OPINION

Slumdog Millionaire - A Millionaire for sure but an Oscar?

January 31, 2009
Ankur Bhatia

The Wonder Kid I don't want to get into the habit of pulling down the expectations of everyone but i don't even want to praise something just because its got an Oscar nomination. Having said that Slumdog by no means is a bad film. In fact its a superb film, one that takes you on a ride which is fast, crisp and exhilarating. The cast is fantastic specially the small kid who plays Jamal(junior most) along with Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor who plays the two faced host with perfection. Even the others like Irfaan Khan and Saurabh Shukla fit in very well. Also there are some scenes that will stay with you forever like the young Jamal running covered in shit to take the Big B's autograph or the eye popping beggar scene followed by a heart wrenching chase.

However the most fantastic thing about the move is its screenplay which moves between present and past with such ease and purpose. Simon Beaufoy surely deserves the Oscar nomination and so does Chris Dickens the editor of the film for such sharp work.

Also if there is something else that is Oscar worthy it is the score by A.R. Rahman which complements the happenings of the movie phenomenally well, be it O.... Saya, Paper Planes or even Jai Ho. Its funky, peppy and very apt. A special mention for the brilliant cinematography (Oscar nominated) by Anthony Dod Mantle who captures the slum streets and brothels with utmost honesty.

So now the big question, Oscar? No. Not now, not ever. The only reason that it has reached such heights is because apart from being a good film it is directed by Danny Boyle and not Ashutosh Gowarikar or Rakesh Om Praksah Mehra. I see no reason why Slumdog can be nominated and Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho... can't be.

One very important point. There is a scene where a driver beats up Jamal Junior for stealing something and Jamal tells the American couple that this is what real India is, and the American Couple say " We will show you what real America is like" and hand over some cash. What does Danny want to prove here? That we Indians only know how to beat up and don't have feelings? Or that Americans are so better of than Indians when it comes to forgiving someone? I really don't know but i sure would like to ask him that.

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#1
smallsquirrel
January 31, 2009
08:01 AM

erm, danny boyle is british, so there goes your theory. it was not a very important point in the movie and really, that scene spoke more to the guilt of rich travelers when they know they have taken advantage than anything else.

also, you can go ahead and ask why not an oscar nod for other movies, and there are a lot of answers. but come on, many other brilliant movies from around the world (including american ones) do not get nominated... do you see this kind of whinging then? not really. it is not some big ugly conspiracy against india.

#2
kerty
January 31, 2009
09:35 AM

It is big ugly 'conspiracy' when only poverty porn about India gets spotlighted for highest honors and acclaims while all other equally meritorious work do not even get noticed even at the lowest level of recognition.

#3
commonsense
January 31, 2009
10:42 AM

"I see no reason why Slumdog can be nominated and Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho... can't be."

Lage raho??? childish tripe, technically and otherwise too.

#4
sarah
February 1, 2009
12:21 AM

Lage Raho was absolutely horrible! Just goes to show how horrible movies can go a long way in India.

Taare Zameen par was better but was it really capable of moving audiences the world over? umm...not sure

#5
mumbaiker
February 1, 2009
08:53 AM

I hate this term, poverty porn. There is nothing pornographic about it. Yes, Boyle finds beauty in places and people many others ignore, but the poverty is not enjoyable! It is a heartbreaking beauty and one that shows the triumph of the human spirit.

I liked Lage Raho. A romantic musical comedy about Gandhi? Only Bollywood could pull it off.

Rang de Basanti is a great film, but Oscar will never award a movie that promotes a violent solution liker assasination, even if that assassination is wholly justified. It's just not their thing.

A lot of the movies I see listed as worthy Oscar contenders don't really speak to western tastes, or are full of cultural things that westerners don't understand. Or they are too long for the western attention span. And westerners don't always have access to the best Indian films, so how would they know to nominate them. Hopefully that will change post-Millionaire. I for one think Oscars and other awards are long overdue to Aparna Sen.

#6
mumbaiker
February 1, 2009
08:56 AM

Oops, sorry for posting that twice. Itchy trigger finger here.

