Saturday, January 24, 2009

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
Director: Danny Boyle
Runtime: 120 min.
Rating: *
Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy

        Final question. You get to win the big one. Ready?
        Guess you’re reading this you are ready.
        Here’s your Best Picture Oscar question –
        Slumdog Millionaire is
        A. Is a socio-political critique, and examination of India. (Ha! Ha-Ha!)
        B. It is a funny send-up to Bollywood.
        C. It is an entertaining Bollywood-esque fairy tale of a boy who makes the cut against seeming impossibilities.
        D. It is one of the worst films of the year, and one of the worst directed.

A.
        So, as Roger Ebert says, echoing what many seem to suggest, Slumdog Millionaire shows the real India. Now, I am usually a person of a rather sympathetic disposition, and I will ignore the pseudo-intellectual comment Mr. Ebert has made. I hope, dear reader, you have seen the film, and if you happen to be from India, you would understand that such pseudo-liberal opinions are so off the target they might be commenting on a film made in some other galactic system. Jot down the elements presented in the film – (1) Poverty (2) Call Center (3) Bollywood (4) Taj Mahal (5) Crime (Swindlers and Pimps) (6) Riots. And that is India, is it, the real India? As in, if you intend to make some sort of commentary, these are the points that you address. These urban points. These points, which are probably the first and the only images to condense when someone outside and far away from this part of the world begins to imagine India. Some sort of an organized chaotic society.
        Maybe, these are integral elements of our society. But look at the way Danny Boyle’s mise-en-scene covers (wrong word) them, captures (very poor choice of word), or rather touches (you can do better), or scans (right on the money) through them. He isn’t portraying a country; he is merely touring through it. All of these above events/elements are just stops alongside a cinematic tour through a country of utter misery. His camera’s gaze or the manner in which looks (always gawking, and moving around), and the way he cuts his scenes is that of someone visiting from outside, kind of like a travelogue rather than someone who lives and breathes here. And of course, there’s that colonial viewpoint to it that just cannot be missed. Portraying is something really different. Like Ray’s Pather Panchali. But then, as many have said to me, it isn’t entertaining enough. Then I guess Mr. Boyle packages the miseries of the real India better, so that we can be entertained while we are feeling bad about a largely impoverished lot. I get it (Milan Kundera’s definition of kitsch is coming below). He zips through them so that we are force fed every viewpoint.
        So, if it is a social comment, what are we supposed to infer. Here’s the evidence. Jamal is so impoverished and his life is so out-of-luck he is literally taking dips in human excrement (Remember a similar kind of take on desperation in Mr. Boyle’s Trainspotting). He is poor, he loses his mum in some riots, he runs into the hands of some pimp of child beggars, meets a girl whom he grows in love with, is separated from her, is searching for her throughout the film, gets into the money contest Who Wants to be a Millionaire, wins it, gets the girl. As in, the money and the girl, though he doesn’t want the money. Isn’t this what the so-called American dream is all about (Forrest Gump)? So, that is what we infer. Someone making it big despite excrementitial origins. Okay. So Mr. Boyle impresses upon us that same dream everyone in the world shares. Who doesn’t want to make money and get girls? Don’t they want it in Israel? Don’t they want it in Australia? Don’t they want it in Brazil? Don’t they want it in Russia?
        For that matter does he know anything about India? I don’t think so because in a scene involving the theft of car tyres, the main kid who is orchestrating the tyre-theft has the following to comment – Pit stop ka speed. Schumacher ka style. That is how Indian kids speak right? For that matter, that is how car thieves in India speak right? Their obsession for Formula One telecast on weekends on Star Sports, which by the way involves money for cable and television. For that matter, that is how a thief and a fake guide who doesn’t know who is imprinted on a one-thousand rupee bill speak right.
        I heard him saying someplace use the phrase “lust for life”. My good lord. Who in the world doesn’t share that? So, the examination and inference is kinda hollow, and outright rhetorical. As in, stating the very obvious. As in, being intellectually hollow.

