The “black boy born in the hood” argument is a very good one and there’s very little chance for a film like that to get the Oscar buzz. Such movies are for the European film festivals.

    Unless Indian filmmakers learn to make smart 2 hour films that show more about India than weddings, “ohh what colours” and song and dance routines, this is what we will be subjected to. A simplistic and standard (if feel good) western interpretation of a country that is more than call centers, filth and poverty.

    Now…when’s that 26/11 film coming out? you know..the one where the middle class Muslim waiter of the Taj and the socialite’s daughter at Oberoi fall in love with each other thanks to an SMS sent to each other and give each other support via SMS? And just when the seige is over and the boy comes out, walking towards the oberoi in bloodied clothes, gets mistaken for a terrorist and shot by the cops to the horror of the girl. Tragic. A different kind of love. Surely that will get us a mention at the Oscars, unless of course, Ghajini goes there first ;-)

    Waiting for the Ghajini review btw..

  49. Well, may be Doyle is doing the safe thing. But he does it in a way that makes u laugh and cry, doesn’t he? How would u have reacted to the movie if you did not expect it to be greater/better/more intelligent than Rab ne, or Kuch kuch or Ghajini?

    I think u are giving him the extra responsibility of representing India to the world. He never claimed its’ a foreigner’s view of India. I see this plainly as Doyle’s nod to bollywood movies. And I don’t think the excellent production values that u mentioned can be pushed aside so easily.

    “Then it stretches reason and believability and just looks like you are packing in every negative thing that Westerners perceive about India for the sake of “crowd pleasing”.” – How about looking at it without the underlying assumption u r making about Doyle? I think it simply makes the ending more fairy tale like.

    Plus – Its far more easier to believe the fantastic coincidences in this movie than it is to believe the no-moustache yes-moustache stuff.

  50. The limo liberals in India and everywhere else make movies that drip sympathy and tears for the suffering masses – Meera Nayar, Deepa Mehta, Boyle etc., The suffering masses throw up great film makers or support great ones – Vadivelu in Tamizh movies, who is the sort of person in real life that the protagonist in Slumdog is on screen. What does he do? He becomes a great comedian and then goes on to star as the hero of Pulikeshi the 23rd! Raj Kapoor and Gur Dutt both decided not to be limo liberals and make movies that uplift and upsize us. so let’s give this style of stupid film-making of the Slumdog variety a collective thumbs down!

  51. A = DTPH/Reality
    B = Slumdog/Reality

    Is A > B? Or B > A? Is Danny Boyle closer to Indian reality or is Yash Chopra? Or perhaps both A and B are equally small quantities, and therefore the truth is elsewhere?

    I suspect that it’s rather hard to make a global, yet pan-Indian movie that will not offend someone’s idea of what Indian realism is. The difficulty lies in which stereotypes to keep and which to leave out. I suppose that the “D” word is to blame. There’s too many types of things (people, cultures, classes, castes) in India that usually, movies that are grittily real, like say Salaam Bombay or Ardh Satya tend to narrow their focus down to a single issue.

    Ok. Now let me go watch Slumdog M.

    ps: BTW, Didn’t American History X, and Requiem for a Dream cover most American stereotypes?

  52. @Krish Ashok,

    No they didnt. At least thats not what I remember. Each had a distinct focus and were not just piling up one nightmare after another. And each of them was greater than the sum of its parts, Requiem for me even more so.

    For an example of the American analog of Slumdog Millionaire (“Homie Geek”) look at my post once again.

  53. My reaction to the film (loved it) was visceral and Danny Boyle has always been good at that (see: Trainspotting). Part of it may be how it was shot and edited – as Venu says, cliches are about context. The music was topnotch. I am surprised you haven’t mentioned that. As for acting, the youngest Jamal was great as was the adult Salim and Anil Kapoor.

    I respectfully disagree with your review :). You focus on the stench and pain, but the joie de vivre of the characters Jamal and Salim was to die for. You don’t see the characters or the films dwelling on their pain – they don’t have a choice. They have to make a living so they suck it up and move on, hustling their way to a livelihood. You noticed the call center, but you didn’t notice the fact that Jamal *has* moved up and has a shot at a slightly better life, gameshow or not.

    I like your review since you called it as you saw it though. Whether I agree or not, reading your blog is always fun :)

  54. Stereotyping exists in all movie forms; for example, how many Bollywood movies have you seen where a westerner is “good” and “cultured”. Anybody American / Western is often portrayed as someone with not-so-noble intentions.

    And add to it, this was really based on a book Q & A by Vikas Swaroop ;) – Blame the book, not the movie. I thought the movie did an amazing job of adapting it to big screen. When I read the book I didn’t give it much thought, but was very surprised at Boyle’s execution.

  55. Arnab, I also did not like Slumdog Millionaire for pretty much the same reasons that you have mentioned in this post (clever film making instead of good film making, and the large number of things one must accept in order to have the movie’s plot make any sense) – and it’s satisfying to see that at least one other person (you) thinks so :)
    Btw, I noticed that some commenters here are calling Slumdog M similar to Forrest Gump – I’m curious whether you have anything to say on that..

  56. They filmed Taj Mahal using a Canon EOS SLR. That was bloody brilliant!

    Gotta admire the entire technical team behind this movie, they come here and beat Bollywood at their own game. Hope B-town takes notice of the excellent production values, edgy editing and the visceral feel of the movie.

    Yuvraaj anyone? Yawn :-)

  57. Spot on. If there was an award for most overrated film, this is the clear winner for all the reasons you mentioned. The contrived dialog was another cause for comedic relief.

  58. read ur review yesterday, saw the film today ..and i completly agree with ur views ….

    while i say that the film was crafted well … shot well too but then “so are rgv’s turkeys”

    the india selling and india bashing with subtext of “look he’s a muslim in a third world country and from slums ..still look at the achievement of human spirit” was too much for me ..there were times (the kid dressed as ram, young jamaal jumping into the puddle of s**t and many more) where i squirmed in my seat ..not disgusted by the bad/pathetic content but by the very intention that director wants to sell india ..

    what really boils my blood is to see fellow indians/cine fanatics ranting over rooftops claiming slumdog is superb ..while the exectuion and craft is superb nonetheless but noone commented on the honesty of the filmaker

  59. Beautifully put, you bring out the little perceptual dots thru which the story is connected, which are nothing more than standard indian cliches.(Why not also a snake charmer and a mahout in the slum?)

    In fact Arnabda , this lucid clear way of looking at cinema or even politics (the US elections & sub prime crisis posts) is your strength, even though you’re given to supporting ganguly on occassion ;)

    Beaut of a post, also ,could we have a post on how this recession is ACTUALLY affecting the economy, as opposed to the mad doomsday scenarios predicted by the media (especially indian media)?

    Cheers and Wish you a Very Happy 33rd

  60. Eggjactly what I thought about the film. They are fully confirming their pre concieved notions. It is sad that they refuse to come out of their fancies- call centre, taj mahal, slums…..and films like this fully support their notions.
    But I dont approve of your thoughts about the Indian cinema, they do take some liberty, which is acceptable – but this was completely “made up India in my brain” movie.

  61. Thrilled to read your review. Sat Slumdog Millionaire two weeks back. Didn’t like the film at all, even though I really liked the same director Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. I think of Slumdog as a variant on the 36th Chamber of Shaolin, as each chamber of horrors opens one after another. If he’s trying to outdo Bollywood by stretching a thin script/plotline, give me Bollywood any day.

  62. Thankfully you are no more mentioned in any news-papers..
    You have turn old(33) and hence can no more identify with simple stories told brilliantly..
    You are pathetic in your review.You try and put in an intellectual perspective when it is least required..
    Common Bong..Grow up..You donot always need to demean something to gain attention…And moreover you misguide people…

  63. Very nice review..I agree with most of things u’ve said and I would be really disappointed if it goes to win an oscar. It tries to portray India as many westerners see it..poor and 3rd world country.

  64. (Spoilers Ahead)
    Firstly, I dont understand this sudden bout of patriotism some of us seem to have while looking at this film. I mean I dont give a rats ass about how India is depicted in a film…its a damn movie for cryin out loud, not the BRIC report! So whoever is complaining about India’s portrayal needs to take a chill pill and watch a movie for what its worth! Entertainment!

    Second, why is everyone expecting this to be a Salaam Bombay or City of God. It is a masala film set in India, and in a way pays tribute to the genre with its so called cliches and coincidences. Also, the very premise of the film is “It is written”. Now if you are gonna still rant about cliches and coincidences, I give up.

    In my opinion, those panning Slumdog are the ones at the most loss, coz they were deprived of enjoyin a film thats a roller-coaster. Yeah, I would rather have fun and enjoy my time spent, rather than suffering from paralysis by (may i say needless) analysis.

    Why should I miss out on freaking out to the opening chase sequence at the airport to Rahman’s thumping soundtrack?
    Why should I miss out on feeling elated when the little Jamal calls Latika into the hut as she stands in a silhouette in the rain?
    Why should I miss out on feeling a lump in my throat when jamal’s brother Salim achieves redemption by giving up his life so Latika can escape and go to Jamal?
    Why should I miss out on the joy I felt seeing Jamal win 2 crores?
    Why should miss out on the tear when Jamal finally kisses Latika at the railway station?

    Yeah I could have missed all that…by worrying about cliches, portrayal of India, artifices, devices and what not…but thank god I am not that intellectual…

    peace!

  65. @Slumdog & The Comic Project – What exactly was “Satya” then? Or “Mumbai Meri Jaan”? Or “Wednesday”? Or “Aamir”? Or “Khosla ka Ghosla” and “Oye Lucky Lucky Oye”? Or “Shool”? Or “Black Friday”? Or “Ardha Satya”? Or “Paar”? Or “Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro”?

    Are you seriously trying to generalize Indian cinema as nothing but melodrama? Are you so overwhelmed by the hype of the Slumdog Millionaire marketing machine that you fail to see all these very interesting, very gritty, very Indian films that have been made over the years?

    Seriously, sometimes I think the Indian middle class is the worst kind of wannabe. While very well made films that explore the underbelly of India remain completely unsung and uncelebrated, Slumdog Millionaire becomes some kind of uber tribute to the poor of India? Why?

    People wouldn’t spend good money to support alternative cinema in India and then whine and complain about the state of Indian films. Where are all these enthusiasts of “real filmmaking” when Indian filmmakers with great difficulty and effort manage to somehow finance their raw, gritty, urban films and then watch them play to empty halls?

    And then they go about complaining how Indian filmmakers only make melodramas and focus on the lives of the rich. Our mainstream filmmakers do this because this is what urban educated Indians are telling them to do (make no mistake, Karan Johar himself confessed that no one watches his films in rural Bihar).

  66. And I thought I was the only one who did not find the movie “excellent” (It ranks among top 250 on IMDB) for the same reasons that you have mentioned. It is an Indian movie made for Western audiences. It is good but not excellent – certainly not worthy of being in top 250.

    There seems to be a certain fascination with those “midstream” directors – Mira Nair in “Salaam Bombay” and “Monsoon Wedding”, Shekhar Kapoor in “Bandit Queen” and now Danny Boyle, to liberally sprinkle swear words in the movie. After all, the sub-titles do not capture those swears and gora audience would not know the difference between “Maa” and the Hindi equivalent of “mutha-f***”

    One mistake in the movie – As per information available on number of website, the song “Darshan Do..” was written by G.S.Nepali and not Surdas, as shown in the movie.

  67. Excellent review, GB, as usual. After watching the movie last night, I was curious to find out what reviewers thought of it — and yours hit the nail on the head. But, that is not why I am commenting here. It is my usual ire at your “illiterate” way of transcribing Hindi words. From your posts, I assume you have a good working knowledge of Hindi. If so, can you tell me how you justify the existence of even one “n” in the last word of following sentence (है), not to speak of four?

    “Tu to gandhi naali ka keeddaaaa hainnnn”

    and with gandhi, you leave no difference between गंदी and गांधी.

    This is inexcusble, unless you reason is the same as what Bollywood wallas have for mis-spelling titles — numerology.

  68. “Stereotyping exists in all movie forms; for example, how many Bollywood movies have you seen where a westerner is “good” and “cultured”. Anybody American / Western is often portrayed as someone with not-so-noble intentions.”

    —————-

    Supremus, some recent examples come to mind: Toby Stepehens in Mangal Pandey, Rachel Shelley in Lagaan, Antonia Bernath in Kisna and Alice Patten in RDB.

    All big movies with major roles for the “Westerner” who is depicted as good and cultured.

    By the way, why should the West be necessarily shown as good, when major contributions of the West to the world include Nazism, Communism, Fascism, Imperialism and destruction of ethnic cultures in the guise of Christian proselytism/evangelism? You should be happy that the not-so-noble Westerners are not depicted the way they should be. They don’t need you to bat for them, unless you happen to be a white-wannabe. ;)

  69. I’ve read the book but not seen the movie yet. However, simply reading about the plot of the movie in the papers put me off watching it simply because though its supposed to be based on the book Q & A, but it sounds nothing like it.

    Q & A is about an 18-year-old waiter called Ram Mohammad Thomas who takes part in a quiz show and wins it. The police believe he has cheated because how could an uneducated waiter win 2 crore rupees like that. The book follows the order of the questions and each chapter points to how he knew the answer to the questions. His friendship with Salim is important but not such a major portion of the story as the film makes it out to be.

    I loved the book. I thought the concept and uniqueness of the protagonist made it a very enjoyable read. In the list of objectionable things you mention, the book only contains a chapter about begging and blindings of innocent children. There was no rape or mention of human filth, and definitely no call centers.

  70. @Arjun – totally agree with u about ghajini
    It’s one of the worst Aamir khan movies i’ve seen. what a waste of oppurtunity to remake an intense thriller .. so much song/masala …and that ASSin girl is ultra irritating !! Someone tell her smiling at the camera and trying to look cute isn’t Acting.

  71. @ Ashish

    I see that u enjoyed the movie too much and I am really happy for you but u must accept that there are some ppl who didn’t like it..I am one of them.
    Regarding depiction of India..I am in france now and ppl dont seem to know much abt India except outsourcing, terrorist attacks etc. So one movie about the countrycan decide their view..so I feel bad when so many ppl think that the movie shows India.

  72. All those things happen to people and i myself have seen child crawling on a heap of waste. You could imagine that the life of that blind child begging at the subway (tipped by hero: Jamal) would have been more miserable than that of Hero himself who with all the arguable coincidences, still finds some valuable things in life. And when a large chunk of people in cities like Mumbai live in slums, those unfortunate lives are not hard to find. Of course, seeing it all on screen is a shocking and disgusting experience.

  73. Trainspotting was a crappy movie, if I remember correctly. Glorifying drug use, unnecessary nudity and obscenity.

    The problem with anyone making bollywood style movies is melodrama. Too much crap. It is intorelarable. I have not seen Slumdog millionaire but saw the teasers and can predict how it will be like. The scene where 2 kids ( one is hanging upside down to steal a roti while the other is holding a rope or something to stop him from falling over, how realistic is that) c,mon give the audience a break. Music is not everything in a movie. The kids (actors) perhaps did an OK job and will get decent breaks into moviedom. Yes, it is possible for a slum dog to become a millioniare, see “The Pursuit of happyness”, without the drama and the bullshit.

    There is filth everywhere in India, no need to glorify that unless Danny Boyle is going to spend a good portion of the earnings from the movie to uplift the conditions in atleast one ghetto (slum) in India. Do not exploit the poor people of India and the 3rd world to fill your pockets. Do something- dammit!

    I will probably watch it due to all the hype but not going to be all ga-ga about it. Definitely not Oscar worthy. Don’t even compare it to Forrest Gump- the story is hard to swallow but Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise carried it on their shoulders with grace and dignity.

    Sorry for going all apeshit about this! can’t stand double standards of these film makers.

  74. I made sure that I was aware that I was having unrealistic expectation while entering the theater. Perhaps that helped in me liking the movie! But yeah too much hype or expectation can sometimes kill the movie for you.

  75. yaar, get over this insecurity of how the west will perceive. danny boyle has made an indian style movie, lot of masala and over-the-top stuff.

    india is slowly becoming a net exporter of culture. the west will deal, as will the rest of the world.

  76. wow!!! finally someone who has concurrent views on Slumdog Millionaire as me…i was sick and tired of all the rave reviews being dumped on the movie…i was shocked when post the mumbai terror attack news reporters in US came up with statements like “watch slumdog millionaire and you will know how india is”…i dont understand how the terror attack in Mumbai is relevant to how poor, dirty or slimey mumbai is…will watching the movie make the audience empathise better with the attack victims…yes its an entertainer;no doubt about it…but the movie definitely doesnt justify the hype and hoopla around it…i hated it mostly because it is such a pretentious movie…it is such a wannabe serious cinema…You hit the nail on its head when you say that ” Because audiences and jury members “feel good” when their pre-conceived notions are confirmed”

  77. you said the word out of my mouth… actually i had put a similar kind of review in my blog…. here is the link

    its in malayalam language. You are welcome to read if you understand Malayalam.

    Thanks,
    Sreehari

  78. I agree with Cliff – Boyle is NOT a good filmmaker…’Trainspotting’ was a lousy movie (male nudity was good:)…’The Beach’ didn’t make it to the theatres…I don’t know why the Whites think Boyle is in the same league as, say, hmmm Yash Chopra (:) Atleast his films are entertaining…The Whites love glorifying poverty and filth because it makes them feel better…

  79. Hey there GB.

    a) I haven’t seen this movie yet

    b) I completely agree with @Piyush in the comment section. Your blog’s title says its a review but I feel that you had a problem with the movie’s premise rather than the elements that went in to make it. It’s similar to panning “Children of Men” cause people think that the premise set in the movie is absurd without giving credit to how the film is actually made.

    I repeat, I haven’t watched the movie so it may still be turn out to be bad in “execution”. But I feel a review should be about how a movie’s executed by the director given the premise he sets.

    Now… let me see the movie.

  80. Haven’t seen the movie, but Danny Boyle’s fascination with excreta and movements in and out of it date back to Trainspotting and that revolting scene with the crud-covered pot.

  81. gb, you seem to have missed the whole premise of the movie (yes, even you can miss the cheekiness!). Boyle is basically tipping his hat to the indian masala movies or did you not catch the hundred thousand indian movie references, shots, and cliches. In using the cliches so well trod by the indian film-makers and without being embarrassed about them and indeed celebrating them, boyle has created a nice flick. That is the whole point of the movie. Now, if you want to take exception to the idiocy of people watching it thinking that movie was a slice of real India, then you should be doing a review of the audience and not the movie. And then we can continue to do a review for every Indian who lives in US and continues to believe in “moral degradation” of the western goras, american schools being extremely weak in educating math and sciences ad nauseum…

  82. Well……I felt that the movie was a typical bollywood style movie

    which had a villan , a heroine, a hero and in the end the hero wins the fair lady’s heart and they live happily ever after

  83. I think you have too much of time to write all this crap.. but that kind of constructive.. what’s crap is people reading it and waste more time…and that sucks..

  84. Dear GB,

    As undoubtedly prescient as your review is, and as flawed as SM might be, do you recollect that montage at the end? The one with Latika’s theme playing in the background. That, for me, was what defined Slumdog Millionaire. And when I think of SM, thats what shall probably always come first to my mind, not cliches, not plot contrivances, or for that matter the sheer absurdity of its plot.