#7
Piyush Narain
February 13, 2009
06:16 AM

Ankur,
Sensing your frustation on the Movie Slumdog...I hope you can imagine the agony it is for me to explain to Europeans that India is not all about children covered in shit running around and funny people dancing in colorful clothes along with 200 extras...THEY STRANGELY SEEM TO ENJOY SEEING US IN THIS LIGHT.

From what I can sense, this is the viewpoint Europeans especially the Brits want to maintain of India. I admit and agree we are not far from being perfect and sophisticated as a polity, but I think we have come far off to be still recognised as a rural and struggling country with Snake Charmers.

I really cannot tell you how much I hate the movie for the image it is portraying of India in this part of the world. I know I am being a bit harsh, but movies like these push all progress we have made by 30 years. They make it evident the lack of Indian talent really making it big on the world stage apart from some recognised names like Mira Nair/Shekar Kapur who have since lately rarely taken the ONUS to portray things which we could be proud of...

#8
kaffir
February 13, 2009
11:23 AM

"Rang de Basanti is a great film, but Oscar will never award a movie that promotes a violent solution liker assasination, even if that assassination is wholly justified. It's just not their thing."
**********************
If you remember the movie, the point was that violence isn't justified and is not the answer, as the protagonists realized their mistake and expressed regret at their actions after they killed the corrupt minister.

Where/how did you get the idea that it justifies violence?

#9
anon
February 13, 2009
12:27 PM

"THEY STRANGELY SEEM TO ENJOY SEEING US IN THIS LIGHT."
Very true. Slumdog is a celebration of everything that has gone wrong with India.

#10
kerty
February 13, 2009
12:44 PM

Kaffir

I think there are far better movies than RDB to make your point about Oscar bias.

RDB is about assassination and violent resolution of issues. The point is that the movie is all about justifying and carrying out the assassination of a public official, it does not matter that it renounces violence or show remorse after the deed is done and movie is about to be over.

Defense is a vital national institution on whom security of whole nation rests, and when one assassinates a defense minister, it amounts to assassination of national defense, it amounts to attack on national security, it amounts to attack on nation and its people, it amounts to doing the enemy act, it amounts to complicity with Jehadi Pakistan. In a democracy, you don't go round assassinating public officials to solve problems no matter how culpable public officials may be. In a democracy, there is a mechanism in place to remove public officials from office. Make movies to educate youth about how to do that effectively rather than misguide them into violent solutions. The movie turns the idealism of freedom movement upside down, it is iconoclastic to the ideals of previous generations. In the over-bloated profile of RDB, you can see the same echos of shameless glorification of v-day by the media. Otherwise, it was just a typical Bolywood third rate movie.

#11
kaffir
February 13, 2009
03:54 PM

kerty,

I wasn't making any point about the Oscar-worthiness of the film. Please re-read my comment.

As for:
"In a democracy, you don't go round assassinating public officials to solve problems no matter how culpable public officials may be. In a democracy, there is a mechanism in place to remove public officials from office."

That was exactly the point of the film - you don't go around assassinating corrupt ministers.

As for democracy and mechanisms, the same applies to Ram Sena hooligans. :)

"..and when one assassinates a defense minister, it amounts to assassination of national defense, it amounts to attack on national security, it amounts to attack on nation and its people, it amounts to doing the enemy act, it amounts to complicity with Jehadi Pakistan."

That's stretching it a bit, given that it's a work of fiction and a corrupt defense minister is no friend of Indian security, but if that's what you took away from the film, who am I to complain? Suffice it to say, I didn't reach these same conclusions as you did after watching RDB.

#12
kerty
February 13, 2009
08:28 PM

Kaffir

"As for democracy and mechanisms, the same applies to Ram Sena hooligans. :)"

Democracy has elaborate mechanisms to deal with secular and political issues. Hoever, what democratic mechanisms exist to deal with cultural, moral and religious issues, and issues that deal with civilizational institutions, local community standards? Because democratic and political process shuns these issues, the slack is left to be dealt by people at street level.