Inference from ASlumdog Millionaire might not be intending to be a social examination, although it does entertain minor ambitions of that sort. And it fails at them. But I intend to concede to Mr. Boyle he isn’t dumb enough to tackle the subject of life in India over moot points. So, (A) is not the correct answer.


B.
        When most folks – critics and others in US and UK, and many others in our country whose verdicts and opinions I have access to – were citing Slumdog Millionaire as (A), one of my friends found an interesting way to describe it. She said it was a Bollywood film, and a better one than what most Bollywood filmmakers are coming up with. I found that interesting, because that is the kind of tone I find right up Mr. Boyle sleeve. And when I saw the film, she was right. The film is a part send-up to Bollywood, and many of its drawbacks make some sort of sense if given the leeway that they were intended as parody. Like a caricature of a caricature (Mainstream Bollywood is a caricature in a way. Look how the common man looks in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi).
        But then, for a caricature, it is supremely unfunny. And often, its sense of the funny tends towards what we call toilet-humor, and often it is outright dumb. I think Little Jamal jumping into a pit of human excrement for his desires is kinda tasteless. He is using misery as leverage, so that we are serious about his intentions and we start believing they’re noble, and make some sort of entertaining pastiche. That is kinda stupid, I guess. But as always I am considerate, and I give it to Mr. Boyle for making the effort.
        The constable farts. That elicits some laughs.
        Latika drops some chillies into little Salim’s pants. The subtitles read – Chilly in the Willy. There were such roars galore when Dostana stretched the homophobic joke to its very limit. There were even bigger roars during Epic Movie. I don’t know if any of them felt even remotely intelligent.
        The Inspector passes a rather condescending remark when the video tape of Jamal’s contest performance shows him absolutely clueless about the question – What is inscribed on the National Emblem? He says – My five-year daughter can answer that. It is a question that could be answered logic, by way of elimination I guess, and since Jamal cannot, straight out inference means he isn’t good at analysis. But the film is a logical mess, and it breaks its own rules. So that rules out it is intelligent.
        Now coming back to the question. Jamal is offended by the Inspector’s remark. He replies (in a manner that is supposed to be cheered at) – Do you know the price of pani-puri at chowpati? That is supposed to be a snappy reply, but it isn’t. Is it then supposed to be an insightful remark on the knowledge we are supposed to have, and the practicalities of it? I’m not sure, and I think it was kinda lame.
        The problem is Slumdog Millionaire is too straight-face a send-up to the Bollywood way. It doesn’t involve any sharp outbursts, say like the prose of Palahniuk. But then again, what’s the point of a send-up? If it can make us laugh, then fine. If not, then nothing else is left up its sleeve. Since you’ve intended your characters to be mere pawns of a joke, they are not interesting in any way, and least of all if they cannot make an intelligent or insightful comment.
        Of course, even a large part of mainstream Hollywood is riddled with unintended clichés. Most film industries are. That is something a popular form or medium of expression (radios before, cinema, television, books) cannot avoid. Speaking of which, an infinitely better film this year, and one that worked quite brilliantly, was Tropic Thunder. And then again, we have already had a hell of a lot of such films, though we tend to ignore, or probably overlook, the sarcasm in them. What’re Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om then? But then, they were bad, right? I wonder how this can be any good, especially when it is quite tasteless every which way.

Inference from BSlumdog Millionaire probably was intended as a pastiche, but its lack of any fun save the dumb ones makes this option kinda suspicious. So maybe, it wasn’t supposed to be funny, but serious, and this was a fairy tale. An attempt to pay homage to the Bollywood way of filmmaking. And that brings us to (C), which my friend was saying all along.