    The Quaint Quenyan

    P.S. I did think that Jai Ho number at the end to be terribly kitschy though. Tribute to Bollywood be damned.

  85. @GB: “Suspension of disbelief is one thing, after all movies are not logic proofs”

    Even Lagaan was one movie where you had to suspend your disbeliefs. It was also a fairy tale. An English ‘Mem’ falling for a villager, the villagers winning the match after only about some days of practice and being introduced to the game by a lady coach (lots of help from Mr. Destiny there), & the British actually leaving that place after the match. I didn’t know that Dwyer’s friends were so understanding. Even the umpires were surprisingly unbiased. The director packed everything into the match including runners and match fixing. If the movie would have been made today I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had monkeygate and slapgate incidents too. Still we loved the movie (& i hope u did too).Still it got an oscar nomination. It is not always that oscar nominated films and oscar winning films transcends its masala origins to something greater. for eg. TITANIC.

  86. Hey

    Finally someone I see who agrees that the movie isn’t all great and awesome as everyone seems to be claiming after all the nominations and stuff….Yes Anil Kapoor’s role and how he mocks fun of the contestant being a “chaiwala” isnt called for one bit and hasnt even been properly explained…

    Also, yes the movie is a typical Masala movie and I cant understand how the police take him into custody and beat the living shit out of him when they don’t even have any solid proof that he has cheated.

    And that dialogue in which the American couple hand our hero the money and say something like “Now see the American life” or something is absolutely angering.

    Yes Mr Boyle you might be credited by all of the West for depicting India in its “true” light but yeah coming from an Indian – there’s much more to India than just that or is it that you guys are just starting to feel threatened by us?

  87. A very good review, wonderfully articulated arguments. I think Slumdog and Kuch Kuch Hota hai are both bakwaas, so which category do I fall into. Can’t wait for the next Vishal Bharadwaj film.

  88. the moment the kids started talking in convent school english my head switched off and went na na na na na na la la la la la la

  89. Hey Arnab,

    I wonder how you missed the reference to GUNMASTER G9 in the movie! Salim tells Jamal to run away “before Gunmaster G9 shoots him dead”

    Anyway movie is gonna be an award winner.

  90. The storyline is so inherantly, intrinsically ‘wrong’ that it shows a complete lack of understanding of Indian culture. The story sits very uncomfortably within the context it has been placed in.

    * In India, if chai wallahs were educated enough to step in for a call centre worker speak english, and do searches on the computer, they wouldnt be chai wallahs, they would be working in a call centre. duh!

    *The writer seems to think that in india the class divide is an economic one. It is not. It is a socio cultural one, philosophical, educational, psychological one. That is a big difference between India and largely class-less western cultures.

    *The beggar kids were educated enough to have read novels by Alexander Dumas and to recognise Benjamin Franklin. This is very unusual, to say the least.

    *The character of Latika is supposed to be superbly beautiful. However the actress who played her character is completely ordinary looking, even less than average by Indian standards. She has looks that would appeal to a western audience. To be believable in that role the actress playing that character would need to have stereotpical features that would be considered attractive (and exotic) by Indians ie. fair skinned, light eyed, busty voluptuous etc.

    *The brother raping Latika, saying ‘me first’, is very unrealistic. She would be more likely regarded as ‘bhabhi’, not just by the brother but by friends as well. This intrinsic sense is the psycho emotional fabric of any Indian, and is part of the romantic emotional nature of the Indian psyche

    *Oh and if the brother did that he wouldnt be told ‘I will never forgive you’, neither would the blind beggar friend be responded to with ‘i’m sorry’, Indians are not so dispassionate, or stoic. They are the kind to risk everything, even their life, for friends, family and of course love.

    This is at the core emotional heart of the Indian psyche. And It is the celebration of this that makes a feelgood bollywood film, not blinded children, a rapist brother, a woman who has been sold, violated and mutilated, and a million dollars.

    I could go on listing the flaws, but in short I will just say that the sense of ‘wrongness’ was too powerful and overcame any merits of this film for me.

  91. Rahman’s throbbing music accompanied by Anthony Dod Mantle’s visuals really sold this film – to me at least.I wouldn’t mind watching this movie a second time again to witness just that.

  92. @rhea
    you speak about Indians as if it is just a bunch of 3 people you have known for your whole life. I’m open to accept that a child begging on the streets would have a different value system than I do. His experiences are different and that is what makes him more crude and gritty. By your standards Indian characters would be very boring without any personality diversity.
    And btw, the final Latika was hot imho.

  93. GB, I disagree with you on this one. I wish you had reviewed the movie at more length than mostly linger on its socio-economic context. When you write about audience targetting & that “this crowd-pleasing is done through punching together as many stereotypes that Westerners have about India as is humanly possible” you are veering scarily close to Nargis’s notorious diatribe against Pather Panchali. In fact, dare I say it, you are getting positively Arundhati-an in your outrage, or even Somini-an in your vision. Regarding the incidents that you cited as US ‘reality’ – the police brutality, KKK etc. – quite a few movies do deal with similar issues – George Washington, Mississippi Burning, Deliver Us From Evil, Monster’s Ball etc.

    I loved Slumdog Millionaire, found it incredibly alive, clever in its narrative style, & a technically brilliant crowd-pleaser. I just wish a Bollywood big-name like the ones you mentioned would make a movie like this. Unfortunately in the years between Salaam Bombay & Slumdog, we only get crap like Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Traffic Signal’ from mainstream Bollywood. Thalassa mentions a few movies that I haven’t seen (Mumbai Meri Jaan, Amir etc. among the recent commercial ones) & I can’t talk about them. SDM to me is simultaneously a homage to the Salim-Javed movies of the 70s (not sure if Western audience were supposed to recognize those stereotypes too) & an ode to India 2.0 & its unconquerable passion & drive.

    GB & others, if we want to be a global player, we have to engage with the outside world & have them interprete our reality too, in their way just as generations of immigrant & foreign directors have made the most archetypical American movies. After all, SDM is meant for Western audiences, as GB has rightly pointed out. It hasn’t even been released in India yet. If we insist that Mira Nair, Gurinder Chaddha & Deepa Mehta are ‘our’ ie. Indian movie-makers, we have to accept non-Indians making movies about India too. Perhaps the K Jo’s can make movies about Americans next time they set a movie in LA or NYC.

    Btw, Loveleen Tandon speaks about her experience with SDM here & here.

    Sraboney, here is the release date information on ‘The Beach’, since you mention that it never got released. It didn’t get released in India though, if that’s what you meant. Btw, that movie had some great local scenes of Bangkok.

  94. @Pankaj Roy: You missed the point wrt Mississippi Burning and the other examples you gave . The same movies does not show all of the bad things that happen in the US one after another. I could argue about the difference between Ray’s depiction of poverty and Slumdog’s for hours on end. But may I please beg off that for now.

  95. Ah ok, I must have watched a different version of SDM in that case. I couldn’t find those scenes with all the bad things happening in India one after the other. I did notice a lot of incidents that anyone who spends even a few days in an Indian city can easily see as well as their transcendental & redemptive qualities (it is a fairy tale after all). They must have released an alternative version for us in the Bay Area. These clever marketers, I tell you :-) Btw, our local newspaper this morning had this photo feature on Bombay India’s Left Behind: Millions In Mumbai Still Live In Desperate Poverty. Ouch! Time to take that camera to South Central & sell a story to TOI.

  96. Sadly, your powers of perception have been greatly overestimated. Reviewing Gunda is where your strength lies. The Slumdog millionaire is as much about life in India as much as The Good Earth is about Chinese culture.

  97. Hey GreatBong. I know Danny Boyle is immensely clever. And yes every Indian or for that matter who knows India and Bollywood would agree with your review. But every other guy would disagree with you. Man I have read a lot of reviews from US ( mentioned as expert critics or whatever), and they are like “wow completely blew me away”, “a real eye opener”,”amazing, fantastic,………” they just dont stop praising. Actually I am an Indian, and i did not feel any of that, I just enjoyed it like any other average movie, Bollywood or Hollywood. And going by the so called “critic reviews” if it gets nominated for the oscars and then goes on to win the oscar for best picture, I really wont be surprised at all.

    AND ONE MORE THING
    Foxsearchlight is planning to release the movie in India(Jan 24) after Oscar nominations(Jan 22) are announced. If it gets nominated then I am really waiting to see the public response for the movie in India. Will it be a full house????? or a complete dampner?????? I am just waiting for everything to unfold…….

  98. Cliff: “Trainspotting was a crappy movie, if I remember correctly. Glorifying drug use, unnecessary nudity and obscenity.”

    Hahahahahahaha Wow! All hail the moral police!
    “I will probably watch it due to all the hype but not going to be all ga-ga about it. Definitely not Oscar worthy.”

    There goes objectivity. Mind made up BEFORE watching it. But will watch it. And crib about others’ “double standards”.

    Man, Cliff is fun. Some more comments from him, please.

    __________________

    Arnab, I still haven’t seen the movie, so I will not comment on the treatment, but a word about the structure which you criticize so much. Both the book and the film follow what is known as a picaresque structure, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picaresque) in which a single protagonist, usually low class, goes through a series of unrelated adventures, all designed to give him varied experiences, before (usually) a redemptive end. Famous novels like Tom Jones (Henry Fielding), Martin Chuzzlewit (Dickens), Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe), down to Huckleberry Finn (Twain) have followed this structure.

    The film just follows a time honored tradition where everything (good or bad) happens to one individual, instead of being spread over a larger population, as “realism” would have it.

    Your criticism of the film on this basis is unjustified because it never claims to be a realistic Mrinal Sen-esue movie anyway.

  99. I wonder what really irritated you about SDM- was it the fact that the poverty, the filth and squalor are not as “sanitized” as it should be? Because sanitization robs the heartbreaking unhappiness that accompanies the poverty- and makes it more palatable to the more privileged- something all our film makers and our people have been guilty of. We know its dirty, we know it stinks. but we always make it seem more redeeming. And we feel bad when an “outsider”(Danny Boyle here, or the Mira Nairs or Arundhati Roys) focus on it. Because the sanitization, is our way of escaping the guilt that human creatures- as human as we live like that. An as Indians we have gotten quite good at that. So anyone who tries to portray the dirt becomes anti-India. I had expected a more balanced review from you.

  100. I didn’t like the movie because I hate Bollywood masala movies. I didn’t always hate them. I only started hating them after I saw the same crap again and again and again and again…you get the point.

    I was hoping for a movie that depicted India without the masala and that was real. I wish there were more movies about India or having Indian characters without the masala. I really think there is potential for our film industry to be more than what it is. I think there is more to Indians in general than masala, but we always confine ourselves to those terms and it really disappoints me.

    I think we can have depth, realism and griddiness without making a fake happy ending or forcing a love story into a plot that had potential for a lot more depth than it manifested on film. My dream is for an Indian movie to just showing reality as it is, but in a way that people are entertained and enlightened at the same time. Gandhi is probably the only good non-masala movie about India I think of. Yes, I absolutely love that movie. If any of you know of any other films like that, please share.

    This movie was basically masala fed to the audience like it was baby formula and yes the audience drank it all up. I personally gagged and threw up what little I could drink.

  101. @ Shaan: Dude, take a chill pill……I did watch the movie and nothing has changed. My opinion was based on crap that has previously dished out by Boyle. Seriously, he has an obsession with “crap”. It is a below average movie with average actors. if this movie was in Hindi with English subtitles, maybe it would have been a tad better. There is not one actor who stands out and can be said was better than the rest. Dev Patel as Jamaal lacked passion, Freida Pinto as Latika….hmmm…..definitely something missing, can’t put my finger on it( maybe not a big enough role?) the rest of the cast was annoying including Irfan Khan. Music was OK. Why MIA’s “Paper planes” , can’t relate or maybe I just don’t get it.

    That is my 2 cents worth.

  102. I saw the movie and have not read the book.

    Your review is accurate and resonated with me.

    By way of background, I am born/raised in Mumbai and can tell you that some things are completely out of character for the city that I have known for over 40 years. Here are a couple of examples:

    – I was riding a local train when some goondas tried to take away another man. Strangers on the train intervened and to make the story short, called the police and handed over to them the culprits and the hapless target;

    -Police in Mumbai are among the best and are highly disciplined and not likely to engage in torture.

    – It was insulting to the many NGO’s in Mumbai to show some gang leader swooping in (in a Benz) after a communal riot and picking up children (by offering them Coca-Cola). (The companies have objected and accordingly, the logos form the products have been erased from the movie.)

    I will not stop anyone who wants to see the movie but will qualify it as being made from a Londener’s view of Mumbaikars.

  103. The movie was over for me when after the child street-beggers stole parts of the car of an american couple and the “Indian” driver starts hitting the kid left-and-right in a “de dhamaka” way, the kid says in chaste english to the “Amerikan” couple-

    “You wanted to see India… this is real India!”

    And then, the couple stops the driver from hitting the kid, reminds him that they have “insurance” for the “Mercedes” and finally like the angels themselves under the direction of “God” himself gave some crispy green dollars to the “poor” boy and said-

    “Now I will show you what real America is!”

    I would disagree with Great Bong- Slumdog Millionaire deserves the nomination for Oscar… it earned it!

  104. Ah! GreatBong! At last I find a review that relieved me… I was struggling throughout hating everybody who said “that’s damn good movie”! I always thought the movie was contrived well for a sure shot box office hit, but I found it highly discouraging and pretentious. Events are forced onto the scene that have no rational or logical purpose whatsoever… as you said there are a lot of assumptions one has to acquiesce to in order to watch it as a story. Even for the performances, I thought most of them struggled to define the character they played.

    Hats off!

  105. Lighten up! It is a ‘tale’, funny and moving at the same time, not a documentary. We Indians need to stop this victim mentality. The moving is doing well not because it plays to the stereotypes, but because it has a ‘Forest Gump’ type of character: a fantastic story that has been told very well.

  106. Excellent background music
    Excellent editing
    Excellent child actors
    Good cinematography

    Apart from that, there is nothing but hype. Your review almost describes exactly whats on my mind except for the acting part. I thought the kids did a great job.

  107. I agree with Rasputin_KY

    I guess all of you noticed that the child actors were not Indian born. Not that it really creates a problem in that slumdog but that “chaiwala- a bit grown up poor and uneducated” chap talking in a brit/american accent english at times became quite annoying. Same with that girl too.

    Well, there are some good folks who would say come on let’s take it on the face and not deny that those really happens in India. Agreed, absolutely true. But isn’t the intent of the movie-maker clear to everyone?
    I mean, there are so many movies solely based on Indian poverty, corruption, caste but none of them carries the intent of the message that “Folks!! Indians actually suck”

    And the example in Slumdog that- “Now I will show you the real America” is a clear vocal declaration!

    But never mind… I think I have already given it too much thought rather than just shrug it off… but this forum was too inviting!

  108. GB,
    Agree a lot with what you term has been ‘projected’ of India. But somewhere, read an Interview where the dir said that the Movie was not about India. The story could have taken place anywhere. But again, that din’t match wid the “You wanted to see THE real India. Here, it is” scene in the movie.
    Wid a lot of ppl actually agreeing wid that, I wonder, if I’ve been dreaming about the India, I live in. Or does it have something to do with VR..
    And one more thing about that argument..”This actually happens here”…Well, I suppose you can apply that argument to another “reality” and justify, legalise, appreciate and patronise Pornography.

  109. Hi GB,
    I so agree and get agitated over the fact of how they depict the country in media. Books and movies – these are the first primary mediums for any lay man to know about a country and what do WE always show??

    Filth, poverty, politics, dirty policemen, population, pollution !!

    When I went to see that movie with my American friends here, they all had the same question at the end of the movie .. Is Mumbai so dirty? It was more of a counter – question since I had been painting a rosy, beautiful picture of my country, my city…and trying to make them see over the slums and the beggars, and make them understand that there is much more than that. Not that I am an agent to do that, nor is it necessary but I do not wish people to have wrong ideas about my country. How often in Hollywood movies have we seen the dirt, filth and corruption of the US of A. It does exist, just that we never get to see it!

    And well about the movie … I liked it, it was worth one dekho.

  110. I am not here to debate the greatness of slumdog millionaire.For me the whole experience was just like watching any other bollywood masala pick sans the elobrate settings, designer wear and songs picturised abroad.What stinks is the hypocrisy that surrounds this review.Instead of spending time trashing the movie, why don’ you do something for all the flith that got depicated across.Are we seriously debating the artistics merits if any or the fact that it focused on the slums of mumbai..probably a mumbai that we would to turn a blind eye to.Give the director the credit for having actually been there in the slums dealing with all the flith while we sit in the cushy comforts of our drawing rooms or wherever we r taking offense to what was shown.I had a bunch of friends who felt ashamed as they got out of a theatre in new york after watching the movie…why because all that india shinning suddenly didn’t have the shine anymore.Just like you cannot take away from us all that we have achieved , nobody can escape the riots or slums of mumbai either.As for the storyline i am sure that could have been moulded to suit any country….if there is slums and riots in mumbai …then there is bronx and racism in new york city.But then we belong to that bunch of hypocrites who would come to NYC and upload snaps of manhattan and empire state building rather than it’s murkier neighbourhood….because then it would be contrary to the hip and happening life that is fed to the countrymen back home.We are at our best sitting at home and criticising some movie…that i wonder even warranted such a strong reaction.

  111. The comparison of the protagonist with the black American kid was apt, except for the “Beauty and Geek” part. How can a kid with such a background turn out to be a geek? Anyway, that’s a minor issue. You have a great gift of drawing similes to put things in context.

    On a separate note, I am currently watching a TV series on India in PBS. Here is the link of broadcast dates:

    http://www.pbs.org/thestoryofindia/airdates.html

    Would love to see your opinion on this documentary.

  112. a review that precisely got what had itched me about the movie.. but yes it did engage me, i loved the music, the ‘clever’ direction, cinematography n i did loathe anil kapoor btw..
    n yes, perhaps us indians really need to stop feeling victimized!

  113. For me, the reviewer lost all credibility when he said “the “Dark Knight” transcended its comic book origins to become a fascinating study of true evil.”

    A fascinating study of true evil?!! *horrified*

    Anyway, this review is just a fancy loooong way of saying two things –
    #1) all that couldn’t have happened to one person and
    #2) SM doesn’t have any message or isnt a commentary on slum kids’ lives

    #1 is a ridiculous point of contention for any movie. Did you watch “big fish” or “forrest gump” and go “no, one person couldn’t have experienced such an interesting life?!” It’s a moronic argument. And there’s a huge difference between this and something nonsensical like a woman not recognizing her husband because he doesnt have a moustache (Rab Ne…) or Sunny Deol destroying a tank single-handedly. You cannot equate those.

    #2 isn’t a critique of the movie at all. Who says a movie needs to rise up and become a messenger? It doesn’t have to be a commentary on anything, it’s just a commercial film. And this comment from someone who thinks TDK is a fascinating study of true evil?? TDK was a good movie no doubt, but FAR from a fascinating study of anything.

  114. The above comment is hilarious.

    Shishir or should I say Hishir, just one thing. Big Fish is a movie about a person who LIES about his uninteresting life and makes up beautiful stories that make his mundane life far more romantic than it was. So yes the premise of the movie is that all those thing COULD not have happened to him. It is a beautiful fantasy film, not a dive inside-shit and “scoop-out-eye-with-spoon kind of Hey look what a shithole the world outside the West is kind of movie.

