This is my first attempt at reviewing a movie, but Slumdog Millionaire is an interesting movie, and I wanted to say something about it. It at once tries to capture the grit, grime and hope that Mumbai represents to many, while at the same time conveying the strength of emotions between individuals.
The story revolves around a ‘slumdog’ (गल्ली का कुत्ता), his brother and his quest to find the girl he loves. The protagonist Jamal, and his elder brother Salim grow up in the slums of Mumbai, squeaking out a life in their Dickensian surroundings. They are chased around by cops, beaten up by school teachers and ultimately (along with a girl called Latika) fall into the hands of a dude who makes kids beg after blinding them.
The duo manage to escape but Latika gets left behind. The rest of the story is about Jamal trying to get Latika back, by of all things, getting on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati‘ (कौन बनेगा क्रोरेपति) and how he manages to get all the questions right thanks to everything he has been through.
A lot of people are going to say/are saying that ‘look this movie talks about the real Mumbai etc etc that Bollywood never talks about’ but I find such talk to be a bit ignorant at best. Indeed in recent times, the rich have become the heroes in Bollywood, as I have discussed earlier. But slumdogs were the principal protagonists of Hindi movies throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Indeed even more recent movies coming out of Bollywood have talked about the less fortunate Mumbaikars in a much more realistic manner (than Slumdog). Prahaar, Satya, Krantiveer, Vaastav and Gardish come to mind. In comparison, Slumdog suffers mainly because of the poor acting and weak, implausible sub-plots. In fact, acting is the biggest let-down of Slumdog, Dev Patel (a slumdog speaking English that too with a British accent !) is quite pathetic, the less said about Freida Pinto (Latika) the better. The lead pair does not look or play the part well at all. However, Irrfan Khan (Inspector) does well, so does Madhu Mittal (Salim). The ‘Bollywood dance sequence’ at the end was also quite annoying, and in my opinion quite racist, and the music overall is not very good either.
But Slumdog is important, mostly because it reflects the increasingly material and individualistic world of urban India. The premise of the movie, an individual finding love through a show that promises to make one rich, is an interesting look at modern Indian norms and values. Some scenes, especially Salim’s suicide in a tub full of money convey the confusion very well. The movie can be seen in the tradition of the classic Bollywood bhai-bhai narrative (Deewar) , with one brother chasing riches through incorrect means and eventually meeting his end, while the other can only think about his love even as he has the world at his feet.
This is a movie certainly worth watching and thinking about, it is a bit over the top but so are Western imaginations of India for the most part.