C.
        First the biggest logical and narrative loophole of the film. A blunder of humongous proportions. A gaping plothole of motivation. Jamal cites his reason for going to the gameshow because he had no other way of contacting or meeting her. He had no idea where she was. But then, he had his brother’s phone number right, the only number he knew in the whole world. Couldn’t he have pursued a more practical way of finding her, using that very number? I know, if logic is applied here it might explode in your face. So let us keep away from doing that, and assume the film is just plain dumb.
        Now, here is where the biggest problem with the film lay. Especially to a viewer who knows both Hindi and English. I fail to understand why the film chooses its characters to hop randomly between the two languages. Sticking to either language helps to create some sort of believability but asking the same characters to converse in two different languages makes for something utterly jarring, and an awkward viewing. Imagine how we feel when we watch a dubbed Tamil film on cable television, or a poorly dubbed English film (Speed, Titanic), even though they are consistent with their language. Here the same guys converse in Hindi, with Hindi cuss words, in one frame, and in the next one they are trying to speak a form of American English (using words like ‘man’ and ‘brother’), and often resorting to the Queen’s English. Salim offers his prayers in Hindi, but in the final moments of the film utters “God is Great” (Allahu Akbar). What kind of inane logic is that? I just cannot help cringe when I listen ‘son of a bitch’ and a Hindi cuss word in the same sentence spoken by somebody who would have never been exposed to any sort of English language treatment. The problem is the film even doesn’t explain why?
        Maybe the Hindi dubbed version could have helped me here.
        So keeping into consideration that I saw the original English version, I couldn’t connect with it at all. Of course it doesn’t help that the film is riddled with mind-numbing clichés and serendipitous developments, which themselves do not follow a fixed logic. It feels the story takes a fairytale-like tone because it is easier to manipulate the film then. Jamal finds the blind kid when he has to. Jamal finds his brother’s phone number on the third try (Jim Emerson here is equally appalled how often it is the third try.) The film is brimming with predictability, and we can see how it will end ten thousand miles down the line. It is a dull film, supremely so.
        Listen to the manner in which these people converse. Or consider the scene of reunion of Jamal and his brother Salim on some floor at a construction site, and how tacky it is. There feels nothing natural. The acting is quite ordinary, and the dialogs are pretty artificial. In a way, it is like a film we see every other weekend, but the problem is it is worse. This is not entertaining enough. This doesn’t engage enough. There are too many easy way outs that install a feeling of inevitability. The drama, the stakes aren’t raised enough. Or for that matter, the tools that used to induce drama are all too mundane. Like a telephone ringing ala the typical countdown tension (time bombs). You know she will pick up the phone, even though she has to run a hundred miles. You know they will escape from the hands of the pimp. The structure of the film itself betrays it, where we already know he is hale and healthy since he is at the gameshow and it is all in flashback. Tough, or probably impossible to induce tension that way.
        And if it is a fairy tale, who are we supposed to be in it? I ended being one of those numerous bystanders in the background who do nothing but to raise their arms and hero-worship. I’m supposed to applaud, which doesn’t interest me too much.

Inference from CSlumdog Millionaire comes out an unimaginative cropper. Not engaging enough and not narrated well at all. With its structure, you always know when it is going to end. The structure keeps reminding you of the running time left, and that I believe is amateurish. And that brings us to the final, and probably the most logical of all options.


D.
        First things first. The film isn’t offensive in any way. For that to happen, it needs to be effective first. As in, being well made. Mr. Boyle has no idea what else to do with his subject other than to lend it a zany slick style. This is the kind of film that is zany for the sake of being zany. For instance the ludicrous camera angles Ram Gopal Varma employs. There’re tilted camera shots for no reason other than to shoot it that way. Look, here’s one of cinema’s lessons, which everybody ought to know. A shot or frame isn’t great just because it frames that way, but it is great because how much and what does it say about its images. Any photographer worth his salt will tell you that. Tilting angles just for the sake of it is pretentious, and attention grabbing. It feels like a music video out there.
        One of my friends found the perfect way to describe the film – patchwork. The acting is patchwork, the direction is patchwork, the tone is patchwork, and the editing is patchwork. Look how crosscutting juxtaposition is used towards the end, and what a laughable effect it has. This is like Michael Bay filmmaking every way – cardboard characters, lame plot, and slam-bang mise-en-scene. The aesthetics serve no other purpose other than to show off. The camera finds itself at odd places, and there’s nothing more to it. As Manohla Dargis says, it feels like a calculated piece of filmmaking rather than the spontaneous eruption of joy. He is obviously trying to be clever, and he ends up being so clever he turns out dumb.
        So, here is the only way to be affected by the film. By considering the apathy in the background, because there’s no plausible way to be connected by this stale tale of uninteresting characters. And that is how this film, I guess, has garnered its praise. And I invoke that profound Milan Kundera quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being -
“Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch."