    Next time you drop names, try to understand what the movie is and do not make your stupidity as gapingly obvious so much so that it embarasses us other readers here.

    Hishir seems one more genius strayed off from Rediff message boards.

  115. someone said ‘a hallmark of a cultured mind is to listen to an idea with / without accepting it’. we Indians r such type in most aspect. i wouldn’t have lasted this one till half time if i hadn’t overlooked the stereotype & similar irritants. minus them the movie is a decent watch. i enjoyed it to be fair.
    but 3 cheers to Greatbong for a brilliant review . i couldn’t agree less.
    every point made by you is what i would say as well. i also congratulate u on your precise thinking and ability to express them equally well.
    thanks
    max

  116. @Shishir-

    “#1 is a ridiculous point of contention for any movie. Did you watch “big fish” or “forrest gump” and go “no, one person couldn’t have experienced such an interesting life?!” It’s a moronic argument.”

    Actually even though the character of Forest Gump is pretty incredulous, the movie shows the changing times like the Vietnam War and glimpses into American life of the 70s. But I agree that Forest Gump has its similarities wrt SM. In this movie, we got glimpses of established cliches about India in a westerner’s eye. But even though that is swept aside for a moment, what is there so great about a movie which basically manipulates the thrill of an underdog progressing thru the rungs of Kaun Banega Krorepati by concocting it with the diametrically opposite emotion of obstacles faced by a slumdog while growing up? There are plenty of movies which intersperse sadness and triumph like that in the annals of Bollywood. The difference is that they are not as polished production wise, have too many songs and are not as well cooked for Western tastes as SM is is. The editing and some sequences of the movie are quite superb though. It is a well crafted movie, like a well crafted powerpoint presentation where the manner of presentation and panache pretends to compensate for the empty content. The book was chosen precisely for that reason, and the script was then chiseled to pander to stereotypes and pull heartstrings. In a way, it is like Forest Gump with an Indian setting then. So you are partially correct.

    “#2 isn’t a critique of the movie at all. Who says a movie needs to rise up and become a messenger? It doesn’t have to be a commentary on anything, it’s just a commercial film. And this comment from someone who thinks TDK is a fascinating study of true evil?? TDK was a good movie no doubt, but FAR from a fascinating study of anything.”

    Actually “The Dark Knight” is really a great study of the machinations of a destructive evil force. Now that could be USA or OB Laden depending on your extreme views. Its funny, to a Hamas guy, the Joker would be Israel and vice versa. But whatever be the interpretation, by design or by accident, an strangely high number of geopolitical events, most notably the Mumbai blasts, evoke the eeriness of The Dark Knight. The film is actually a study in contrasts and some of the subtle touches like 2 face are so good and so subtle representations of the government, corruption and the media that one cannot think how come this movie has not been used by any political side for their benefit. Therein lies the greatness of the movie. So when the Joker nonchalantly sets fire on a huge stash of cash, painfully watched by the small time evil boss, you cease to think him as an incredulous comic character but as a real person who is unpredictable, quirky, has a past connection thru events in history to those who are after him and is more dangerous than anything you can conceive. Of course, Heath Ledger’s comicbook and reality confounding performance has taken this movie to a different level than it would have otherwise been.

  117. Now different people of our country may have their reasons for liking or disliking this movie. But I could not help a big grin thinking of the subset of Western people who generally like to make fun of Bollywood melodrama and song and dance, and yet, who ironically came out teary-eyed after watching this movie. The joke is on them and they are so blissfully unaware of that. Kudos to Boyle for taking the rice cooked many days ago and making it into ‘fresh’ fried-rice.

  118. Excellent review – Precisely my thoughts, but well written by you. I have to admit I absolutely loved the premise of the movie and also it is well shot. The relentless focus on dark side was a put off.

  119. Re leading “interesting lives” – there is a whole series of books on a fictional character called Flashman, written by George Mcdonald Fraser set in the 19th century. Flashman is an englishman who participated in many historical events like the charge of the light brigade, US civil war, indian war of independence (I think he even slept with Rani Laxmibai) :)

    Similarly, there was an awful english novel we had to read in DU – Nectar in a Seive by Kamala Markandeya. A series of unfortunate events befall the protagonists in this book as well. Famine, flood, prositution and then giving birth to an albino baby etc etc.

    In sum – I liked SM. Yes it stereotypes western perceptions on India, much the same way bollywood sterotypes Parsis or South Indians, but it feels much more contextual than that chinese escapist bullshit – crouching tiger hidden dragon.

  120. @AtulS

    “I was riding a local train when some goondas tried to take away another man. Strangers on the train intervened and to make the story short, called the police and handed over to them the culprits and the hapless target;” (presumable illuminating how involved they are…

    Yeah and in the same local trains, Jayabala Ashar was pushed off by a drug addict and lost both her legs under the wheels. In the same local trains, a minor girl was raped in front of 10 passensgers, including a journalist, all of whom just looked on transfixed.

    Please spare us the “my city of 40 years” crap. Bombay junta are as standoffish, indifferent and callous as the rest of them, some times even more.

    “Police in Mumbai are among the best and are highly disciplined and not likely to engage in torture.”

    Please keep drinking the kool aid. Bombay police do not torture? I bet they don’t stage encounters either. Your statements would be laughable if they weren’t so out of touch with reality. BTW,a “highly disciplined” police man asked me for a bribe the other day. Another killed his wife. And a third jailed a innocent man under terrorism charges because he wouldn’t pay him money.

    @Pari

    “How often in Hollywood movies have we seen the dirt, filth and corruption of the US of A. It does exist, just that we never get to see it!”

    Apparently you don’t want enough films. That’s the problem.

    Enough Hollywood films portray the filth, perversion, and corruption in their society. There are a gazillion films about violence, porn, racism, drug abuse, and poverty in their society. In fact, they have been accused their conservatives (mirroring many ppl commenting here) of concentrating too much on the bad side of Western society! It seems no one wants their flaws shown up.

    If you are over 17 years (no guarantee, given your naïve statement), you should be allowed to watch these adult themed movies. Ask your mum if it’s okay. 27 Dresses and Princess Diaries do not reflect the whole of Hollywood.

    Ask me if you want any suggestions for Hollywood movies exposing the seamy underbelly of western society to watch.

  121. Shan – totally agree.
    YF2 – “But I could not help a big grin thinking of the subset of Western people who generally like to make fun of Bollywood melodrama and song and dance, and yet, who ironically came out teary-eyed after watching this movie.” Well, I am an ‘Eastern’ person who perfectly fits your description. In fact, so does a few of the others in the comments thread. Perhaps it has to do with the tight storyline, absence of Swiss Alps locations, stunning camerawork & editing, no dance numbers through the movie, no product placement & other ills that plague commercial Hindi cinema.

  122. Hello,

    This is what I wrote, and I fully agree with you.
    Honeslty this movie had me fuming.

    Dear Reed Johnson,

    Thanks for writing in LA Times about this movie.
    However, your article is (unfortunately) one sided as far as your
    perception of India is concerned.
    This infact feeds into the stereotype :
    ” We always knew all is not good with India, the growing economic
    power. So kudos
    to people who blow the whistle and bring it down”. What needs to be
    brought down are the preconceived notions about some of these things.

    Yes, corruption, slums, poverty, exploitation of children are
    undeniable dark truths about India
    But to show the entire Indian system in poor light? I would certainly
    not call it comprehensive research let alone question the ethics
    behind such movie making and journalism. While you have been very
    prudent to pin point facts like the 1992 riots, you chose to ignore
    some of them.

    1) The depiction of Indian police: The main character is on the verge
    of becoming a millionaire. What happens next? The police arrests him
    and gives him electric shocks, and a treatment which was not meted out
    to the terrorist who caused the Mumbai attacks.
    Agreed, art has its freedom, but it has some ethics. Does the police
    in India really work like this? Or is it quite plausible to make this
    fit into an ordinary script when the director
    runs out of ideas?
    2) Agreed Hinduism is (thankfully) not a missionary religion but
    depicting one of the main Gods Rama in the foreground of riots taking
    place is
    sure to hurt a lot of sentiments. Imagine a movie where carnage in
    shown with a photo of Jesus in the frontNow you would be thinking I am
    cribbing. Well this is the country where Da Vinci code was banned to
    respect the sentiments of 2% Christian population.
    I am not arguing either way, just contrasting for your kind attention.

    3) From your writing, I am sure you do not know how the show “Kaun
    Bange Karorepati”. equivalent of “Who wants to be a millionaire” was
    conducted.

    Anil Kapoor in the movie, the host of the game show, keeps on
    humiliating the contestant as “Chaiwallah” . And the “insensitive”
    Indian public is shown laughing. Fits in your
    stereotype of “dark mirror image of money-obsessed modern India”.
    I request you to see how the actual show was conducted by the real
    host. How, with utmost humility dignity and respect Mr. Bachchan
    actually conducted this show.

    4) I believe that the word “slumdog” is a rather sarcastic way of
    portraying how the society looks down upon the under privileged. It is
    an insult to the society rather than the slum dweller himself. And
    this very word, is perhaps an American way of depicting things. What
    to expect from the director
    who borrowed Americans of Indian origin, who speak english with an
    American accent in the movie. Nothing wrong with this, but again,
    speaks about the quality of the movie.
    It is hilarious to see Indian slum dwellers with an American accent :)

    But to see this through my eyes, you would have to be in Mumbai,
    rather than somewhere in California giving your expert critique on the
    movie.

    5) And consider this:

    Indian Police is shown to beat up kids on their whim, and one kid is
    saved by an American who says “This is the real America”, and giving a
    great advertisement of American values of generosity, kindness to the
    uncivilized, barbaric Indian Policemen.

    If you want to depict the truth, please depict truth. Not what you
    perceive as the truth without doing your home work.

    While it is not possible to refute the content on a point by point
    basis, I think the above should be sufficient for now.

    The movie makers had an inherent bias and a purpose. By reading your
    writing, I think they were successful.

    regards,
    vaibhav

  123. Let’s not be overly sensitive… cannot the story of Jamal be taken as a metaphor for India itself and its people – the tale of a brutalised and impoverished land beginning to overcome the odds by a combination of intelligence, hard work, pluck, luck and a sense that it is destined to be great – because “it is written”?

  124. “How often in Hollywood movies have we seen the dirt, filth and corruption of the US of A. It does exist, just that we never get to see it! ”

    Well if ur viewing experience is restricted to Sex n the City, rom coms, chick flicks, you wud never find such movies.

    Check out movies like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Boys Dont Cry, American History X which deal with the seamier side of American life.

  125. Just because a movie has won 4 golden globes, it is pretty good.

    Good= White men said it is good. You have no other justification for why Slumdog Millionaire is good except that it won 4 golden globes !

    Is not that so typically bootlicking Indian?

  126. @Anonymous:

    “Is not that so typically bootlicking Indian?”

    And you are a typical anti-western. blindly jingoistic “nationalist: who thinks that any film showing India’s poverty is a personal affront to your “national pride”.

    Bengali Guy didn’t say he liked it because the whites liked it. He didn’t even say he liked the movie, only that it was “pretty good” that the film got 4 GGs. There is no evidence to call him racially prejudiced, but your statement definitely proves you are a racist.

    Don’t you feel good at least that ARR got a best music score award? Or does that not count because it was given by “white men”?

  127. It’s great that Rahman has got this award, he deserves it as does the rest of the team. Hope M.I.A also gets some attention.

  128. GB, I agree wholeheartedly with almost every point you raised.

    I also love the movie.

    Why this dichotomy? Let me explain.

    Although Slumdog has a little too much of morbid fascination about the slum that is India and while Danny almost seems to project our great country as the sum of its many slums, I feel what the author wanted to convey in his book and which came across quite well through the movie as well (despite Danny’s best efforts :P), was the celebration of life and the triumph of human achievement that is India. At every turn in his life Jamal has been battered by fate (cue another Indian child wallowing in filth) but in spite of all his trials and tribulations, he has never lost hope and nor his capacity to love, be it his brother or Latika.

    I feel this is what Q&A and consequently Slumdog Millionaire is all about.

    PS: About your comment on “Dark Knight transcending its comic book origins to become a fascinating study of true evil”, you should read some of the comic books on Batman like Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” – Chris Nolan bases a large part of Joker’s characterization on this graphic novel. Most of them contain a very cerebral discussion on the role of violence in human society. Nolan didn’t have to go beyond the “comic books” for his script.

  129. I landed on your blog searching Google for “slumdog portrayal of india”. Great review, GB.

    As you pointed out, an individual experiencing all this in one lifespan is totally “playing to the crowd”. I wonder how audiences in Indian slums would react to this movie (translated into Hindi). My guess is that they cannot relate to all this negativism. In Bollywood movies, there is a lot of this oppression, but there is a lot of hope too. There are a few good folks too and not everyone is as dark as in SM. There are a lot of functional families and social structures that work – providing sustenance and connectedness to even in the most dire of circumstances. That is more in line with the reality of slums in India.

    I wonder why a lot of us get so worked up about such cliches being presented to a western world. Possibly, it is the insecurity around what such representation would imply for our business prospects, it is sheer outrage born out of deeply held nationalistic beliefs. I think we should chill. The audience that takes this unquestioningly is willingly misled. It is their problem. We have to understand that the western view of the world is ethnocentric. Nothing right or wrong about it. Just that you should not feel any qualms about holding a totally different perspective of the world. And Vikas Swarup has done a good job of writing a book that entertains his audience.

    I feel this portrayal, the unquestioning acceptance of such portrayal by the target audience, the Golden Globes (and Oscars?), all the agony by outraged “nationalistic” desis about such portrayal, the outrage by “liberal” desis at the outrage of “nationalistic” desis – all these mean little to the situation on the ground. What we need is a critical mass of development that provides basics (education, law and order, health) and opportunities in the marketplace to sell their skills and make an honest living. We need to learn not to take others perceptions of us too seriously – they just don’t matter as much as our own perception of ourselves.

  130. Pather Panchali deserves to be “poetry on celluloid. pure and simple”, but Slumdog is “poverty porn”. Double standards? Hippocrite?

  131. Great BONG,

    Well if you are a BONG, your review is justified, because BONGS qualify themselves as ELIGIBLE to classify anything as bad which is done by a NON-BONG.

    So what if Bibhuti Vishan Bandhopadhyay wrote the Pather Panchali and Satyajit Ray made the movie and the then Indians rejected the whole idea of making the film on the pretext of a poverty show, the BONGS defended the idea. A similar effort by a NON-BONG writer and up goes the sword, waving and slashing.

    With due respects to your BONG-ness

    Nikhil

  132. from the pure sense of movie, i don’t think SM is better than The Revolutionary Road or Benjamin Button, though it’s just grapped the Golden Globe.
    from the sensibility, I really hate the film. the indescribable
    superiority complex of british and colonialism made me angry and sick. I felt offended and tired of the prejudice coming from westerners(i also come from the third world-China)
    anyway,excellent comment of the blogger!

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  134. “Well yes these things do happen in India. However the problem is when you show every hellish thing possible all happening to the same person.”

    Well, why can’t they happen to the same person?? You and I and all those blogging here are members of the privilaged part of our society, those who don’t enjoy these can actually go through all and even more of these experiences.

  135. well, your review was excellent. First after seeing the movie I felt the movie good, without taking the logic and seeing it as just entertainer.
    I was also glad for the movie (involving Indians) to get four golden globe and its likability for nomination for oscars.

    But after reading your review, I came to see the reality of the western minds. As you have said the direction is very cleaver but not a great movie.
    But I still glad for the golden globe given for A.R. Rahman, even though this was not his best, he deserves it..
    He is my second best to illiyaraja but have his music spread worldwide..

    And in my opinion, the golden golbe and oscars are awards for western english movies only. Indians should value National Awards more than their awards….Thanks……

  136. “Yes yes I am being contrarian to get attention.

    Yes yes I am too idiotic to understand a truly great movie.

    Yes yes I suffer from a third-world siege mentality where I am offended by anything that does not show my country in a purely positive light.”

    OMG..those were the exact wasy I was defending myself against people who just couldn’t stop raving about this movie…lol!!!

    I agree with your review…the fantasy storyline and the love story, all the stereotypes packed in 2 hours, the slumdogs speaking Queen’s English..I can go on and on with the flaws in this movie…I am just amazed at the hypocrisy thats going on..bet u if our b’wood came up with this sort of a fantasy love story it would be trashed as unrealistic and bakwaas but just because a british director has packaged it- it deserves an oscar…gimme a break!!!

    Funny thing is more and more people are now begining to question if this movie is truly great..even Salman Rushdie found it far fetched..I was reading some other blogs and reviews that saw the movie for what it was and thank God for that..I was thinking I was the only one who found this movie rubbish!

  137. @Pankaj Roy:

    “YF2 – “But I could not help a big grin thinking of the subset of Western people who generally like to make fun of Bollywood melodrama and song and dance, and yet, who ironically came out teary-eyed after watching this movie.” Well, I am an ‘Eastern’ person who perfectly fits your description. In fact, so does a few of the others in the comments thread. Perhaps it has to do with the tight storyline, absence of Swiss Alps locations, stunning camerawork & editing, no dance numbers through the movie, no product placement & other ills that plague commercial Hindi cinema.”

    Actually no. You do not fit the description. You are fed up because you have had a surfeit of the Swiss Alps. And let me tell you, from that perspective…so am I. But commercial films by nature are sold to people who like Swiss Alps. So it matters little if you and I or our friends dont like it. But those motives are a different discussion altogether. I am talking about the Western audiences who would contemptuously dismiss any Bollywood movie made by an Indian director, but proclaim that this movie is a life changing experience. Mind you, since cinema has no language, I am not belittling any film lover anywhere in the world. This is a very enjoyable commercial film and deserves to be seen. And just that. But I feel uncomfortable when it starts winning Best Picture awards. This is because as the Chinese commentator Li says above, there were some really good movies as its competitor. Note Li’s words, “the indescribable superiority complex of british and colonialism made me angry and sick. I felt offended and tired of the prejudice coming from westerners(i also come from the third world-China).”

    In a certain way, this is a poor man’s India darshan. And Danny Boyle is his perfect guide. Stealing shoes from outside Taj Mahal, life on a train, slum life etc if shown in a documentary style would barely elicit a shrug. But Boyle did cook some nice biryani. He put all that, combined it with the thrill of a game show and the fantastic life of a slum dweller, and used romance as a perfect ingredient to ameliorate the excess spice of all possible types of seaminess of India. The result is a very entertaining 2 hour movie with out-of-the world editing and cross-cutting.

    But just like Jamal’s tour guide stories about the Taj Mahal are a mix of reality and incredulity, so is Boyle’s depiction. Therefore all the flaws mentioned in the comments above make this a work of quasi-fantasy. A fantasy especially created for pandering to the stereotypes of Western people. The ultimate proof of that is at a brief scene when Latika is driving and we see US national highway like signboards. Highway 70, exit 200 eh? :)Look I will have no monetary benefit by pointing these things out. But big hype demands big scrutiny. And to me, such incredulous moments were as irksome as the Swiss Alps or the dress changes or the running around trees things. Somebody above brought up Pather Panchali. I ask him to provide me any scene of such fantastic incredulity, or moments, where the line between reality and fantasy is blurred in that movie. That is why that movie flows, as Kurosawa said, “with the serenity and the nobility of a big river”. This one flows like the water out of a water cooler, something which the junta in the West, critic and common man alike, are extremely comfortable with and happy to drink from.