#13
kerty
February 13, 2009
09:09 PM

Kaffir

"That's stretching it a bit, given that it's a work of fiction and a corrupt defense minister is no friend of Indian security"

Its not just a fiction. Its a propaganda movie. It is designed to shake people's confidence in and honor for our defense and army, demoralize the defense apparatus. Why are we subjecting our defense apparatus to Bolywood fictions? Why are we unleashing Bolywood wolves to create hit movies against India's military apparatus based on fictional ministers and fictional corruption?

What would you call it if ISI assassinates our defense minister who happens to be involved in some corruption scandal. Would you call it an enemy act of war, military reforms, friendly help, clean up of corruption?

Defense apparatus is built on carefully laid out hierarchy and respect for authority within such hierarchy - you undermine it, and you undermine the whole defense apparatus. Defense minister represents the highest military authority center in the military hierarchy. Any attack on defense minister is an attack on entire military hierarchy and power it represents. When you attack the command-in-chief of any nation, it is considered an attack upon the highest level of military authority and hierarchy, therefore, it is considered an enemy act of war on whole nation.

The subversive nature of RDB is lost on most Indians, because Indian leftists who fashion the public discourse are traitors by ideology that view India and Indians as something to be subverted, converted, weakened and defeated.

#14
kaffir
February 13, 2009
11:18 PM

If the subversive nature of RDB is lost on most Indians, then where's the beef?

As for defense ministers, we've seen Bofors as well as coffin scandal hit our country. Mig 21s crashing in villages in Punjab and Haryana was a regular feature in the news for a long stretch of time, and I remember it well.

Anyway, as I said, you're welcome to your interpretation of the film. If I don't interpret it the same way, the skies are not going to fall down.

#15
kerty
February 14, 2009
12:35 AM

Kaffir

"If the subversive nature of RDB is lost on most Indians, then where's the beef?"

That is a reflection on sad state of affairs.

"As for defense ministers, we've seen Bofors as well as coffin scandal hit our country. Mig 21s crashing in villages in Punjab and Haryana was a regular feature in the news for a long stretch of time, and I remember it well."

Corruption is a valid issue, and it effects every organ of government. The issue is not confined to military alone. So the issue of corruption has to be raised but without undermining people's confidence in the military. Making fictional movies about assassinations of corrupt military heads is not a responsible way to go about it. Let them pick on some other ministry, we have no shortage of ministries that are no less culpable.

If one were to examine each and every defense deal, sure one can open many can of worms. Armament market is not an open and transparent market. Shady deals and underhand dealings go with the territory. Exposing it or taking it to the media or politicizing it is not going to reform or make it a more transparent market. It can only drive away military suppliers from making deals with India as they may not like risking the exposure. India is currently struggling to modernize its army and merely 10% of allocated procurement budget is getting spent at present. I am not suggesting that it is so because armament suppliers are scared of dealing with India. But India's paranoia has created such a red tape and burocratic bottlenecks that procurement deals take forever to get clearance. It has brought the modernization drive to a halt. How is harping on Boffors or defective MIGs or coffins going to help? Sure, one can discover many more such procurement scandals if one looks little closer. But how'z that going to make things better? Those Boffor guns won the Kargil war. So we got to put things in perspective and look at things from defense priorities. That is my angle of looking at RDB. I do not expect you or others to agree or accept this pov. That is not why engage in discussions.

#16
kaffir
February 14, 2009
12:54 PM

kerty,

Sunshine is good for disinfection. Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya.

I also don't share your perspective on the extent of influence a movie like RDB had on proceedings as you lay it out. On one hand, you point out the subversive nature of RDB to undermine Indian defense infrastructure/hierarchy, and then in the same breath, you also mention how this subversive nature of the film was lost on the majority, implying they didn't interpret it as undermining defense infrastructure.

#17
kerty
February 14, 2009
01:33 PM

Kaffir

The Kasab and gang could not undermine anything in India and life remains as usual in India - that does not mean we wouldn't call it terrorism and take no notice of it.

The crap in the military that is going on under UPA is under wrap, because we choose not to subject our defense establishment to media and partisan politics. Only 10% of procurement budget is spent by UPA, and that should give you a hint.

Lets revisit these points in a relevant thread as it would be unfair of me to turn the discussion of slumgdog into discussion on RDB, because my answers to your points would open up serious discussion on RDB and military.

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