        That is everything I ever wanted to say about films that seek to grab our attention by way of tickling our humanistic instincts and entertain us by manipulating them. This is faux art. One that panders images of what it perceives to be “real” and then mistakes “real” for “misery”. And then packages it. And the worst kind of filmmaking, I guess, because it makes for pretension.


ANSWER:
Come to your own bloody conclusion. If that is possible.
Hint (Worst film of the year? Worst film ever to compete for a major award?)


And if the review felt like too zany, that is just about how I felt when I was watching the film.

And mark my words. Slumdog Millionaire will become the international whipping boy of cinema lovers worldwide within a few years, an embarrassment leading people to wonder how the hell they liked this picture. And if this film feels like one of the best ever made, something like a life-changing experience, I guess your life ought to change more often. Try to watch some films.

23 comments:

travis said...

kissi kaa gussa kissi pe....

I would say u watched this film with an intention to know whether this film deserves the recognition it is getting.But the fact is not even its director thought it will.

The movie is an attempt by a foreign director to show something on india and he never aimed so high as to get nominated for oscar. But it did. thanks to the people abroad.

On the rating aspect i would say u are too harsh on this movie.I would generously give a 3.

T

srikanth said...

Oooh,

This is the exact inversion of my review. No comments though.

Anonymous said...

ha ha wat a loser!!
anything for cheap publicity!
most of ur logic is flawed and biased

man in the iron mask said...

Thanks anonymous,
You put forth a very strong argument. Some amazing points you have.

- Satish Naidu

yamini said...

What a releif to know there are quite a few people who found the movie idiotic.

Too many coincidences and serendipitous moments aside I am disappointed why there is no signature song like "Yaadon ki barath" which the three characters could have sung whenever they met at different stages of life....

You said it is not offensive because it is not effective. But it did infuriate me. Also, you do sound rather biased sometimes - Too harsh at times like this and too generous when it comes to the transcendent beauty Asin :P

man in the iron mask said...

Yamini, what man wouldn’t be generous for Asin? For her, even a boneheaded slog of pumping an eight-pack wouldn’t be outrageous, especially when you can be watching fine movies. Generously recommending a rather entertaining 3-hour film for her is no effort at all. :)

And I guess I was mistaken. I read my review again, and I do sound harsh, which by inference means I was rather enraged. Of course, not offended by the India shown. Offended, or rather appalled at the filmmaking at hand.
A song surely would have elevated matters. How would have this sounded –

Bam chiki chiki bam, chiki bam bam bam chiki chiki bam
Ek doosre se karte hain pyar Hum
HUM.

Virus© said...

Someone. Finally someone.
Why should this film has to be "the best of the year"? I read Ebert's review and thought: at last circles of age have swallowed him up.
I've been debating all week long [after the Golden Globe, not that I give a rat's ass about it, episode] with my colleagues in my office. I have suggested them the same thing: Go watch more movies. I have even made up a bloody list and sent it across to all the people I know. In Bruges, The Wrestler, WALL-E et al are the best movies of this year.
Sad that I couldn't find Danny Boyle's ID. I wanted to CC him.

man in the iron mask said...