  138. @ Shaan

    Your comments make me laugh !! You talk like one of those critical review writer and that person with one blind eye who never wishes to open the other !!

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  140. GB,

    Spotted another “copy-cat” instance.

    One of my colleagues posted a Slumdog Review on our internal newsletter…a genuine review ..praising the film…..a smart ass from the company comments and tells him..”No I dont agree with your review for XYZ reasons” and those XYZ reasons were bappida-ed/anu malik-ed from your review.

    Dont want to name and shame the smartie but have told him that I have seen him while he was picking up his nose and sticking the booger under the desk. Hopefully that will stop him from using some elses work.

    Doing my bit in lieu of the profound joy your posts provide us.

    “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” – Benjamin Franklin

  141. Heard that TZP is out of Oscar race. I guess any film of India which doesn’t show poor people or which doesn’t fit into ‘their’ perception of India will never be a good contender for Oscars.

  142. The movie was enjoyable – in a different kind of way in that it makes one take a pause and ponder about the poverty around you. The story was also interesting and something new. But I agree with the review that the story is not plausible.

    For instance, will Amithabh Bacchan or his bodyguards allow a person – a child at that – covered in human excreta come anywhere near his persona – let alone give the child an autograph ? I doubt it.

  143. Just a normal masala bollywood movie . Only the fact that the director is phoren makes it great……… Puhleeze.

    We have a dozen of these with better story lines coming out every year. But no Golden Globes for them. After all there’s no American director and all the other crew is Indian too.

    Nothing wrong with the movie. You watch it like any other xyz. Enjoy it, but please don’t place it on a higher pedestal for it winning 3 of the Golden Globes it won. The only thing worth that is the music. A.R.Rahman with a truly heavenly track again( though why it took so long for him to next noticed shouldn’t be a puzzle for anyone).

    Why do we need the whites to acknowledge our form of cinema to appreciate it as something good. Just the bucks may be higher back in the west but in terms of quality they are two totally different entities to be judged with the same yard stick.

    (And I have not put in any of my views on the disgusting stereotyping…time for all children to grow up and start using their own brains instead of merely appreciating anything that others force down our throats.)

  144. As I am sure that most have commented, my views are on contrary to what you have concluded. I agree all that drama is too hyped – not all things happen to one person, too typical! But then I cant direct ten movies to cover all social banes, right!
    It seems like made for winning Oscar – so what?
    As an Indian watching the movie,most of my thoughts were not just that how such evil things happen but how they are portrayed.
    Destiny does seem to be the underline. But it is the bottom line in Alchemist too. I am sure you enjoyed Alchemist better because India is not being generalized, right?
    Human excreta is not just a part of this movie of Boyle, but as you might have learnt already, even in “Trainspotting”…
    So let us stop getting affronted that a story is so dark about India. Let us armchair pundits be glad that our social evils are not being covered in plush palaces all the time in stereo typing..

    And for the person(s) affronted by “White Tiger”, so we cant tell that villagers suffer, we cant say slum people suffer because, “Hey we middle and upper class of India do exist! Make movies like MOnsoon Wedding and I can relate to it.. Make movies like Slumdog and I feel like you are talking about an India I am not part of and shows me to the western world as poor country and not as a developed country. So Impractical – cos I am not a part of it!”
    Contrarians are welcome with a reasoning stronger than this..

    * The views are not meant to be offensive to any of the comments or the author
    Nice post. First time to your blog!

  145. Nicely written buddy…

    I personally didnt like the subject. Why do you want to show the cruelty and torture? Why these goras (americans,englishmen) like crappy movies? The torture and cruelty stuff? Now its been nominated and has already won so many awards.

    Certain parts of this film do become interesting and capture the imagination, like when the brothers landed at the Taj Majal and instantly recognizing a business opportunity, became tour guides and entrepreneurs, stealing shoes, selling them for money, learning to SURVIVE! Amazing how quickly children can become little capitalists.

    In first part of the film, kids have acted so good. They stole the show. Thumbs up to them!

    But still “Slumdog” is too disturbing to be considered entertainment. Just there is so much of torture and violence in this world, does not mean you can cram it down our throat.

    Please STOP. Do not come to India to shoot movies like these. We are much more than that what you think we are…

  146. Shuba D,

    As a matter of fact I found the Alchemist to be severely underwhelming, a rather hollow attempt to be profound. I wonder how you assumed “I liked Alchemist better” !

  147. GB, happy to hear there is at least one other person who thought Alchemist hollow. Towards the end of the book, I was desperately searching for some profoundness, which so many of them found from that book. I thought I didn’t “get” the book.

  148. Second that. Tis film was rubbish and you don’t need to be a genious in order to realize this instantly. First of all I agree that the storyline is absolutely unrealistic and full of cliches.

    It would have been a lot more realistic if Jamal, Saleem and Latika were’nt born into a slum but into rich families. Instead of being forced to live on the street, they should have hung out in fancy mansions and nightclubs – India is developing into an economic powerhouse after all. When Jamal and Latika first met, it would’ve been more dramatic if she starts to sing in an unnatural high pitched voice and suddenly everyone in the room joins a colourful dance-party.
    I also didn’t like that there were no parents that were against their relationship. There were no slow-motion scenes where Jamal putting on a Ray Ban while getting out of his sports-car. They didn’t even go to Switzerland!

  149. A great bong who plagiarizes all the negative posts of slumdog on imdb.com and publishes it on his blog as his own work…..good good carry on

  150. @Shourav: It would be good if you could prove what you just said. And prove that the plagiarism, if any exists, didnt take place in the other direction. Thank you.

  151. Its funny greatbong that you think imdb.com publishes stuff from your blog…lol…you are funny…
    However, about ur review, you need to lighten up. Indians are the up to criticize who portray them negatively. We cant accept the truth and criticism. Everything shown in the movie is true even though its shameful to accept. Why dont you fly to mumbai and see how shameful it is to see those slums right next to the airport. why dont you take the CR train to Sion and see these slumdogs sitting on the railtrack doing their morning jobs. I am seeing the same things for the past 20yrs.Nothing changed, nobody takes the initiative to change. Everyone is up in arms to protest, criticize something we know is true and dont want to accept. You comments or Big B’s comments show the small-mindedness. Perhaps song-dance Bollywood flicks is what you guys deserve.

  152. I watched the movie just now.. I had read your reviews before watching the movie … so i was a bit biased towards the movie from the begining. I should say the points made by you were valid, though i dont agree to them all the way. It was just a total masala flick and yeah some of the scenes were hillarious like as mentioned in one of the above comments, the “bad driver” hitting the poor child while the americans showing american culture and the host of the show trying to decieve the kid and making fun of the kid on national television cos he was a chaaiwaala come on , What was all that ??

    I think the movie was with flaws but i felt it was entertaining, maybe its cos i still like masala movies, and also maybe cos my sentiments doesnt get much hurt when they show the evils in india. I believe India is flawed, so someone showing it to me on screen doesnt affect me much. I have been through times of riots in this country, though being in my cosy room somewhere far from the actual place of action, I have really felt scared at those times, To say the truth when i was a little kid that was the first time i heard bout the force begging, child kidnapping and stuffs going on all around, I remember i had seen it in a program called ‘Newstrack’ or something. And i had been given so many precautions at home that i really got scared then. I have never been through any of this and thank goodness for that, But if someone shows that it happens in my country, i would have no qualms taking the accusation, as it really does happen in india, if not to one person, still it does happen. so my sentiments doesnt get hurt when someone tries to add a bit extra while potraying the evils of the country.

  153. GB

    You will like “Mohandas” http://www.mohandas.in when it comes out.. Not a high budget film but extraordinarily well made and entertaining.. far superior to most hollywood flicks (and needless to say Bollywood as well).. I saw it at the south asian films festival in NY a couple of months back. hope it gets released soon.

  154. I’m a ‘westerner’- or a ‘white’- as described in somewhat racist tones by certain posters on this thread. I’m British.

    I’ve seen the movie and I thought it was terrific in many ways, but it wasn’t Citizen Kane.

    Some of the criticism on this thread are a little off base, over analysed and missing the point.

    This a small British independant film, made for under £15 million. It’s not a Hollywood, or an American movie. It was never even considered to have a break into the US market. They thought it would be a small independant film that sold in European markets and perhaps even India. What has happened, is that after the Toronto film festival American film festival critics and audiences seem to love it- and that is where the publicity and media attention has snowballed. Normally a low budget indie British film like this wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of making it into the American and worldwide markets. This is not the ‘west’ or even America deliberetaly depicting a ‘cliche’ India in a certain way for western audiences. It’s just an independant British director, who read a script sent to him and liked the underlying concept behind the storyline- one of destiny and the fact that a person can survive all sorts of odds to triumph in the end. And wanted to make a movie of it. India served as a backdrop for the story because he thought it was an interesting and fascinating country to be a part of the story. I’m afraid that’s all there is too the background as to why this film got made.

    There’s a lot of naval gazing over extrapolated analysis of this film on here. Most of which has nothing to do with the director’s intentions. It’s a story told using cinematic and story telling devices- it’s not real life. Some people in the west may believe that this is the ‘real India’ when they see it but that’s because they are missing the point just as much as the people analysing this film on here are thinking this was a film delibertaly made by ‘westerners’ to cliche India with their ‘perception’ of it. It’s a story (or a fable)- and stories use all sorts of myths, over exaggeration of reality, and many other devices, in order to make them work.

    I’d certainly agree that the movie has now been hyped beyond what it is by the Hollywood press. But you should see the upside to all this. It’s created an even bigger interest in Bollywood movies and India in general – particularly in the US (the other home of movies). That’s not a bad thing for many reasons including commercial ones. We have a lot of Indians or people from Indian extraction living here in the UK, so we’re more exposed to Indian culture and more used to it. But breaking the American market is a good thing thing for you guys. You should be looking at the positive sides to this instead of going around in circles overly intellectually critising a film that has inadvertently given India and Bollywood a lot of worldwide publicity and exposure. Danny Boyle’s actually done you a favour!

    As for the idea that countries get ‘cliched’ by other countries or ‘misunderstood’. Hasn’t it ever occured to you that this happens all around the world- if I had a penny for the the amount of times Britain get’s cliche’d or misunderstood by foreigners (including countries in the west!) I’d be a rich man by now…. and that by making some of these comments you also do the same….
    ;-)

  155. Was it just me, or was the acting extremely poor? Got the sense everyone was reading their lines.

    They boy jumping into the excrement probably was great for the school kids “eeeewwwwwww”, but how anyone over the age of 13 could find this nonsense entertaining is beyond me. OK..so you are trying to show how desperate these kids are for autograph…..couldn’t you come with something a little more plausible that would accurately depict the lives these kids lead? A great filmmaker could do this while still making it entertaining. Got the sense this movie was written in a couple of hours…dumbed down for the masses to enjoy.

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  157. @Ben:

    1> “I’m a ‘westerner’- or a ‘white’- as described in somewhat racist tones by certain posters on this thread. I’m British.”

    OK

    2> “What has happened, is that after the Toronto film festival American film festival critics and audiences seem to love it- and that is where the publicity and media attention has snowballed.”

    Very True.

    3> “This is not the ‘west’ or even America deliberetaly depicting a ‘cliche’ India in a certain way for western audiences. It’s just an independant British director, who read a script sent to him and liked the underlying concept behind the storyline- one of destiny and the fact that a person can survive all sorts of odds to triumph in the end.”

    A script which was very subtly and deliberately manipulated. I am told that the character in the book was a Ram Mohammad Thomas, but he was made a Muslim here. Why? To solve pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Muslim protagonist helps establish a connection with scenes of rioting in Mumbai.

    4> “There’s a lot of naval gazing over extrapolated analysis of this film on here. Most of which has nothing to do with the director’s intentions.”

    How do you know what are the director’s intentions? :)

    5> “It’s a story told using cinematic and story telling devices- it’s not real life. Some people in the west may believe that this is the ‘real India’ when they see it but that’s because they are missing the point just as much as the people analysing this film on here are thinking this was a film delibertaly made by ‘westerners’ to cliche India with their ‘perception’ of it. It’s a story (or a fable)- and stories use all sorts of myths, over exaggeration of reality, and many other devices, in order to make them work.”

    Ah. You are so WRONG pal. :)I am quoting from Roger Ebert’s review here.
    ———
    [Quote begins] The film’s universal appeal will present the real India to millions of moviegoers for the first time.

    The real India, supercharged with a plot as reliable and eternal as the hills. The film’s surface is so dazzling that you hardly realize how traditional it is underneath. But it’s the buried structure that pulls us through the story like a big engine on a short train.
    By the real India, I don’t mean an unblinking documentary like Louis Malle’s “Calcutta” or the recent “Born Into Brothels.” I mean the real India of social levels that seem to be separated by centuries. What do people think of when they think of India? On the one hand, Mother Teresa, “Salaam Bombay!” and the wretched of the earth. On the other, the “Masterpiece Theater”-style images of “A Passage to India,” “Gandhi” and “The Jewel in the Crown.”

    The India of Mother Teresa still exists. Because it is side-by-side with the new India, it is easily seen. People living in the streets. A woman crawling from a cardboard box. Men bathing at a fire hydrant. Men relieving themselves by the roadside. You stand on one side of the Hooghly River, a branch of the Ganges that runs through Kolkuta, and your friend tells you, “On the other bank millions of people live without a single sewer line.”

    On the other hand, the world’s largest middle class, mostly lower-middle, but all the more admirable. The India of “Monsoon Wedding.” Millionaires. Mercedes-Benzes and Audis. Traffic like Demo Derby. Luxury condos. Exploding education. A booming computer segment. A fountain of medical professionals. Some of the most exciting modern English literature. A Bollywood to rival Hollywood.

    “Slumdog Millionaire” bridges these two Indias by cutting between a world of poverty and the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” [End quote]

    —-

    So one of the best known reviewers HAS perceived this to be depiction of a slice of real India. And he is true and yet blissfully ignorant. But are we denying that there is not filth and poverty in India. You make 100s of films on slims and poverty. Who cares? But it needs to be depicted in a realistic fashion. There is a difference between making a movie on Zimbabwe in which Mugabe is shown to be a dictator and one in which he is throwing white men into a big cannibal pot and eating them. You get the point? Even the most obnoxious TV show host on any Indian TV channel was never as much of an ahole as Anil Kapoor was made to to when referring to the background of the contestant. It is moments like this, moments when a US highway sign flashes on a Bombay scene that it becomes a dishonest effort. This is neither the India of Mother Teresa nor the India of Monsoon Wedding. It is an imagined country and hence cliches and stereotypes inevitably creep in. There is no doubt about this.

    On a side note, if you dig into the archives of this blog, you will find a similar and quite justified peeve voiced for the movie ‘Born Into Brothels’.

    6> “I’d certainly agree that the movie has now been hyped beyond what it is by the Hollywood press. But you should see the upside to all this. It’s created an even bigger interest in Bollywood movies and India in general – particularly in the US (the other home of movies). That’s not a bad thing for many reasons including commercial ones.”

    Umm…you are zigzaging all over the place. But seriosuly, that is a reason to love the movie right? That I as a cinegoer, judge the movie not by what it is, but as to what its effect on my country’s commerce, popularity and economics, right?

    7> “That’s not a bad thing for many reasons including commercial ones. We have a lot of Indians or people from Indian extraction living here in the UK, so we’re more exposed to Indian culture and more used to it. But breaking the American market is a good thing thing for you guys. You should be looking at the positive sides to this instead of going around in circles overly intellectually critising a film that has inadvertently given India and Bollywood a lot of worldwide publicity and exposure. Danny Boyle’s actually done you a favour!”

    Oh really! Kind of a very uppity and snobbish comment pal. :)But its useless to argue with you. You are taking a bird’s eye view. So you can never appreciate the micro analysis being done above. And for a moment, sweeping aside all the deficiencies, what is SO great about this movie except that its an uplifting one. I am giving the film its due credit. It is a well made mass entertainer. But have you seen “The Dark Knight”, “Revolutionary Road” , “Doubt” or “Benjamin Button”. What makes this movie better than those? I know its recession time and the financial industry is reeling and that distressed viewers can do with some movies like this like some banks can do with the TARP money of that 700 billion USD. But think about it. The history of cinema is replete with great “overcoming all adversity” type of uplifting movies. Like Apu Trilogy, Umberto D, Bicycle Thieves, Ikiru etc etc. But those did not have that faint, subtle but nonetheless irritating hints of manipulation and dishonesty as this movie had. Thats why they were great films. This one is just a fad. To get an insight into why, read the post “Of Ray and Boyle” on this blog.

  158. I think GB, that you have still been too nice to the makers of Slumdog…there is lot more in this movie that needs to be lampooned. What irks me more is that with communication & information tech growing as it is, the American image of poor India is so destitute that such a pandering is even required. You would not believe the line to see this movie at Lincoln Plaza cinemas in Manhattan as I was heading up to see “Waltz with Bashir”, incidentally, I think you should check it out.

  159. Man.. U said it. This movie is such a huge disappointment..
    Trust me ,it wasnt those shit holes and MatChats that I hated but the sheer masala mix of it was unbearable. I felt that I was abused to be an Indian. I felt like someone was calling me a very fortunate slumdog throughout the movie.

  160. I have not watched slum dog millionaire…. Nor do I want to… anything based on anything written by Vikas Swarup has to be utter trash… I have not read Q&A, but I have read Swarup’s latest “Six Suspects” and its like this huge overwhelming cliché…. A man has been murdered… and he was an evil man… what has he done? He has killed a waitress who did not serve him drinks!!! He has shot a blackbuck!!! He was drunk and drove a car over pavement dwellers… wow!!!! Too bad the book was released before 26/11, otherwise he would have wondered around Mumbai shooting innocent people as well…. And then there are six suspects… an actress/ a politician/ a tribal from the Andamans/ a Delhi street thug/ A corrupt bureaucrat/ an evil politician/ Arundhati Roy… I lied about the last part… and the six weapons… a desi pistol… a colt… a beretta… a bazooka… an intercontinental ballistic missile… you get the picture? Its not so much as he writes about poverty etc…. its that it is so utterly unimaginative…

    There is so much absolute trash being written in India… its frightening….

  161. Just watched Slumdog and was looking for what folks were thinking about it as i sure have lot to say!(probably should wait a couple of days to calm down and then collect my thoughts but then…the first impression is usually the honest one).

    The paragraph in your review about the African American kid in US says it all.Nobody could have said it better.

    Every movie should have balance. It is in balance, playing the yin and yang, good and bad does a story and the viewer gets a sense of the environment the characters live in.

    To portray EVERY single brown skinned character as “Inhuman”, “Unkind”, “filled with complete and utter lack of any human sympathy/compassion” was just a bit too much of “cinematic liberty”/”choice” by the director making you conclude the agenda behind it. Strangely, i was talking about Syrianna in the morning and its cinematic manipulation to promote the liberal agenda. There are just too much similarities between both the movies. Syrianna had an excellent screenplay, extremely well-acted(Clooney wins supporting actor Oscar) and wonderfully edited but alas, the content is too one-sided and contrived! As they called it in Times, “Poverty Porn” is another way of selling to people who can feel good about how truly lucky and blessed and great their own country is!