In Bruges, what a film. What a fine film. I have been upset over the snub of The Dark Knight, but In Bruges pains me a lot too. I haven’t yet found a word that might capture it. It is sweet, it smart, it is grim, it is dark. And it is so much more. I watched the film again, recently, and it is a wonder how economic the shots are. What fine storytelling. What fine acting. Fiennes floors me.

And honestly, I almost want to help you. Register on IMDb pro, evens shell out some money out of my Credit Card, pluck Boyle’s ID and smack that smug film of his with the real best films of the year. But then, I figure. As Jim Emerson says, life is too short. You know, to bother much about such films.

Parth said...

"Jot down the elements presented in the film – (1) Poverty (2) Call Center (3) Bollywood (4) Taj Mahal (5) Crime (Swindlers and Pimps) (6) Riots."

You forgot (7) Cricket. Thats all we do.. aint it?

But did found your review harsh even if it was fair.

Raviraj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raviraj said...

1. Roger Ebert does not say the film entirely portrays Indian reality. What he says is - "Born in to the Brothel" shows absolute poverty and misery, while the Western world usually interacts with dollar saving-H1B-Call Center-culture India. This film cuts between the two worlds. Makes sense to me. Anyway I did not get the feeling that the film intends to be a social commentary. Is City of God a social commentary on Brazil just because it focuses on poverty and crime? I don't think so.
2. I don't remember the exact dialogue, but sometime during the interrogation the constable says "Even I can answer that question" and Jamal says "Like I said it doesn't take a genius". That was what invoked laughter in the theater I was in, not the chilly in willy scene.
3. Jamal doesn't call Salim to get to the girl because he sees him taking her away forcibly at the station - Not a loophole.
4. The film makes it very clear that Jamal is no genius. That is why he cannot answer simple questions.
It is written.
That is why he faces difficult questions that he incredibly knows the answers to, or finds Salim's number in third try. When "it is written", coincidences are no surprise. I don't believe in destiny stuff myself, but the film does - and I have no right to argue.
5. The film uses cliches - I agree and disagree. So the gangster watches cricket as if all Indians watch cricket all the time. But would it have been any better if he was watching hockey? Trainspotting shows the junkies talking about listening to Velvet Underground's Heroin while shooting up. That is such a big cliche! Yet it seemed natural. Stereotypes themselves are not a problem, overusing them is - which this movie does.
6. I totally agree this is like a Bollywood film - that is the exact feeling I got while watching the movie.
7. What annoyed me the most was the kids as well as the beggar-pimps speaking flawless English. That is not how they talk in the slums of Mumbai, do they? They speak half Hindi, one third English, and one third words I don't even understand. Subtitles would have been so much better! Sticking to only English or only Hindi could have ruined it. By the way just a few days back I heard a girl using Hindi cuss words followed by a string of F-words in the same sentence, back to some more Hindi words (not directed at me mind you). Proves switching languages is quite common.
8. Oh yes the final phone call scene. Puhhhlease! That was so Rock on! Total turn off.
9. I think most of the negative aspects you have mentioned are the flaws of the novel itself. There are things about the film that deserve to be appreciated:
- Dod Mantel's cinematography
- Performances of the child actors (especially the youngest lot)
10. All in all the movie does have its flaws, but it deserves a little more than a single star rating. Would your review have been the same had the movie not been nominated for awards or if it was set in some Mexican town?

Sadanand Renapurkar said...

I can't exactly say I hated the movie but it didn't by any way show real India. India that we live in, that we breathe. But then the things Hollywood love about India, poverty, slums, "spirit of Mumbai"(very important) etc. you are so so so precisely correct when you wrote, "His camera’s gaze or the manner in which looks (always gawking, and moving around), and the way he cuts his scenes is that of someone visiting from outside, kind of like a travelogue rather than someone who lives and breathes here. And of course, there’s that colonial viewpoint to it that just cannot be missed. Portraying is something really different. Like Ray’s Pather Panchali."
It's like the movie thinks it's aware of it's environment but it's not. As for the QnA, it was fine.
You are also correct when you say many of the attempts to show Jamal's enthusiastic childhood was tasteless. The toilet scene, for example, was to show his love for the super star but there is no reference later to be found. Boyle wasn't interested in their lives at all. The story drove them away.

Perx said...

I so agree with u man..
its a overhyped piece of shit.. and its got 10 nominations in the oscars ditching the dark knight from the best film category.. laughable or what?.. rdb was better than this but just because a westerner made it everyone is uber excited to see india from his goggled eyes..

man in the iron mask said...

Raviraj:
(1). At the end of (A) I arrive at the exact same conclusion, and hence discount any attempt that Mr. Boyle has made to arrive at some sort of social comment. He tries to, yes, but he fails.
(3) You say that isn’t a loophole. I say, how else does he think he can get Latika back. By merely appearing on a game show, how is it possible to get her back? I fail to understand that part.
(7) I do not think it would have ruined it. Rather, it would have created some sort of believability. One language throughout, like the WWII thrillers where Nazis are speaking German, is fine. But maintain consistency. That is all I ask.
Switching languages? Oh yes it is pretty common.
(9) I think the cinematography was the main thing that offended me. Mind you, I’m offended by Ram Gopal Varma’s hollow titled shots as well. I seek a firm enough reason from a director to employ a shot rather than just showing off. Why Dutch angles?
(10) Single star rating? Now you have me here. I don’t have any defense Sir, except that I give a Single Star rating to most films that are pretentious and don’t back it up with any material. Australia, Seven Pounds, Frost/Nixon all earned somewhere in the vicinity, because the filmmaker is trying to manipulate and failing. If a filmmaker is honest, and he fails I still give him lots of marks. But manipulation is a big problem for me. I still find myself not able to digest Vertigo. So you see, I have a little problem there.

Gokul Jyothi said...

Hi Satish,

Thank God……..I thought I had turned insane……I plain hated this bollywood movie……..but everywhere I see….People were like “Life changing…..Forrest Gump 2…….”.
Open Facebook….”Your friend A, B, C, Tom, Dick Harry have joined the I LOVE SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE club”.
And to make matters worst……”Sweeping of Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild…..front runner in the Oscars”


I seriously doubted if my taste for quality movies had turned bad.
But I just can’t understand the logic of the Academy…..last year they nominate such brilliant movies like ‘No Country and There will be blood”….and this year…….phew.

I simply can’t understand how the whole world has been swept off their feet by this movie. Sure, everyone likes an underdog story…but…..man this is too much.
I am beginning to wonder if the other nominated movies “Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader….etc” are worse than Slumdog (as slumdog is poised to sweep the Oscars and all).

Gokul Jyothi

Ashwin Nandkumar Kulkarni said...

Hmmm….

Agree that the movie is not worth the attention …. Agree that the movie has many loopholes… (KBC is NEVER LIVE on TV)…there are too many coincidences in the film…All said, I would not agree that this is the worst movie of the year….we have numerous films vying for that ‘Honour’

I did not find the music as ‘outstanding’ either….



However…10 Oscar nominations is too much…This can be the worst movie to get so many Oscar nominations JJ

Rohit Gore said...

Satish,

Word for word…my thoughts! I was appalled when I saw it on Sunday night after coughing up 180 bucks. Good that Mr Boyle was nowhere in the vicinity I would have definitely got into a fistfight with him for conning me out of my 540 bucks for three tickets L

Thanks and regards,

Rohit

Gaurang said...

hey man.... (Please bear in mind before reading this, I'm a big fan of your knowledge of cinema, your superduper enthusiassm and your sharp reviews... so plz dont take any offence)

I can pretty much see this review as an oscars induced outburst. And also because of the acclaim its been recieving. Otherwise why would you examine a totally unpretentious movie like this for point A. and D. ?
I could see that unpretentiousness @ many junctures of the movie, specially the the scene wher the kids fall from the train, roll over in the mud and grow up. And also at the end, when the couple breaks into a jig with extras galore. That is not pretentious my friend, that is just bindaas bollywood treatment.