  162. Pingback: Slumdog Millionaire Movie Review - Page 3 - FunEnclave

  163. Interesting take by Sveta, a Deepak Kamat blog reader:

    http://greathindu.com/2009/01/slumdog-millionaire-the-anti-hindu-perspective/

    DAMN THE HINDUS TO WIN GLOBAL AWARDS
    by Deepak Kamat ~ January 18th, 2009.

    (This is an e-mail from Sveta which appeared in the comment section. I agree with her and endorse it in toto. Here it is.)

    With everyone singing hosannas to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, let me offer an alternative perspective.


    This film targets the easiest of targets: the average placid Hindu. The hero is, of course, a Muslim in India, whose mother is burned to death by an attack on Muslims by barbaric, fanatical Hindu mobs. No need for subtlety in either dialogue or depiction here; the Hindu mob says: “They are Muslims. Let us hit them,” and the hapless Muslims cry as they flee in terror: “The Hindus are coming! The Hindus are coming.”

    To make sure his point about Hindu devilry is not missed, director Boyle has a shot of a child dressed as Rama, one of Hinduism’s most cherished gods. Imagine the outcry that would have resulted if Boyle had reversed the above: i.e., had a shot of a child dressed as prophet Mohammed or Jesus as Muslims/Christians hurried off to persecute members of another faith! But since Hindus seem oblivious to any and every insult, Boyle has not only gotten away with his blasphemies, but seems well on his way to awards and accolades.

    The sledgehammer hits against Hindus and Hinduism does not end there. On the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the Muslim hero is asked a question by the TV host: “What weapons does Lord Rama bear in his hands?” Our Muslim hero answers: “If there was no Rama, my mother would have been alive.” Again, imagine the outcry that would have resulted if the hero was a Hindu from Kashmir (Islamic terrorism has almost wiped out the Hindu population in Kashmir) and he had said: “If there was no Allah, my mother would be alive.”

    I have picked just two of many blasphemies from Boyle’s film. And he is being feted and felicitated, because most Hindus have been too cowed by hundreds of years of Mogul invasions and British rule and subsequent Christian conversions to feel any sense of pride in their faith or outrage when their beliefs and Gods are blasphemed. We take no pride in India being a secular democracy—for Hinduism openly sheltering, over thousands of years, Christians and Jews from Syria and Persia, who fled Islamic persecution; Parsis who fled Muslim persecution for worshiping Zoroaster; Armenians who fled the Turks, and now Tibetans fleeing China. We take no pride in the fact that our faith does not ask us to proselytize or convert anyone else, nor are we proud that Hindus have never waged wars or invaded any other country in the name of religion. We give no credit to our religion for having the open-mindedness to give freedom of worship to others who believe differently, so that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahais, Jains, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and others can rightly call India their home.

    And since the average Hindu is without pride—or a clue, for that matter—we have become the easiest of targets. There will be no “fatwas” against Boyle and his cast and crew, no protests or organized expression of outrage by Hindus against his producers and distributors. Indeed, most Hindus would be delighted that a white man has made a film about their country. After all, any attention from whites and the Western media—even of the most viciously negative sort—must be good!

  164. http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/salman-rushdie-oscar-prognosticator/?apage=1

    Rushdie:

    “I’m not a very big fan of ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” Mr. Rushdie said. “I think it’s visually brilliant. But I have problems with the story line. I find the storyline unconvincing. It just couldn’t happen. I’m not adverse to magic realism but there has to be a level of plausibility, and I felt there were three or four moments in the film where the storyline breached that rule.”

    Just my thoughts!!!! So now how will the fans of SM defend their “David Lynch and surrealism” type arguments?

  165. @Bengal Voice
    You quoted: “If there was no Rama, my mother would have been alive.”

    Jamal says if there was no “Ram or Allah” not just Ram. It’s not as insulting as the lady makes out to be.

  166. Hi greatbong,
    Yes I agree that the acting was nothing great but your point about all the things happening to one person doesn’t work out. It is a huge slum and there is not one but may be 1000 children at any point of time who have gone thought everything which is potrayed in the movie(may be not the call center part).That is the reality of India which many of us do not like to look at.

    I agree with everything else, especially the way anil kapoor treats a poor chaiwala. Also let me stick out my neck and proclaim that this movie doesn’t deserve an oscar for very basic reasons like lack of acting skills in actors and very very cliched shots . The story line becomes so predictable after some time that I lost all interest in watching the movie.

  167. After visiting India this summer, and seeing the filth and tolerating the smells, the dirty looks, and the inequality perpetuated by a caste system…I couldn’t have loved this movie more. The bollywood productions are all fairytales. Nobody looks like the people in the movies. In fact, this movie portrayed the “Incredible India” that your government advertises. My experience was incredible in all sense of the word. And Slumdog is just as incredible…without all the smells of spices and filth.

  168. I am very glad to see this review. What you are saying is that the content of the movie is off-base. The reason I do not like the movie is that the way in which it is told is rediculously sensationalized. The flash back technique is totally awkward, the first half hour of the movie tells very little story, and the overall movie is very disjointed and annoying.

  169. Going by the review and a few comments, this movie does to India what Borat did to Kazhakhstan, but without the funny. I am morbidly curious about this movie, will probably watch it, but then that director would have won. Sigh!

  170. @ Don Ayan de Marco

    Have to agree there with you.

    Rest…I havent seen the movie yet. Read the book tho – which was a good (not great) read. Vikas Swarup is no literary genius – I could say. He is not a full time writer a la Amitav Ghosh hence the book ‘Q & A’ was not a work of art but still readable mainly because of the interesting storyline.

    I dont like movies (from books) which deviate a lot from the main story. A few liberties are ok but to have a complete story of its own is a strict no-no for me. If Ram Mohammed Thomas becomes someone else, I wouldn’t like it that much but hey, thats me!

    I will check out this movie once, thats for sure as seeing is believing. The secret is to go without any expectations.

  171. Very repetitive:
    quiet lull followed by chase scene, capture, brutality, escape, quiet lull,…
    over and over again.

    Mix that up with every Hollywood stereotype imaginable to please the American market. I kept thinking of that Dylan song “Not me, Babe” as I resisted the glut of cliches.

    Suspend your disbelief that slum kids will survive hunger, homelessness, brutality, and horrible abuse and grow up not only healthy, cool and smart but also beautiful and confident.

    Yes, for not liking this movie, I have been accused of
    -never visiting the third world
    -never having heard of the tragedy of street children, or cared about it
    -having no taste in movies.

    Glad that I stayed to the end to see the best part, the wonderful full cast dance scene.

  172. @GB-

    Looks as if that chick Nikhat Kazam of TOI read this review before watching the movie.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/moviereview/4018046.cms

    “FORGET the twitter about aggrieved national sentiment. For, Slumdog Millionaire is neither poverty porn nor slum tourism. No, unlike what the desi nationalists’ blogosphere claims, it is not a case of the infamous western eye ferreting out oriental squalor and peddling it as the exotic dirt bowl of the east. No, Slumdog Millionaire is just a piece of riveting cinema, meant to be savoured as a Cinderella-like fairy tale, with the edge of a thriller and the vision of an artist. It was never meant to be a documentary on the down and out in Dharavi. And it isn’t.”

  173. This films divides the audiences into two groups. One who enjoys its clever plot and its portrayal of many typical stereotypes in India. The other is one who sees the movie as being over the top, almost as if the movie is trying to make a fantasy portrayed as reality. I fit in with the latter and agree with this review.

    The chances of the events that occured in this movie happening to a so-called “three musketeers” is mostly likely never. More importantly, the ending of the movie is too much of a happy ending. A slumdog wins the jackpot, ok I can accept that. Then what? The slumdog gets the girl of his childhood dreams?

    I think this is why the movie does so well in the US. It shows how someone with completely nothing can ride his destiny to reach his dreams, acheiving great wealth and the most beautiful woman/women. There was a cegment on CNN, where a reporter interviewed a “slumdog” about how the film has brought him hope.

  174. fantastic accumulation of stereotypes! this movie transcends the visual dimension in whats a sum of parts multiplying the whole, and taking it beyond to a whole new dimension. well, let me say this – its not the very least entertaining. This is a reality show glorified as a movie. A poverty porn meets garbage and filth whore.

    This is a wart in the glorified reality pop movie scene, a Zany Boil.

  175. I would enjoy the film till the second stage of the protagonist’s life. when I saw the incongruous gun at the hand of the Jamal’s brother I was frustrated; lost spirit to see it till the end. I feel same like Bollywood ..boackwass…a heroic gun to triumph over evil.

  176. To be honest….Slumdog Millionaire Sucks…..no depiction of truth…even if it is made docu type…yep it sucks big time….only darker side of mumbai is shown and in fact muslim women and men get too much freedom in India that is even not possible in pakistan as well as middle-east countries. The undying and lively spirit of Mumbai should also been shown. And yes this is recorded:It is only city in the world that after going through series of blasts since 1991 (of course conducted by muslim terrorists) still has peaceful ambience (because Hindus & Christains of Mumbai never strongly reacted). This element of tolerance was absent in the movie which makes it void in loss of facts……………..

  177. To be honest….Slumdog Millionaire Sucks…..no depiction of truth…even if it is made docu type…yep it sucks big time….only darker side of mumbai is shown and in fact muslim women and men get too much freedom in India that is even not possible in pakistan as well as middle-east countries. The undying and lively spirit of Mumbai should also been shown. And yes this is recorded:It is only city in the world that after going through series of blasts since 1991 (of course conducted by muslim terrorists) still has peaceful ambience (because Hindus & Christains of Mumbai never strongly reacted). This element of tolerance was absent in the movie which makes it void in loss of facts……………………….

  178. Ah…I finally saw it. And I am pretty happy to realize that I absolutely loved it! I simply cannot understand the objections. Maybe I saw it with too much information in advance. I almost knew each scene in advance because of the many debates and discussions. It would have been really easy for me to have found it boring because I already knew the story!

    Yet, I found the film exuberant, exhilarating, and just a burst of joy. I walked out of the theatre grinning from ear to ear with the sheer pleasure of Jai Ho ringing in my ears.

    Flaws? Yes many, from the perspective of realism. Funnily the aspect I found most unrealistic was the Bachchan bit. Amitabh Bachchan would NEVER have given an autograph to a shit covered tyke. Also far fetched was the kind of control Anil “my show” Kapoor is shown to have (enough to get Jamal tortured by the police!). But everything else was great.

    And perhaps I enjoyed it more was because I had decided some things before going in:
    1. I will not look at the film like a hypersensitive NRI/nationalist.
    2. I will try and assume that the film is about Peurto Rico, or Brazil, or Mogadishu, so that my “Indianness” does not interfere with my enjoyment, as it seems to have done with so many.
    3. I will try and feel it instead of studying it.

    Hey presto, these dictums worked! I loved the film and will now root for it to win best picture, and indeed any and every other award.

    Go Slumdog!

  179. @Shan,

    “I will try and feel it instead of studying it.”

    Funny. SRK fans say the exact same thing when I criticize Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Incidentally I do not go with the intent of “studying” either RNBDJ or SM. I go to see a movie. In both cases, I find cliches heaped on top of each other and the worst form of targeted pandering. And so pardon me if I can neither “feel” SRK’s hamming (which is easier to criticize as it is “downmarket”) nor the more “internationally-approved” hackjob of Danny Boyle.

  180. Warning: This comment is highly inspired by GB’s style of sarcasm. Please don’t take it as a personal attack. I’m still and always will be a fan of your writing and blog :)

    Sorry to say GB, but your review reeks of patriotism (the pseudo type). I mean, always, ALWAYS, in any Hindi Movie, the protagonist suffers everywhere; His mom gets killed, his sister raped and his father made a servant – This is the original bollywood cliché. Did you ever argue that why does all of this happen to one person?

    It is a story about the protagonist and what all he goes through? It isn’t surprising if half of the things that happened to Jamal happened to most of the slum kids in Mumbai. Which slum kid wouldn’t have witnessed the riots from close quarters? They don’t have a house to escape to you see.

    And your argument – Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and Geek”.

    Wow, now this is really over the top. It’s a GB original.

    How many kids have been sold to pop icons in the US? Countable on fingers; How many slum kids in India witnessed mob violence?

    Arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod… Wow, so you think, their police is as efficient as ours? You seriously believe, US Police is as corrupt and inefficient and as funny as our own Pandus?

    And then
    Hindi movies are, by nature, downmarket and silly.
    Who said so?

    English movies made by people like Boyle, even when they adopt all the conventions of the masala film, are not. Why? Because they have been validated by the “experts” as “life-afirming”, “glorious”, “celebration of the power of dreams”. So “Slumdog Millionaire” with its horribly cliched and predictable love story is a “monumental tribute to the power of love”. While Kuch Kuch Hota Hain with its equally cliched and predictable love story is “oooh sooooo bakwaas”.

    So you seriously think, this is as unreal and dramatic as KKHH?

    I believe that if you’d written the review now, after all the attacks on the movie, you would’ve appreciated the movie and tore apart the arguments against the movie – That is what you are after all,
    “Yes yes I am being contrarian to get attention.”

  181. @GB-

    “Funny. SRK fans say the exact same thing when I criticize Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Incidentally I do not go with the intent of “studying” either RNBDJ or SM. I go to see a movie. In both cases, I find cliches heaped on top of each other and the worst form of targeted pandering. And so pardon me if I can neither “feel” SRK’s hamming (which is easier to criticize as it is “downmarket”) nor the more “internationally-approved” hackjob of Danny Boyle.”

    He he. Also notice how many concession you have to make to validate this movie. But downmarket Hindi movies of course don’t deserve such concessions.

  182. Interestingly enough, I saw the film as pulling largely from the repertoire of Bollywood. The film opens referencing Amitabh Bachchan, specifically in films from the 70s when he played the Angry Young Man, a man who experienced great hardship, often orphaned and living a life of crime. The story of poverty and of dragging oneself up by whatever means one can — that is a plotline that was done and redone endlessly in Hindi cinema in the 1970s, never done better than in the Amitabh Bachchan films of the era. I particularly felt that the Salim/Jamal relationship and narrative closely echoed that of the Vijay/Ravi relationship and narrative from Deewaar. The people cheering on one of their own — how different is that than the general populous cheering on Big B in those films from the 70s, when he got the upperhand of the gundas? I feel that the insertion of Amitabh Bachchan at the beginning of the film was not merely that of referencing a pop culture icon in an attempt to make the film feel “authentic” — rather I feel that it was homage to the narrative upon which the film drew.

    I agree that the film is sensationalist and overblown. But…that’s a film. Most Americans don’t live like the people in the movies either. The gap between poverty and wealth, between struggle and success — it is made so wide, so seemingly impossible to cross, so that you can cheer all the louder when it is overcome. That is why the main characters are put in all the rotten situations. Not simply because it is a 3rd world country, but because in film, you have to make the obstacles seem too high to surmount to create the most drama. It’s worth adding that people in America for the most part don’t live like the people in the movies, either. Would you rather have had the boys in Slumdog living in a hotel, like all the filmi folks in Bollywood movies?

  183. In looking for a Western movie lover who is capable of looking behind the veneer of fakeness of this movie, I started reading the IMDB reviews.

    This one by Brocksilvey seems pretty apt.

    48 out of 91 people found the following comment useful :-
    The Final Answer Is: Fake, 17 November 2008
    6/10
    Author: brocksilvey from United States

    *** This comment may contain spoilers ***

    “Slumdog Millionaire” is the kind of film that many people will probably rabidly adore, because it’s energetic, invigorating and, at first glance at least, feels like something we haven’t seen before. But a whole other group of movie goers may find themselves resistant to its questionable charms, as I did. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a fake. An accomplished fake, to be sure, but a fake nonetheless.

    The film tells the story of Jamal, who grows up in the slums of Mumbai, India, only to find himself in the hot seat on the popular Indian television version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Each question he’s asked during the game show triggers a flashback sequence that fills in a little bit more of his story — we see him become estranged from his brother, who gives himself over to the life of a gangster, and we see him stay true through all of his adversity to his one love, a girl named Latika.

    It’s fairly clear that director Danny Boyle intends this film to be a fairy tale, with the love story providing the film its heart. But much of the film is nasty and unpleasant, reveling in every distasteful detail about Jamal’s childhood. Within the first 20 minutes of the film, we’ve seen Jamal tortured with electricity, Jamal jumping into a vile pit of human excrement in order to get an autograph from his favorite Bollywood star (this scene is played for laughs, because isn’t someone covered in sh*t always good for a laugh?) and we see his mother bludgeoned to death by anti-Muslim extremists right before Jamal’s and his brother’s eyes. Later, we see small children getting their eyes burned out with hot spoons in order to make them more effective beggars. Everyone in the movie but Jamal and Latika, who remain blank slates as characters, is hateful and repellent. Boyle heaps calamity on top of calamity for so much of the film that its facile, simplistic conclusion wrings impossibly false. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your film be both a gritty, slice-of-life indictment and a frothy romantic soufflé. The end product is like “City of God” meets “Moulin Rouge!”

    This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way about Danny Boyle movies. He frequently strikes me as a director who’s not in control of his own films. His brand of film-making mistakes the fast and furious for interesting and compelling, and he gets in the way of his own narratives, distracting us when he should be drawing us in.

    A lot of people might mistake this for a great film. And who knows? — maybe it is. After all, greatness is a matter of opinion. But my opinion is that this film falls very short of greatness.

    Grade: B-

    ————-

    So to the folks above who are questioning the disgruntlement about the movie- its not because of the depiction of poverty (hell- I should be ashamed of Apu Trilogy being a Bengali then), but to quote from above, ” You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your film be both a gritty, slice-of-life indictment and a frothy romantic soufflé. The end product is like “City of God” meets “Moulin Rouge!””

    Exactly!

  184. @Arnab:

    “…the more “internationally-approved” hackjob of Danny Boyle.”

    It seems as the film gets more popular the criticism seems to get shriller! Hackjob? Whose work has Boyle hacked? You might not like the film as a whole, call it fake, implausible, or anti-India all you like, but surely you will admit it is a very nice piece of filmmaking, the craft. Cinematography, sound, music, acting are all top notch. You don’t agree?

    Anyway, the feel bit is something I HAD to decide on in advance simply because I had read and hear simply too much about the film before I finally got to see it. In retrospect, I can analyze it better perhaps, but my immediate reaction was mostly positive.

    And hey, I have nothing against people liking Rab De… Please be my guest. Yes I would tend to be wary of people who love Mohabbatein though, to the extent that I’d perhaps not debate with them. (And it works the other way as well – A guy I know has already watched Slumdog 8 times! I am staying away from him as well. :)) But that’s about it. It’s just a film after all.

    And since it is just a film after all – I am doubly surprised at the vitriol poured on it by various people who find things to simply HATE in it. I personally liked it. You didn’t. Okay.