And when u say Ha! Ha-Ha! to socio-political critique, and examination of India, u r damn right. U should have outright laughed of that thought and endded the point A. there and there itself. Why analyse things which film never wanted/intended to say, never wanted/intended to portray and then laugh it off saying that the film is ridiculous in its lack of 'portrayal'.

When u jot down its elements (1) Poverty (2) Call Center (3) Bollywood (4) Taj Mahal (5) Crime (Swindlers and Pimps) (6) Riots, the thing which is niggling you, is not the std. elements portrayal, but the fact that it has been put to reel by a firang :) Has the poor Danny come here and built sets of slums, he is just following Jamal through his days in the most impoverished slums of Dharavi. Riots, of course was a plot point rather than a means of commenting on the socio economic condition of India.

Ok, I went down and read your point A. again. You have a problem with the way he shows the above things. He doesn't portray. but he tours through it, thats what you say. Here's wat I think. The movie, if were to portray, would end up as a depressing take on state of affairs. Instead wat danny does, is give a very neutral and a fun ride through the slums. Why I say neutral, is because it does not take sides or does not keep on emphasizing that life is shit. I mean it shows life is shit, but doesnt linger too much stressing on that and shows the kids having fun. It never became too grim. I now realise, that if a kid is growing up in a place like that, he can c the shit around him, but does that send him into depression? No, he'll be in a playfull mood all of the time, having fun, running around etc. And Danny captures that POV so well.
Now the other thing from your review which is still annoying me, is the couple of references to that excreta jump of Jamal.
Ref #1 Jamal is so impoverished and his life is so out-of-luck he is literally taking dips in human excrement
Ref #2 I think Little Jamal jumping into a pit of human excrement for his desires is kinda tasteless
Now you cant deny the fact, that such excreta pools are the part of the slum people's mornings. The Ref #2 is your opinion on the dip, but the Ref #1 is insulting Jamal, Boyle and me. The sarcasm/humor/analogy u intend by saying "life is so out-of-luck he is literally taking dips in human excrement " is tasteless, in my opinion. Jamal is a kid, 7-8 yr old kid, desperate to see a movie star (U must surely be knowing, what would that passion/excitement be doing to the mind of a kid). He knows the jump will smell like woorst shit he has ever smelled. But with shit around him 24/7, what would he choose. To meet his idol/god the movie star or to refrain from smelling that shit all over the body. We as kids would have chosen the latter, but Jamal. How could he miss the autograph. The point I'm trying to make is that, the excreta dip, showed the unparalled enthusiasm of a slum kid to meet Amitabh bacchan. How could you not feel that?
Now coming to my take on the movie. I got simply disconnected from the movie (as u have mentioned in your review), when the accented english takes over the proceedings. I didn't feel a thing for the movie after that. Everything going on the screen looked fake to me. But but..... I loved the first 45 mins, feturing the kids and Danny's infectious energy, that he has pumped in the proceedings. OMG, I was floored by the whole hard hitting, seldom grim, depiction of the depravity in which the kids grow up. It had a super rollercoaster feel to it, which I enjoyed to the core. But then suddenly I lost the connection, and from there onwards it was like just another bollywood movie :)

When you want your readers to consider it for the worst film of the year, you are imposing a bit too much of youself on the readers.
Worst film ever to compete for a major award? Who would decide that? Ok, the jury is crap. Agree. But wat did the firang critics unanimously like about this small film? If u ask me, I've no clue, and nor do you...

- Gaurang

man in the iron mask said...

You mention Ref#1 and Ref#2. And you say my statement is tasteless. Actually, I meant this review to be tasteless, arrogant and in-your-face. I even mention it here, in one of the last lines of the review –

And if the review felt like too zany, that is just about how I felt when I was watching the film.