    BTW, here’s a famous personality who agrees with all the naysayers –

    http://arindamchaudhuri.blogspot.com/2009/01/dont-see-slumdog-millionaire-it-sucks.html

  185. For what it is worth, I saw Rab Ne, Ghajini and Slumdog over the last one month (yeah, bit of a movie-going binge).

    Rab Ne – kind of liked the movie. Suri’s character was endearing and liked the innocent freshness of the heroine. Didn’t find much problem with the plot either. How come she couldn’t recognise her own husband? Well, she had hardly seen him, remember, except for maybe sitting at the dining table for 10 minutes a day under dim light.

    Ghajini – not a bad entertainer. Especially enjoyed some of the typical Tamil movie elements – heroine has to be shown as a kind, simple girl who goes to temples and helps others, etc.

    Slumdog – Liked it the least of the three. I don’t think it is just the heightened expectations either. Even without the hype, I would probably have found it an average film. Didn’t have any problem with poverty depiction or with the plausibility of the plot. No issues with that. But it sort of slowed down at times and for a movie whose entire premise is supposed to be that for every question in the show he had some related event in his life, the last two questions were a bit of an anti-climax.

  186. @Shan,

    [Link]

    This is what hackjob means. It does not mean it has been “hacked” from someone. Cinematography, sound, music, acting? First of all how was SM’s cinematography anything that you do not see in almost any Hollywood movie or for that matter of fact in many big budget Bollywood one? Acting?? I mean what kind of special acting there did you find—Dev Patel’s permanently open “Haa korlei Hawai shirt” expression or Anil Kapoor’s “whatever-that-is-that-he-does” or Pinto’s “princess-pursued-by-ogre” performance?

    And as to music all I can say is that AR Rahman richly deserves an Oscar if only because the world owes him one for his work in “Dil Se”.

  187. “And as to music all I can say is that AR Rahman richly deserves an Oscar if only because the world owes him one for his work in “Dil Se”.”

    gb, exactly. Rahman has given plenty of better music than SM. Dil se, Bombay, Lagaan…

  188. @Shan:

    “It’s just a film after all.”

    Is that how you really feel? Even weeks before you actually saw the movie, you started expressing your disagreement with Arnab’s review, and the opinions of many commenters here – so I would never have thought so! It was no surprise to see that you liked the movie when you finally did see it.

    Anyway, I just thought I should mention that contrary to what you seem convinced about, not everyone that disliked Slumdog Millionaire felt that way because they are nationalists/patriots who get easily offended by “how India is being portrayed”.

    Slumdog M very cleverly made use of a lot of stereotypes regarding India to pander to the audience – to me that is not good film making and such intentions on the part of the filmmaker are a turn off. The extremely implausible scenarios in the movie do not help either. Having lived in India up to my college days, I might be more easily able to realize when something like this is going on in a movie made in the Indian context, rather than some other context – but that does not mean I disliked it because I’m “very sensitive” about India.

  189. @Debashish above-

    Bang on target!

    “Is that how you really feel? Even weeks before you actually saw the movie, you started expressing your disagreement with Arnab’s review, and the opinions of many commenters here – so I would never have thought so! It was no surprise to see that you liked the movie when you finally did see it.”

    Ho Ho Ho. Now its finally clear why he accuses other of going to watch a movie “determined to put it down/not like it”. He went to watch this movie “determined to like it”. :) With such determination, no wonder that came out with a Joker like ear to ear grin. :))

  190. I think the movie is worth all the hype it has created. Its just a source of visual pleasure.

    The question I ask is “why do we go for a movie?”

    My answer to this is that when I buy my ticket for a movie … I expect to be kept involved and entertained for the 3 or 2 hours that I sit in the theatre. To be interested to know the next scene and when I come out of the theatre I should have a smile on my face satisfied that I did not waste my hard earned moolah.Slumdog has exactly done that for me.

    I loved the experience and I think it really deserves the accolades its getting. Maybe I am not the most intellectual one to comment but I do qualify for being an honest audience.

    Boyle is here to entertain and to blame him for not doing justice to the “real” picture of India would be a bit too far fetched. He makes movie to sell…to earn out of it..to get appreciated and to win awards. We cant crucify him for being honest to his profession.

    [ All above views are personal]

  191. Wow, this is getting more and more interesting…

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your film be both a gritty, slice-of-life indictment and a frothy romantic soufflé. The end product is like “City of God” meets “Moulin Rouge!”

    Seems too classy to read innit? But where is the argument? Who says you can’t have a film which is both gritty plus romantic? I think that’s what is actually wonderful about the movie.

    I think, these are the sort of arguments that draw in most supporters. Coz. 1) they sound really cool; and 2) they don’t make sense so people are left wondering – what did he just say???

    Kudos Yourfan2…

  192. well.. I felt the movie was entertaining, it had fantastic performances from all actors.. good direction from Boyle.. BUT (there’s always a but) the portrayal of india was intentionally done this way to get into the audience’s head..

    India is a country with massive diversity.. the way the movie portrays India brings back the immensely disturbing memories of Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom.. Boyle as a director was gr8.. he extracted fantastic performances.. but as a human being, i would kill him if i could..

    and yeah.. would love to see the american/brit version as you have suggested.. and would like to show it to every american/brit alive on the planet..

    the movie simply reaffirms every single stereotype that people abroad have formed about us.. this is the very reason behind americans/brits demeaning our hardworking call center agents (they talk to them rudely etc..)..

    For Boyle’s info, india is the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world.. it is just painful to see such an ignorant and presumptuous portrayal of our country..

    i still think the method of storytelling was fantastic.. i still think that technically this movie was very sound.. but i would rather see blood diamond if i wanted to see this kind of stuff, since this movie simply offends me..

  193. I have seen these guys “bashing India”/”showing it in poor light” all in the name of “reality…”

    vidiya naipaul did it… aravind adiga does it…arundhati roy does it… west wants this… they award them!!!…..

    slumdog is just a medicore movie , that’s it!!!

    if they had guts, they would have named it ” juggi ka kuttakarod pati” instead of “slumdog karodpati” when releasing in India….

    then they would have gotone, real hard..!!!!

  194. @ Yourfan2 “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your film be both a gritty, slice-of-life indictment and a frothy romantic soufflé. The end product is like “City of God” meets “Moulin Rouge!”

    @@ Rakesh “Seems too classy to read innit? But where is the argument? Who says you can’t have a film which is both gritty plus romantic? I think, these are the sort of arguments … don’t make sense so people are left wondering – what did he just say???

    Rakesh, I think yourfan2 is perfectly correct; his astute observation makes complete sense to me. IMHO, a movie must have a theme as its core, an overriding objective as its appeal. Thus :

    – inspite of the horror of the times, Dr Zhivago remains a tale of undying love. We do not see Tom Courtenay blowing his own brains out on his way to execution. We do not see a city in flames, and Rod Steiger conveniently losing Rita Tushingham. Tghus it is a classic and will always remain so.

    – Cimarron is a tale of adventure. In spite of Glenn Ford’s brushes with love, it is his wanderlust that pervades he movie. some birds are never suppose to be caged. And thus Cimarron is a classic.

    – “Cleopatra” nearly crippled 20 Century Fox. A bizarre obsession of Daryl F Zanuck, the original film spanned over 6 hours, as Zanuck could not make up his mind whether he wanted a love movie or a historical epic. Poor Mankiwicz, in spite of being a brilliant director, was caught in the middle.

    In the end, they decided to allow the historical epic to shine through, cutting the movie to three & a half hours. Even then, in spite of a mouthwatering assembly of peerless thespians, historical scenes to make you drool (Rome, sea battles, Actium, Egypt), and inspite of 4 (?) Oscars, it is still regarded as a mediocre movie.

    20 Century Fox did not die out. Only because someone had the good sense to fish out and dust off a perceived “B rated” movie that they had not released. That went on to be an international hit, restoring 20ths crippled finances. That movie was the “Sound of Music”.

    Thus you see, nearly all the classics, the enduring, endearing movies that our parents loved, we reslish, and will continue to be adored by yor children and mine, have a clear theme.

    I agree with YF2 when he says that if “Slimedog” Boyle is trying to artifically weave together disparate strands of mushy love and steel-tack realism, he has failed miserably.

    While foreign audiences will salivate over this movie as it easily meets the prime criteria on an international movie on India :
    1. Ugly Hindus
    2. Ugly Indians
    3. Ugly India
    .. the fact remains that this is a confused, artificial, motivated, distorted, but most of all, ‘dishonest’ work.

    People are entitled to like it. That is their preorogative. However, if people are mentally conditioning themselves to conjure up alternate states of reality to ‘enjoy’ (read ‘endure’) it (some wit above mentioned that he forced himself to believe SlummyDog was based in Tanzania to invoke critical objectivity), then something must be wrong with SlummyDog.

  195. @hara hara: Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of the movies you’re referring to. I’m an avid Bollywood follower you see, who’s been brought up on a diet of Masala (read commercial, over the top fantasies) entertainment. ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Mama Mia’ come once in a decade in Hollywood but in India, that’s what movies are all about. Even a dark movie like Ghajini (a hugely inspired movie from Memento) stretched to almost 3 hours with a full fledged romantic souffle love story between the protagonist and his girl friend who was killed. Not saying that that’s the way to do it, but just enlightening you on what prevails in Bollywood – our film industry.

    Actually, that is what even India is all about – people (howsoever pre-occupied with the daily grind) find pleasure in their fantasies, in love and in reality TV. Take greatbong for instance (the author of this blog). He watches the choicest B Grade movies, makes an awesomely funny post by ridiculing it, and see, he’s now going to make a career out of it.

    The fact is, Love for fantasies (and for life) does exist even in the lowest rungs of our society in India. I’d be surprised if anyone denies the fact that in our country, a guy covered from head to toe in shit can still find a reason to be happy about. India is optimism personified and that’s why I believe, movies like these work. So thats my argument when I say why can’t a movie be both?

    I’m not arguing that the movie is a classic. Nobody can proclaim within a month of its release that the movie is a classic. Classics withstand the test of time and only time will tell whether it is in that league or not.

    Following from my previous argument, there is another thing about Indians and that is they are highly patriotic. Not a bad thing you see, but then, when foreign directors tread on an issue which is offensive, no matter how true it may be, we tend to find reasons to disown it. I’m saying this because our own directors have made scores of movies on poverty, on other issues prevalant in our country and we give them a national award year after year – most recently was Madhur Bhandarkar for Traffic Signal. But we cannot take someone else mocking us. We go into denial. We fail to understand certain cinematic liberties and we believe these are the director’s exaggarations and prejudices and we call him dishonest.

    More so when the foreign director’s movie is appreciated by a lot of people around the world.

    Agreed, there might be some truth in the fact that people want to see Ugly India and that is why they are loving this movie but then, who doesn’t want to see a joke which is on someone else? In this case, this is not a joke but the truth. You’d be appalled when you see the jokes on Americans in Indian movies. Please try watching ‘Hello’.

    However, this cannot be the only reason why the movie is doing well. The fact is the movie combines some hard truths about India (along with a few cinematic liberties and yes, that means using sterotypes) along with a fantasy and serves you a dish which is completely Indian but by a foreign chef. The love the taste and more importantly, they recognise the flavour. That is what makes this movie work for them.

    Filmy – Yes, Dishonest – Not a chance.

    Btw, before you argue about cinematic liberties and stereotypes, please read my post on my blog to know exactly what I mean.

  196. @ Rakesh : Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of the movies you’re referring to.

    You should at least see Doctor Zhivago !! No excuses!! :-)

    @ Rakesh : I’m an avid Bollywood follower you see, … Even a dark movie like Ghajini (a hugely inspired movie from Memento) stretched to almost 3 hours with a full fledged romantic souffle love story …(that’s) what prevails in Bollywood.

    My knowledge of the current Bollywood scenario is sparser than it was 4 years ago, but my appreciation of Bollywood is a lot more than cursory.

    @ Rakesh : Actually, that is what even India is all about – people (howsoever pre-occupied with the daily grind) find pleasure in their fantasies, in love and in reality TV.

    Yep. Fully agree.

    @ Rakesh : The fact is, Love for fantasies (and for life) does exist even in the lowest rungs of our society in India.

    And so it should. Even more so, as those poor deprived people have less to tangibly enjoy, and thus more to dream about as compensation.

    @ Rakesh : I’d be surprised if anyone denies the fact that in our country, a guy covered from head to toe in shit can still find a reason to be happy about. India is optimism personified and that’s why I believe, movies like these work. So thats my argument when I say why can’t a movie be both?

    I agree with your logic. However, given the relentless staple diet of foreign films and documentaries exclusively focusing on faeces and excreta in India, I question whether the Slummydog’s intention was to weave fantasy, romance and tragedy, or to drum up some cheap dollars and support by heaping more calumny and disgust on a struggling nation.

    @ Rakesh : I’m not arguing that the movie is a classic. Nobody can proclaim within a month of its release that the movie is a classic. Classics withstand the test of time and only time will tell whether it is in that league or not.

    The way it has been feted in the foreign and domestic press, it appears that it has already been exalted to a sanctified status far above mundane classicism !! Best movie of the year. Best direction of the year.

    And spin off vulture industries now gleefully joining the fray to feed of the carcass. Another excuse for the CNN, Sky and BBC World ‘News’ (sic) to jump in to the open sewer of slums and splash about. And splashing about they are.

    @ Rakesh : Following from my previous argument, there is another thing about Indians and that is they are highly patriotic.

    No they are not. That’s the point. I am not advocating a blind, fanatic patriotism oblivious to a continuous barrage of crimes committed by one’s nation (like Pakistan, and to some extent China).

    However, neither is the diametrically opposite Indian position of meticulously dismantling the cringing nation’s vertebrae a desirable trait either.

    This continuous grinning stupidity cloaked under tolerance whenever a crime or insult is committed against us, merely provides India haters more and more oxygen to perpetrate their grinding down of the nation. The Indian weakness that has permitted the relentless ‘India-shiting’ campaign of which Slummydog is only a small part, is the same one that is allowing terrorists to flood, breed and overtake India.

    That is why non-incidents like Mangalore are being given 99% of TV time, while far more sin ister issues like the charged India-hating rhetoric at the recent Azamgarh protests are downplayed by cursory reporting.

    @ Rakesh : When foreign directors tread on an issue which is offensive, no matter how true it may be, we tend to find reasons to disown it. I’m saying this because our own directors have made scores of movies on poverty, on other issues prevalant in our country and we give them a national award year after year – most recently was Madhur Bhandarkar for Traffic Signal.

    Yes, but at a national level we produce 40 mushy movies on the soft side of India, 50 gritty movies on India, and 10 faeces laden movies on India. And it is not the faces laden ones which are crowned with all the accolades. Please name me three Hindi movies where kids are wallowing in faeces?

    I have asked earlier, please also name 3 English language movies of reasonable repute and recognition that promote India in a positive, even mildly positive light. The challenge is there for you. And don’t mention “Passage to India”. I doubt where there is a single comment or scene in the movie that veers towards portraying Hindus even with a modicum of warmth.

    @ Rakesh : But we cannot take someone else mocking us. Agreed, there might be some truth in the fact that people want to see Ugly India and that is why they are loving this movie but then, who doesn’t want to see a joke which is on someone else?

    Well, some people are getting fed up of being continuously mocked at in India. And see the point above, if you are Gandhianly refuse to react to each and every carefully targeted insult relentlessly being thrust at us, we will be perceived of as village idiots. Then they or others will take the opportunity of physically harming us, and that is exactly what has happened in India. Inability to react to insults has made us unable to react to the demographic warfare and terrorism overwhelming us.

    @ Rakesh : The fact is the movie combines some hard truths about India (along with …sterotypes) along with a fantasy and serves you a dish which is completely Indian but by a foreign chef. The love the taste and more importantly, they recognise the flavour. That is what makes this movie work for them. Filmy – Yes, Dishonest – Not a chance.

    I believe it is dishonest as it continues to propagate and perpetuate the view of the evil Hindu wielding his Trishul, of the ugly nation filled with cow and monkey worshippers. What about some truth? What about even hinting at the fact that India was a pearl of a nation in the past, but after 1,300 years of relentless torture at the hand of merciless, fanatic creeds and rulers, it is still recovering from its trauma. What about some truth? What about even venturing in to the territory of who constitutes the vast majority of the Slumic population of India and why?

    But that would be truth. The BBC broadcast a program in 1996 on the 25th year if Bangladesh’s independence. It showed contemporary BBC reports of an Indian bomb mistakenly fallen on a hospital and killing scores of patients, without even mentioning the fact that at least 1 million, ONE MILLION, Hindus were murdered in Pakistan’s genocide.

    Slummydog is dishonest for the same reasons. I accept, it does not venture to be realistic. It has the prerogative to employ every single trick, however dirty they may be, to gain commercial success. Even stark dishonesty. But by joining the convenient bandwagon of focusing on a populist, biased, false and carefully media-projected and propagated view of the ugly Hindu massacring India’s trembling Muslim victims, with noble Muslim victims overcoming Indian evils by their sheer grit, Slummydog remains an unquestionaly dishonest movie.

  197. What astonished me most ( and my husband who is a european) is how from these very slums, clean, well combed and cute children with ironed uniforms go to school in the mornings. It never ceases to amaze me how much these slum dwellers want to hide their origin and being as normally dressed as possible. Slumdog with the hero diving into the shit is an insult to all these people. It would have been much more appropriate if he tried to get one bucket of clean water to clean up his only nice shirt and worked hours on it to hide the dirt/tear before approaching his hero.

  198. This review is spot on.

    It’s just another “ooh look! india is wallowing in poverty and is full of snake charmers” type movie. I knew better than to harbour expectations for this movie. Having gone to see the film expecting an average fare, I came out feeling pathetic. The hype surrounding the film is truly baffling. The point you make about people getting their preconceived notions affirmed and hence “connecting” heavily to the movie is very true.

    “Revolutionary Road” should have been nominated for best picture instead of this overhyped nonsense of a movie.

  199. Hi Bong,

    I am a first time reader to your blog and even haven’t gone through all of the comments, hence pardon if i repeat myself.

    I would like to elaborate on the idea of Slumdog in the wider context of the current world situation.

    Lets begin with a bit of background.

    Remember India opened its economy in 1991 and we had two Miss World and Miss Universe two year down the line – my guess is that once India opened, industry required icons to sell products and what better than these beauties. I wonder if we did not have any beauties prior to that.

    Similarly, when the world is in this financial recession and the western world is feeling the heat, what better way to relieve them of their misery by showing that they are still better off than some third-world country, India. This makes them feel good about themselves and hence the accolades.

    So in that sense what Mr. Boyle has done is “Chance pe Dance” and I appreciate his timing, apart from that nothing.

    P.S – I am sorry that nobody noted this but A.R. Rehman has definitely given better music than this, Roja and Bombay come to mind in a jiffy. Surprised, why is he being toasted for something which is way below his best.

  200. I live in the US.

    The scene where the child says ” This is Real India ” and the tourist says ” This is Real America ” or something like that . LMAO LMAO LMAO LMAO

    Now thats a fantasy. Doesnt happen. It was probably put in just to make the westerners FEEL GOOD about themselves.

    Movie was a pieca crap, MUSIC was awesome. Thats about it.

  201. I might be repeating what others have said but the cinematic liberties taken were of the magnitude of ones seen in every Indian Film worth its “salt”.