I believe, when I review a film, I ought to mirror two things – (i) The tone of the film (ii) What I felt during the film. These are the only two things that drive my prose, and how I put forth my points.

And now, to the question of outright dismissing some elements of my review.
Here, I believe, a review is always a piece of reaction. Not only what I have to say about a film, but also what is being said about the film. You would understand a film cannot be separated from its zeitgeist, what it implies, what people infer. And that is why I choose to argue over these points. This is as much a review as an analysis. I might very well laugh off, but I should explain what the reason for my laughing is. I am not a fan of that school of reviewing which merely passes verdicts, without explaining why.

As for (A), I understand he isn’t completely making a socio-political examination. I come to that very same conclusion. And as I say I’m not offended one bit. What I’m offended is the pretentious nature of his mise-en-scene, i.e. the camerawork and the tone and texture of the image. I have mentioned in the review what he’s trying to do – Trying To Make a Bollywood Film. But he fails, just like RGV does, because they’re trying to show off rather than make something with their heart. Look no further than Moulin Rouge, a film that I unabashedly love. As for poverty, it didn’t bother me one bit. What bothered me how Boyle was using it to draw leverage, and it was pretty apparent. You think he was enjoying. I felt he was enjoying too, but with the colonialist gaze which felt pretty apparent to me.

And yeah, it feels kinda like an outburst for the Oscars. And I’m quite annoyed. Not because TDK didn’t get nominated, which I half expected. What irks me is the inclusion of this and Frost/Nixon and the exclusion of brilliance like The Reader and In Bruges.

Amit Yadav said...

Love the concluding paragraph.
Saw this movie a week back & I was thinking if our Naidu boy won’t blast this one to bits, I’m going to have a serious Q&A with him.
Thanks for denying me the opportunity.
What surprises me the most apart from the public hysteria that surrounds this superficiality is how could it befool them top critics & the boys at the Academy?!?
It may not be the worst film of the year but it certainly is the worst film ever to compete for a major award. What makes it far worse is that it is there in the reckoning at the expense of some genuinely great work.

Thanks,
Amit

Anuz said...

i wanted to write something, but now i am damn confused. I also very very critically analyse movies, but not to extent you have, may be you can do it without efforts.
I mean movie is fast and i saw it after 10 pm, so i didn't see all those leverages of camera angles and using old cliches.
like you, I cannot pardon over use of cinematographic techniques. In the history of watching movies, i never saw any movie twice, but went again to see TDK, because I couldn't extract it fully in first go, I was too stupefied. in next go, i went just to hear all dialogues more clearly, and be harsh on movie, but couldn't do it. All hype around joker(ok, he deserver every piece of it), but I see its nolan all the way. sorry for being offtrack, the point was critical analysis.
two things are quite apparent: TOI has now a say about this "hey there is india in this movie and its doing great" and i absolutely hate such pretention. But I am very very ok if they show all this poverty and things like that, but they fail to understand how state of affairs are really.
Second thing: Bollywood kinda fake hype, I know infinite souls who think SRK is a great actor. I disagree, he is mass hysteria nothing more(lets not talk his potential, I am talking about the delivery). So slumdog is more of a mass hysteria, specially for "feel-good" movie goers.
gawd, ur review has forced me to see it again and i really dont feel like watching it again. I have to finish torn curtain and the wild one and many others.

Trippman said...

Couldn’t he have pursued a more practical way of finding her, using that very number?

Oh come on. You cite this as a "gaping plothole" but yet you can't assuredly suggest a fix? Biased!

This is the kind of film that is zany for the sake of being zany

not exactly. It's trying to be entertaining, blockbusterish. Which is my problem with it. You can't treat this type of material that way and still expect people to get involved. It explored the complexities between brothers that I haven't seen a film do in a while, but yet I didn't FEEL it. If that makes any sense.

Anonymous said...

Somehow hit upon this link... and made me remind two things:
1. How much I hated the movie.
2. The days at SFS were great!

Thanks man.

Cheers,
KK