    1. How many Americans throw away 100 dollars to kids who have ended up stripping their (rented???) car (that too a Merc!!!). In my city when most of these tourists come, they cling on to very penny and haggle with consummate ease. Also I am sure an Indian beggar will be more happy with a 100 Rs. note rather than a 100 dollar bill.
    2. Ram Gopal Verma taught us that the Mumbai underworld calls the pistols as Ghodas, now try to answer who the hell was Samuel Colt?
    3. Anil Kapoor was sore on the guy because he was paying those millions out of his pocket???? I thought crore waala sawaal meant more TRPs so you would want more people to reach there. I remember how Star was promoting the episode when one Mr. Navathe was close to winning the first crore. More so, a whole lot of promos showed Amitabh signing of saying “aur Pacchas Lakh ke liye apka saawaal hai..”
    4. Try to find someone in a crowd at 5 p.m. at CST. Even in Ulhasnagar station you have to confirm that you will be waiting under indicator on platform 1 to meet, else forget about it.
    5. Call centres have phonebook listings???? Do gangsters buy phones in their original names listed suitably as Salim. K. Mallik? Did Jamal remember what K stood for? Taking it forward, I am sure Salim would have submitted his residence proof as well, wouldn’t it be better for Jamal to look up the records to locate him instead of making spurious calls? I think the director forgot, else the situation could be extended that he calls up Salim Malik (famous one) and due to that the result of one ongoing cricket match changes.
    6. Anil Kapoor claims why his cell phone bill is too high when he ridicules the call centre chaiwallah. Why???? I thought the CPP regime was introduced 5 years back…
    7.The toursits knows that Mumtaz died in labor but does not know that she got caught up in traffic…. and I guess he tips the guy another 100 dollars (a lonely plant would have cost only 20 bucks).

    I could go on an on….; talk about the argument that this is a movie with a hope (hype later)… let me tell you all Indian movies are about hope….; the hope to seek revenge, hope to win the girlfriend, hope to become rich (also I do not understand Slumdog’s redemption through earning Money only.. he could have lived off love afterall…..).

    I thought the cinematic liberties of Hojo getting killed by statue of a warrior which is felled by a spinning and flying hat is far more enjoyable, at least I know I am wallowing in the cinematic squalor with a hope that some superstar will bless me with an autograph later on… Amen!!!

  202. I liked the movie, enjoyed it… I like your review, enjoyed it too.

    This is exactly why I have a tendency to avert from over-hyped things (movies,music, books, etc.) and get back to them in my own time, so I don’t walk in with biases other than my own, or walk out dissapointed.

    I think Danny Boyle should have taken up Shantaraam as a project. In the form of cinema, it would probably turn out to be another Slumdog Millionare. I hope Johny Depp doesn’t butcher it.

    So yes, Slumdog was overhyped, didn’t meet the expectations built up, nevertheless a good watch.

    I think our first instinct should be like GB.
    And then,
    we should suck it up and do what we can and strive for what we cannot achieve in our lifetime, until a “westerner” no longer has any basis for such cliches.

    On a different note: Worse movies have won Golden Globes and SAG, and better movies have been made by/about India. For a change we won in main categories, and didn’t come back with a nomination in a Foreign Language Category. If it wins Oscar, I’d be glad to share the pride of the overhyped mass regardless of substance.

  203. Dear Friend –

    Your review of Slumdog was the most honest and accurate I have read to date. Well done. The film was exploitative and over the top, not to mention a complete bore with relationships and romance that felt not only illogical, but preposterous. I look forward to continuing to read your blog. JH NY, NY

  204. @Rakesh above:

    “Seems too classy to read innit? But where is the argument? Who says you can’t have a film which is both gritty plus romantic? I think that’s what is actually wonderful about the movie.”

    Sorry for the late reply boss.

    My suggestion to you is to read this review:

    http://culture11.com/article/34079?page_art=1

    Quote 1: “Jamal has little more than a glower and an unexamined desire to pursue Latika. By the end of the film, he claims to love her. But that doesn’t make much sense given that he’s spent the whole film separated from her and knows nothing about her.”

    He he. Thats not romance buddy. That’s desperation.

    Quote 2: “When, then, is the critical reaction is so grossly effusive? Perhaps because of the way the film covers its bathos with relatively graphic violence; children have their eyes put out with boiling acid, young girls are sent into prostitution, teenage boys end up as gun-toting enforcers for slumlord gangsters. It’s an easy, manipulative, and wholly unnecessary way to shock the audience, and none of it makes up for the fact that it’s still a movie that relies on shamelessly mawkish lines like the one Jamal, with his perpetually forlorn glare, delivers to Latika: “I never forget. Not for one moment. I knew I’d find you in the end.” It doesn’t make any sense in context, and it aims for a breezy romanticism the surrounding story doesn’t justify.”

    Its all about the context. The two themes are not compatible in the context of the plot.

  205. The scriptwriter, Simon Beufoy, in an interview said that he is a huge fan of the underdog and that the amazingly unreal juxtaposition of the dark scenes were to make him look the worst underdog possible.

    That is fair enough as underdogs always win crowd support. A lot of the success of the film comes from the structure of the show Millionaire itself. As good as the AR Rehman music is, the music of the show itself is very very apt and befitting. The beats, the lights converging on the stage and finally on the host and the contestant- is quite dramatic. There is an inherent drama involved in the game itself. The drama is intensified many times over if the contestant is the underdog. So that was the idea. But the scriptwiter could not find the balance and thus many segments appear ‘calculated’.

    But the director, Boyle, says that this movie depicts realism. Aha. Then you should have better done some due diligence Sir! So that the movie doesn’t swing from realism to surrealism to a parable of the underdog with the events of the Mumbai slums being a metaphor of the dark side of life. It is bceause of these reasons that even the film’s biggest supporters cannot say that this movie is just a parable with the events as merely metaphors and symbols rather than reality. And reality of course brings in questions of authenticity and credibility. But heightening the drama with gritty, dark scenes is not enough for universal acclaim. You need romance. Romance only makes the triumph sweeter. The romance was tried to be depicted as understated and tasteful, but like many parts of the script itself, is quite ill-contrived.

    From http://culture11.com/article/34079?page_art=1

    “Mostly, it seems as if Boyle is a sucker for a pretty girl, and expects us to be too. Jamal’s pursuit of Latika never makes much sense, and his self-proclaimed love for her is based on nothing other than the fact that he’s desperate, and she’s pretty to look at. Still, maybe that tells us something: Unsatisfying as that logic may be, it might just explain a lot about why so many critics have fallen so hard for Slumdog Millionaire.”

    So now that shallow romance has to be somehow beefed up by calculated scenes of Latika being dragged away from CST, Latika responding to the call at the last moment before being hanged up on and the duo getting together in the end. The way this happens appears extremely artificial, over-the-top and calculated.

    To quote from Manhola Dargis’s review in NYT:

    “In the end, what gives me reluctant pause about this bright, cheery, hard-to-resist movie is that its joyfulness feels more like a filmmaker’s calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit (or, better yet, a moral tale).”

    To copy from a famous Hindi cricket commentary phrase:

    “Is film (appeal in the cricket quote) mein utsah jyada tha, viswas kam”. More benign enthusiasm, less conviction.

  206. @ yourfan2

    “To copy from a famous Hindi cricket commentary phrase:

    “Is film (appeal in the cricket quote) mein utsah jyada tha, viswas kam”. More benign enthusiasm, less conviction.””

    You write so well dude. Do you write socio-political commentaries too?

  207. Hey dude.
    I am with you on this.
    After watching the movie, I was so disappointed I sat down and wrote four pages on why I did not like the movie at all, I had so many things to say, I did not where to start or where to finish. The script is so bad and has so many weaknesses that for a moment the script for Episode I: Star Wars did not look that bad at all. My favorite:

    – Come away with me
    – And live on what?
    – Love.

    Uuuuuf.
    Pepto Bismol, please!!

    DP.

  208. Hi, I found your review interesting and entertaining. One thing I thought I would comment on is the relationship between the two brothers. While some of the movie has a shallow crowd-pleasing element you talk about, particularly for western audiences, I thought the core of the movie, the relationship between the two brothers, was done in a very gripping and multidimensional way.

  209. Ditto my thoughts, the only difference being you have brought it all out so wonderfully while I was still struggling and analysing why I did not like the movie and felt it was unworthy of all the attention!

  210. Whoa! Defensive much?
    It’s based on a book. Written by an India. Boyle did not concoct up the the cliches himself. It was given to him and he made a movie.
    It’s so funny when NRIs get their panties up in a bunch when their pretty little illusions about “home” and “desh” are challenged.
    The movie was fun and funny. That’s all. Get off your high horse!

  211. I was thinking of reviewing the movie but decided not to after reading this one. Your analysis is right on the dot and you have expressed the feelings of millions of Indians in a dignified way. Thanks.

  212. The only reason you Indians whine about SM and make so much noise about a movie is because you don’t respect the poor, you don’t view them as humans like yourself, so you want to deny their existence and don’t want them to appear in any form of media that brings attention to them.
    You also resent the fact that a foreigner, a Brit, has created this success. He got success because he did a good job, not because he is white. Why don’t you get it? You don’t have success with your movies not because you are Indian, but because they are so incredibly bad, ridicule you as a people, have zero quality both as a story and as a film. We just do better work and you don’t want to admit that. Indian movies emasculated the men and make them all appear as homosexuals. They ridicule the intelligence and capacity of the people, and make you come across as a complete idiot. In spite of this, you have no criticism to your own film, but complain about the only film that make you more international, more like everyone else.

    OK, this is where you differ greatly from the west and why you can never understand the west or be like us: For us, every person in society is equal to a Brahmin. There is nothing below that. Only, some people have done well in life and others have not. Thus no one looks down at poor people. Therefore, the repulsive and crude comment that poverty is media porn to the west is completely false, and is more applicable to your own society, not ours. We view all people in society as a worthy member. Its not anything negative or bad to portray people from different walks of life for us. We have many movies that deal about the dark sides of society – far more so, than with our good society. I’ve worked with slum kids in Bombay and this movie is extremely real of their life. Your nonsense example of the African-American is, however, nowhere near a common reality and is a typical Bollywood ridicule of a persons life.
    Therefore, SM is a positive movie for us and not a negative portrayal of India per say. Everyone knows India has poverty and they need not revel in it, so the movie is not an emphasis on it for us. The movie is positive because it shows endless potentials, even under the most difficult situations, and that anything can happen in life. Certainly even you, the most biased, complaining, and negative people in the world, should be able to agree that this concept is appealing to everyone?

  213. Its interesting that several Indians find the love thread through the movie as “illogical” and difficult to understand. As a westerner, I don’t find long lasting or deep love difficult to understand. Must mean that too many Indians are simply incapable to love in that way.

    I am sure the concept of 1) undying love, 2) lasting love, 3) successful love, 4) love for a girl who is not a virgin – are not at all India, but something that could only be a reality in the west. This is why a western audience likes the story in the film, and can accept it and identify with it, while in India it seems very poorly understood.

  214. @Katherine above-

    1> “The only reason you Indians whine about SM and make so much noise about a movie is because you don’t respect the poor, you don’t view them as humans like yourself, so you want to deny their existence and don’t want them to appear in any form of media that brings attention to them.”

    I agree that there is a bad attitude towards underpriveleged people in India by many upper class people. On a personal level, I can say that I don’t respect the IDEA of the poor being taught The Three Muskeeters in a slum school just so that it later adds up pieces together. I don’t respect the IDEA of the poor 7 year old blind beggar claiming to know about Benjamin Franklin. I don’t respect the IDEA of juxtaposing tenuous scenes of torture and justifying it as a natural consequence of everyday poverty, with an aim to enhance the underdog feeling, before resorting to fairy-tale romance and the pinnacle of success right after the abysmal depths of despair, as a heart-warming denouement.

    2> “You also resent the fact that a foreigner, a Brit, has created this success. He got success because he did a good job, not because he is white. Why don’t you get it?”

    Or it could be that we resent the ‘good job’ that led to this success. Therefore we question the success as we don’t like the job, and this skepticism is not because he is white or British. Why don’t you get it?

    3>” Indian movies emasculated the men and make them all appear as homosexuals. They ridicule the intelligence and capacity of the people, and make you come across as a complete idiot.”

    I kind of agree with you in that. So have you been the watching the Shah Rukh Khan marathon on TV recently?

    4> ” In spite of this, you have no criticism to your own film, but complain about the only film that make you more international, more like everyone else.”

    Look at some of the other movie reviews on this blog, and provided you are not sarcasm or dark-humor challenged, you will see ample criticism of the “own movies”. And what are you talking about? Movies based on India, shot in India, Bollywood movies? Have you seen the movie ‘Darjeeling Limited’? It was shot in India. So is an ‘own movie’? :)And when you say “make you more international”, what exactly do you mean- our country, its people or the “own movies”? I suspect that you refer to a subset of movies with any connection to do with the depiction of India. So then your claim is that this is the only movie which makes us look like everyone else. But you yourself say that we are not like everyone else. So this means that the only way we can appear like “everyone else”, is by ironically being different from “everyone else”, or rather, what being/depicting ourselves as what “everyone else” would generally be most comfortable with. Hmmmm. Ever heard of the word stereotype?

    5> “OK, this is where you differ greatly from the west and why you can never understand the west or be like us: For us, every person in society is equal to a Brahmin. There is nothing below that. Only, some people have done well in life and others have not. Thus no one looks down at poor people. Therefore, the repulsive and crude comment that poverty is media porn to the west is completely false, and is more applicable to your own society, not ours. We view all people in society as a worthy member. Its not anything negative or bad to portray people from different walks of life for us. We have many movies that deal about the dark sides of society – far more so, than with our good society. I’ve worked with slum kids in Bombay and this movie is extremely real of their life. Your nonsense example of the African-American is, however, nowhere near a common reality and is a typical Bollywood ridicule of a persons life.”

    Oh really! So how many slum kids have you worked with who were being shocked in their testicles, victims of riots who know about Ben Franklin, speak flawless English and win million dollar game shows? So either you are an inveterate liar, or you live in an alternate world of reality where your perceptions and notions shape your world. You definitely did not see all of them in one slum kid, did you? Just like not one particular African American did not suffered all the things mentioned. And by the way, I have visited many libraries and musuems in the west to know that this sham of uniform equality that you are so proud of is quite recent. So each of the examples given did happen, with due respects to Sergio Leone, once upon a time in the west. :) Even some decades back, the US constitution said that blacks were 60% human. Time to get off your high horse darling and smell some coffee. The caste system that you so rigidly emphasize is the caste system of the time of MK Gandhi, not of contemporary India. But thanks for educating us of our permanent learning disability- that we cannot see all people as Brahmins. It is something we cannot rectify because all people here are really not Brahmins. :) And since this movie in general did not have any caste reference in general, its quite apparent that the hierarchy you are so fascinated with and use as an all-purpose explanation, is nothing but a “learning aid”/an “accomodation” which helps you overcome your “disability” of seeing everything through the caste system. Little knowledge is indeed very dangerous. Your concern as to wheather some of us can understand the West is a valid concern. Equally vexing is the question as to whether some people in the West can see the real picture in the East. For people from each segment, with their recalcitrance and inflexibility, the twain , ahem, shall never meet.

    6> “The movie is positive because it shows endless potentials, even under the most difficult situations, and that anything can happen in life. Certainly even you, the most biased, complaining, and negative people in the world, should be able to agree that this concept is appealing to everyone?”

    Really! What a landmark movie this is then in the movie of that type!!!Unprecedented, right? Yes anything can happen! Even the million dollars. But sadly, then he became like “us”, “biased, complaining and negative”. So then he uses his new negativity to lose money in a newly themed game show, “Who wants to be a slumdog”. To watch the downward spiral back from millionaire to slumdog, keep your eyes wide open for the sequel, Millionaire Slumdog. I promise you that there will be a lot of caste system there.

  215. ‘Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and Geek”.”

    Have you seen Crash? that encapsulated a lot of the american stereotypes about race and combined it into one story. and that movie won the best movie Oscar too…

  216. I just finished reading your review for the movie. Personally I loved it. I agree with you that there are a few assumptions one has to make to enjoy the movie but I disagree with you about everything happen to only one person. Having worked with Street children in Mumbai, the movie reflected everything I had seen children on the railway tracks of Borivilli or Kurla witness in 6 months. It’s harsh out there in the real world, I’ve seen kids get beaten up by the police for no rhyme or reason, get forced into begging, girls getting raped or sex trafficked and I’ve also seen it all happen to one child. Sigh! So to me it made perfect sense, most of us want to believe that all these things can’t happen to just one person, but they do.
    Another thing I wanted to share with you about your example of the African American in America, read this book “What is the What”. It might change your opinion a little bit.

  217. I must say I was terribly disappointed with the movie. And I am surprised with all the hype. Like our Padmaashree awards this year, it seems the Oscars and Golden Globes will be awarded to popular cinema rather than outstanding works of art. Perhsps, in the global economic winter, the world wants to celebrate a Mumbai slumdog winning a million bucks against all odds. Nothing else brings cheer into our lives.

  218. OK, this is where you differ greatly from the west and why you can never understand the west or be like us: For us, every person in society is equal to a Brahmin.

    @Katherine: What makes you think that we want to be like you? And speaking of understanding, ahem, we understand you way too well. Everyone is a Brahmin in Britain, you say? Did you suddenly land from the Mars yesterday? Didn’t your forefathers enslave us and called us the black natives and niggers and whatnots? Wasn’t MK Gandhi kicked out of a train by westerners? Weren’t thousands of people murdered in cold blood at Jalianwallah Bagh by westerners? Doesn’t your queen still display the jewels she stole from our country and claim them as her own? You say you have respect for everybody? C’mon, you ARE funny!

    And while we are at it, the US is no better. The kind of racial debates that flooded the media when Obama was running for president are unthinkable in India. Equality? Yes. Everyone is equal in America. Only some of them are more equal than the others.

  219. @ Raja Dahir

    Sigh…..this is a question lots of people ask yourfan2. Many of GB fans have egged him to start a blog of his own. But Mr Modesty here underestimates his own abilities and excuses himself that he has other commitments. I think he linked up some of his writings, if I remember correctly but then I don’t think that was what everyone expects him do

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  222. found your review thru a comment on NYTimes
    “Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and Geek”.”
    that was great….

  223. Have you considered writing a script for your African-American story? Really, it could very easily be sold and produced. Have you ever seen any of the Black explotation films from the 1970’s? …or the parody: “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”

    We’re all exploited.

  224. I saw SDM a few weeks back and found it entertaining. The emphasis on cruelty and the magical rag-to-riches themes were a bit over-the-top for my taste, but still it was mostly fun, and of course heart-rending – which is what soap operas are supposed to be – and that’s what this movie is to me, a soap opera. It is well-done popular entertainment, not worthy of any special awards. Obviously some Westerners will think it’s a great, realistic portrait of India. Others, like myself (who has never been to India) will realize that films like these intentionally pump up the stereotypes for the sake of box office dollars.

    I wouldn’t worry too much that this movie stains the reputation of India here in the States. My guess is that most Americans will think the final dance number shows that Indians are “cool” – more than they will think the preceding melodrama means that Indians are cruel and backward.

    (P.S. In my view it was nothing like Forest Gump. The latter was an intriguing review of actual history (in fact, it seemed at times to be my life story) whose treatment of stereotypes consistently rose to the level of haunting surrealism. SDM is neither surrealistic nor particularly meaningful. It’s a well-done escapist flick with a typical Hollywood and perhaps typical Bollyhood story-line and ending.)

    It was interesting to find the typical conservative versus liberal arguments/animosities I find on blogs here played out in the Indian context. Though you folks are more polite I would say. Thanks.

  225. i liked your opinion!
    i think slumdog is a great movie but not oscar worthy! It has its moments where the story completely falls apart and its difficult to comprehend!

  226. Slumdogs won the oscars, definitely not the best film of 2008…

    Ergo sum, Oscars is just another movie ceremony, but will we see thru this, because its the worldwide recognition we crave…

  227. I was fervently hoping this movie shouldn’t win any Oscar except for the music score (well, a master musician has to be recognized some time at least !) exactly for the reasons you’ve mentioned about in your post..Any self-respecting Indian would not pride himself that a film that portrays India in the worst possible way should be held on the Oscar pedestal for all the world to see and encourage assumptions ( which it rightly will!) that all of India is indeed like that…At a time when India is making significant strides on the IT frontier, is this what we need to identify India as?? I feel ashamed that such a film has been made on India and that people are beaming about it winning the Oscars…All the hype and awards sorrounding this seems like a world-wide conspiracy to push on to the limelight an unfortunate section of the Indian society and try convince the world that this is what India is all about….Indians, can you not see the smirk and snigger behind it all? Please, when will you wake up? I feel sorry for every Indian living in the West because he sure is going to feel the unspoken (hope so) opinions about his motherland whirring on in his uninformed Western colleagues’/freinds’ minds…

    A movie influences many people, forms opinions in their minds, whether you like it or not. And what better way to create the worst possible negative image about India through carefully constructed frames & dialogues than Slumdog Millionaire? I feel completely humiliated and ashamed, not only because we are gloating over this movie winning the Oscars, but because India cannot be pigeon-holed into this
    crap of a movie…India is far far beyond all of this…come here to see what India is really about….

  228. Sorry Dada, I’d written this on the wrong post earlier. Apologies. We need a second opinion on Slum-kutta. Is the cumulative intelligence level of the world tending to negative? Rags to riches romantic chic flicks that are based on exploiting brazen stereotypes and the need to romance everything have taken the world by storm. The movie, as you rightly point out, is too fantastic and unbelievable. In addition, the fantasies are not plain-vanilla, like the wish to become a ‘princess’ and possess heart shaped diaries that open with a secret heart shaped key that contains the picture of one’s deceased mom and dad who loved each other so much that….. No Sir, These are real fantasies. Aspirations. Which is cool, except for the fact that they are based on naught, or very little.

    “Let’s say I made a movie about the US where an African-American boy born in the hood, has his mother sell him to a pedophile pop icon, after which he gets molested by a priest from his church, following which he gets tied up to the back of a truck and dragged on the road by KKK clansmen. Then he is arrested and sodomized by a policeman with a rod, after which he is attacked by a gang of illegal immigrants, and then uses these life experiences to win “Beauty and The Geek”.”

    Why then should bolly households-Johars, Chopras, and KKKKK-Ekta’s-be ostracized? Even they cater to the masses, give in to stereotypical ideas on how the Indian woman and the hypothetical man should behave, and tie up loose ends. People are born and reborn, marry and remarry, and cry inconsolably, sometimes for the larger part of 3 hours or 30 episodes. All for love. And kanjivaram sarees and makeup.
    The greatest risk that this movie puts us naysayers is the risk of being surrounded by a group of Slum enthusiasts that are too quick to judge us. Even as I write this, I am surrounded by the “either-you-dont-get-it-or-you-are-too-insensitive” look.

    Which brings us to the softer effects of recession. Too much enthusiasm and positive thinking about too few meaningful things.

  229. To Bengal Voice:

    You got your quotations wrong:

    Our Muslim hero answers: “If there was no Rama, my mother would have been alive.”

    The Muslim hero actually answers:”If there was no Rama or Allah, my mother would have been alive.”

    Don’t try to instill negative emotions by stating incorrect facts.

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  231. If only “Lagaan” had a scene featuring Aamir Khan shitting in the paddy field and washing with water using his left hand, then it would have surely beaten “No Man’s Land”

  232. @ Anirban
    Hollywood has its pet topics that it loves to pamper.

    1. Anything showing poverty, conflict and depravation of the third world, from the “Western point of view” is a hit.
    If the same thing is shown by the native, it is not.

    2. Anything supportive of Islam is a hit, unless the opposing side is Israel. If Jews are shown in a bad light, then it doesnt work.

    3. Any straight actor who plays a LGBT role is a hit.
    4. Any “hot” actress who gains weight (atleast 5 dress sizes) for a role is a hit.

    So now Bollywood can make movies with a combination of one or many of the above, with a Western producer, and Oscars will fall like leaves in Fall.

  233. Awesome yourfan2.

    Such a logical and well-organised reply. By the way, I can’t help writing organised instead of organized. I too am a citizen of Jamal Malik’s country.

  234. OK!!! After reading the numerous comments – I just can’t understand and fail to see why Indians are so pissed about the movie.

    Here are some conclusions

    A. The movie it seems depicts the people who are not fortunate enough in life. You know the people that work as servants in your house, cleans the bathrooms and sewage, street urchins. All major cities in India have slums… that’s not to say that the west do not have poverty – yes they do…

    This in my mind is the thing that pisses most Indians off. You are pissed off because you want to be recognized in this century as moving forward as being on par with the West. Hey there is no denying that – you guys are here. You have advanced well beyond the West in technology and business.

    But you do have all the stuff suffering, poverty depicted very well in that movie. Instead of complaining about the movie do something about that?

    Do you want Danny Boyle to create a movie about call centers? Come on a fair share of the Bollywood movies are remakes of Hollywood movies with a twist. Let’s forget your portrayal of the West. Seriously, your movies where the main characters fly from country to country wearing designer clothing (with some seriously messed up colors) driving flashy cars. Yes, that is how the majority of the Indian people live by.

    Actually that is my only conclusion. The movie was beautiful – I do hope the children in the movie are compensated well. God Bless India.

  235. @JC
    “All major cities in India have slums”

    I don’t think all major cities in India have slums. By putting “all” and “major” together you are making a very generalized statement.

    “You are pissed off because you want to be recognized in this century as moving forward as being on par with the West”

    The issues with the movie as pointed out by GreatBong and those who agree with him have nothing to do with “mommy-i-came-first-in-the-class-but-the-teacher-didn’t-give-me-a-chocolate”. It is about the fact that the movie is over hyped and caters to India’s misunderstod image/stereotype. So again, get your facts, right.

    Doing something about poverty. Well, since our economy opened up in 1991, the percentage of people coming out of poverty has been substantial. Not to deny the reality that a lot of work has to be done, but we ARE doing something about it.


    Remake issue is understood. But nobody claims that the designer clothes and flashy cars is the real India. Do we?

  236. @Priya:
    “I feel completely humiliated and ashamed, not only because we are gloating over this movie winning the Oscars, but because India cannot be pigeon-holed into this
    crap of a movie…India is far far beyond all of this…come here to see what India is really about….”

    Maybe you should do the same sometime…

  237. Agree with your review. I watched the movie with friends and enjoyed it as it was nice to see Bombay again (born and grew up there), even if it was Dharavi. But the “entertainment” high wore off pretty quickly and after that I’ve been puzzled by why everyone is so in love with this film. I will admit, it is slick, very slick. I felt I was watching a music video or a targeted flashy ad rather than a film, which in the end was precisely the problem. It didn’t delve into nuances of Jamal or Salim’s character. Salim at least shaped his life the way he pleased but Jamal was a mere passive puppet, waiting for destiny to strike out of nowhere. Even the brothers’ relationship was not explored once they got into their teens. As for Latika and Jamal’s love story, fine, I’ll accept that as destiny, but did they really have to 1) have such lame dialogue and omg-cruel-fate scenes and 2) end with a Bollywood-style music number? Seriously? Also, this movie was so packed with cliches – both filmi and slum/Bombay life – that we were rolling our eyes during many of the scenes. We also said “that would never ever actually happen” many times. If a Bollywood movie did that it would be criticised, and rightly. Do we applaud Danny Boyle for identifying the “correct” cliches to portray?

    On the positive side though: the young kids. Simply awesome.

  238. Very well written. The movie indeed is a “cleverly directed” one. We all know it is neither that great in content/ direction/ acting nor music. There’s a lot more of Rehman music which is much better than “Jai Ho”.

    Anyways, I’m happy that the awards have given India a recognition next to ” Gandhi”.

  239. First off, I haven’t seen the movie, and I had no strong feelings toward it. However, my lack of feelings mainly came from ignorance of the film in general. I got to this blog from the New York Times website in which they were commenting on Indian resentment to the movie.

    SO…I have to say that just hearing the general outline of the story doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. It seems incredibly simplistic. The analogy you used to the US really drove home what I see as the principle weakness of the movie, the director is using a sledgehammer to drive home a tack. Also, while I cannot comment on the film’s ability to replicate India, even if I had seen the movie, I wouldn’t doubt there would be issues when the director is so ham fisted wit h the plot. One would hope that a British citizen would be damn sure to enlist the help of some form of Indian cultural experts when making a film about their former colony. I think all but the most rabid British/western apologist would agree that a little respect would be due in this instance.

    Beyond the issues of poor directing and lack of respect for modern Indian culture, I have reservations about the general message of the movie. This is not the first movie in the west that has this trite “rags to riches” bent. The inevitability of the happy endings in these movies tend to dramatically underscore how virtually impossible it is for most people throughout the world to better their lot. Ultimately, they reinforce a sort of American dream syndrome in which people think that all they have to do is make their way to some promised land and all will be fixed. And those people lucky enough to have the power to change things seem to miss the point in how infrequently these happy endings tend to occur.

    Maybe I’ll watch the movie to see whether there is any redeeming value or to see if my points are valid, but that just seems like a waste of an afternoon.

  240. Sure, I agree, the movies does all of the things that you stated so poignantly in your review and the movie does it well, but have you for a moment, sat back and considered that Mr. Boyle isn’t the original creator of this material? He hasn’t conceptualized the whole story from the cockles of his imagination, it is in fact a story written by an Indian for an Indian audience (I mean lets face it very few people outside India had even heard of the book Q and A before the film came out) he merely presented the already existing material in an extremely clever, albeit in an extremely gimmicky fashion, so isn’t the original creator just as much to blame for presenting India in a bad light as much as the director is?

    Why is no one criticizing Mr. Sawarup then?

    Just my two cents on it.

    At the end of the day, well it’s just a movie!

  241. For Krishna’s sake; it’s a movie! How many prostitutes meet a handsome man, get designer clothes, jewels, and marry the guy? How many little girls levitate above their beds, spew green vomit, and rotate their heads 360 degrees? What simple-minded guy gets to sit on a bench, eat chocolates, meet several presidents and teach a musical superstar to dance, and make a fortune on the stock market?

    Where in India do mobs of average people burst into song, in perfect harmony, and dance in perfect synchronization?

    Lighten up!

  242. I wonder what the people on this list think about 8-mile, with a series of very negative and cliched imagines about growing up in Detroit. Or the incredibly cliched Dances with Wolves. Or the rediculously contrived Pretty Woman reference just above in this list.

    Movies are normally fairly contrived, and they often show a negative portion of society. They also have some sort of uplifting twist unless they are The Killing Fields and just make everyone sick.

    Slumdog seems contrived and cliched, which is common.

    Slumdog seems to portray a negative portion of society, not a representative lifestyle. That is almost always the case in cinema.

    I am not sure of my own feelings on the subject, but I’m trying to understand whether the fuss is reasonable or people are either expecting too much or are in a siege mentality.

  243. I read your review and some of the comments with great interest.It is wonderfully written but I do not subscribe to some of your views. Firstly, I do not understand why we should be so agitated at the portrayal of poverty or the associated ills in our country when they do exist or we have allowed them to do so. A westerner does not have to know about Indian poverty by watching Slumdog. He knows about it just as we do.
    Secondly, child prostitution,rape,forced begging etc, you have admitted, happen in India, but could they happen to the same person ? I ask you,could they not ? To a slumchild ? Is not there a real possibility of a slumchild being the victim of a police chase or a riot or of being sucked into the underworld and in case of girl,being forced into prostitution ? Just as there is a possiblity for one escaping such a horrible fate.Adulation of Amitabh Bacchan or going to any length to have his autograph or for that matter of any popular filmstar or crickerer is not contrived. It is Indian reality, just as the recent hype about Slumdog is in this country. What is contrived is the nature of the escape for Jamal. What is contrived is his arrest on filmsy ground, not so much the police brutality.Or for that matter his winning in the game show itself through some shots in the dark or the fairy tale ending.Yes, there is a lot that is implausible in the story but it is unfolded cleverly, to choose your word in a different meaning, and served to us in a fast pace and a superbly edited manner and with great sound effects to leave finally a good audiovisual impact. Yes,it is cleverly done but which good cinema is not ?

  244. I just watched the movie…

    I am from pakistan….a country with similar culture, problems and demographics as India/

    I completely agree with the review.

    The movie is grossly over-rated….with a perverse and rather cynical depiction of India…and it looks like a comedy of coincidences…

    ( I must add…no matter how much the politicians try to brew up hatred between the Indian and Pakistani public….most Pakistanis have a soft spot for Inida due to their common history….)

    I would rate “Sholay” over “Slumdog” a thousand times over!

  245. finally i find a review that mirrors my opinion about the movie, thoug of course your preciseness and narration is way above my simple feeling that slumdog is crap. Living abroad i felt isolated with my opinion as evryone just fanatically aores the movie.
    Some points i would like to add to your analysis.
    The kids (first ones )are just great and only they would deserve the limelight. Freids pinto is absolutely terible and it is incomprehensible to me how she walks the red carpet evrywhere , being proud of the movies success. Dev Patel is an english buccha unable to portray the character. same with all the other kids who just didnt get the character right. They seemed like AC bred london bread of indian origin having no stance or indian behaviorism.

    thanks for your great review

  246. I don’t quite understand why so many people hate this film. I mean, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. The only thing I really wonder about is why so many are offended by the portrayals in this movie, after all, it is a movie. I am a female from southern America and I don’t get offended by the way Scarlett O’Hara behaved in “Gone With The Wind”. Anyway…thats just my opinion.

  247. I agree with “This is not a ‘feel-good’ movie!” it is devastating sad to see what happens to the three central characters in their childhood. However there is a very happy ending. Love triumphs, this is a must see movie!

  248. Another IMBD reviewer who sensed the fakeness of the movie, and was put off by the ill-conceived romance. He is bang on target about the banality of the screenplay.

    ——————————————

    88 out of 152 people found the following comment useful:-
    City of God Has One Vital Thing Slumdog Millionaire Does Not, 30 January 2009
    8/10
    Author: alexkolokotronis from Queens, New York

    Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2008 but the hype surrounding it is a bit undeserved. Don’t get me wrong, this is at the very least a good movie and is quite a terrific movie 3/4 the way through.

    The acting all around was very good particularly from Dev Patel and the small kids. There performance are probably the only thing that is overlooked in this film. Without much of these very good performances the movie would not have been at the level it was at.

    The directing of Danny Boyle was his best yet. The look of the film was amazing and many screen shots of India were breathtaking. The musical score was very fitting to the style of the movie. It was one of the best scores of 2008. Where this film fell apart was at the writing. Towards the end its withdrew into a standard romance. It was no longer the great and amazing adventure we had witnessed for most of the movie. It had plateaued and didn’t deliver the way I had hoped it would this largely in part by the failure of the screenplay.

    Many people have compared this film to City of God because the film are actually similar in many ways. Yet City of God has something Slumdog Millionaire does not have which is depth and character motivations. These things are vital to these kind of movies being successful. City of God seemed to have a more plausible story because the story was more linear. Events took place as a result of other events. This did not happen in Slumdog Millionaire, the story was more chopped up and too many of the events just seemed to pop up out of no where. Slumdog Millionaire did take a very ambitious approach in the way it was made which is commendable. Is this a 1st rate movie though? The answer to that is no.

    ——————–

  249. It’s interesting, because when I first watched slumdog I had heard little about it, but certainly thought it was going to be fresh/good. Ended up disliking the movie from the moment he jumped into a pile of sh*t in order to get an autograph. I noticed right away the people around me perking up, while I turned away from something I had no interest in watching. I felt the sloppy symbolism of the way being covered in waste got him to the front of the line to get that autograph, just like in his life the crap gave him the answers to his quiz show questions. As the movie continued to flow along in the same sort of cliqued depiction of ‘dreams,’ ‘hope,’ and ‘love,’ I actually felt like my intelligence was being insulted.

    In the theater I noticed people were really into the movie, the woman next to me especially kept making noises, and at points was clapping her hands. I spent the rest of the movie trying to figure out what the big deal was, when I started to realize how absolutely brilliant the film is; heres is why:

    Basically the movie does the following things:

    1. It gives fat rich Americans another reason to feel their way of life is above all the best. It evokes that perfect blend of pity, and self righteousness that I get from people who are trying to convert me into their churches.

    2. The questions on the quiz show were so ridiculously easy, that it justified the feelings of the audience by making them feel smarter than they actually are.

    3. It blended all of these things into a story of total and absolute fantastical hope. The basic American dream, that one will reach their destiny despite what there life holds because thats whats meant to happen.

    … it sells Americans on this, while at the same time depicting them as totally stupid and unaware! It’s amazing, when I left the movie I actually thought that the scene where the kids are duping the American tourists was just symbolism for what the movie was doing to me. What the movie has done to America. Evoked the same sort of emotion that those boys did to dupe the Americans, and take their money, in order to take ours.

    i don’t know if that was the intention of the movie, but I hope so. I guess it’s just better than the alternative.

  250. hey bengal voice, Jamal didn’t say If there was no Rama, my mom would still be alive today.
    He said “If there was no Rama or Allah, I would still have a mom today.”
    He mentioned both of them.

  251. Am Against all said.

    I could not understand why each and every one has a view and an angle to farthest of topics that he/she may be referring to. But then people try to make statements that gains conformist applauds. If Boyle had done that to India, You yourself are doing the same to gain 314 replies and comments to your blog. (Just check if you have got any Non-Indian comments..)

    What I mean is if any sequence of events mentioned in the movie not related to the actual scenario here (but ofcourse were not far from actual scenario as well), if it is earning bucks for the welfare of people at Dharavi and other slums at India ( India have seen lot of funds pouring in from other countries after movie gt a hit) I see nothing wrong in it.

    Though I do agree SM was a big marketing stunt. It has comparatively done lesser harm to India’s perspective than benefited the slums in India.
    So am Happy..atleast the movie gained money for needy..awards for deserving..and bright future of out-of-the-blue stars in the movie.

  252. Pingback: We Are Not Worthy | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  253. Pingback: Films seen in August 2010 « Information Overload

  254. Focusing on the superficial for a moment: What era is Shabana ji’s loveliest? My own view is that her appearance has changed so much over the years that it is difficult to compare across the decades. In the 1970s she could be stunning, but could also be a little elfen and awkward; she had not yet grown into her looks, but the potential was there, etched in her high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes. Today, she is about as gorgeous as a woman can be, strong and poised and real and intense; one’s attention is still drawn to those fabulous eyes that archly regard the world

  255. Pingback: Quora

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