{January 26, 2009}   Slam-dog Millionaire

I thought I would use the best words in my vocab to describe what Slumdog Millionaire is, you know, to sound intelligent, give a critical review & all, but to hell with that. That was before I saw it. And what you’re gonna read is the truth, plain and simple.

Slumdog Millionaire is NOT for Indians in India. It is a movie made for international award shows, critics awards and NRIs (who are forever starved for anything remotely Indian, while chewing on a hotdog in a cold corner of the world). Shots of Taj Mahal, references to America galore, people.

Slumdog M, put simply, is a rags to riches story of a slum kid (Jamal, played by Dev Patel) who braves a tough life (yeah, riots, homelessness, near-death escapes, etc etc) only to win loadsa green on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’


I’ll tell you what I like, for that’s shorter: Most people are suckers for underdog stories (me included), which is a big plus in SM’s favour.

Most of all, I love the way each question asked to the kid has a connection with some event that occured in his past, and it is because of this happenstance alone that he knows the answer to each toughie. I adore Dev Patel, accent and all. Danny Boyle has found a fine actor in him, and he essays his role as the underdog to perfection. AR Rahman’s music is fairly okay. ‘Jai Ho’ is an awesome number.  Cute love story too. The movie yo-yos from  past to present to pasttopresentto…but thik hai, forgivable.

In one childhood memory, Jamal is shown jumping through a toilet, drenched in shit, just to take passerby Amitabh Bachchan’s autograph. Gross you say? A lesson, I say. You gotta go through shit to achieve something. Loved the message. No shit.


1. The first thing I will SO slam about the fillum is the light in which India has been portrayed. A shot has con artist Jamal pretending to be a tour guide, showing ‘real India’ (read: dhobi ghat) to an American couple. Meanwhile, his pals strip the couple’s car parts and flee. A cop nearby accuses Jamal of being part of the controversy, and thrashes him left & right, to which the couple comes to his rescue. “This is real India!” exclaims Jamal, indicating at the theft …(a country of crooks or what??), while the American woman, a picture of sympathy, throws a couple of green bucks onto the boy…”I’ll show you real America!” Yeah, can imagine Uncle Sam & his aunties clapping at that one. My blood was boyling, Mr. Boyle.

You can’t show one half of a picture and call it the whole. India is Taj Mahal, slums, poverty & crooks on the one hand (the part that global citizens identify with) & India is tall buildings, malls, Internet and LCDs on the other. & India is a WHOLE load of stuff in between. Did I hear a little birdie say that I’m an urban Indian, the minority talking? Well guess wot…India is this AND that, not this or that. This is the basic formula that only people who truly understand India can crack. Nah, not you, Boyle.

2. Shot in a gloomy, documentary style, the film offers no relief whatsoever to the viewer, right till the end. Showing how kids are turned blind by their ringmasters just so they fetch more as beggars, is something Indians already know. Tell us something we don’t. But oops…I forget, this SM ain’t for us …nah.

3. I just loooove the way everyone recognises everyone after years have passed and everyone has grown up. In one sequence, Jamal and his brother are separated in childhood, and our guy on growin up into a bumbling 18 year old, traces his number.  He just has to say Hello into the phone and pretend to be a call center pest, to have his brother interrupt him and screech, “Jamal!” Aawaaz hai ki jaadoo!! Kumbh ka mela material.

4. The film is, well, slow. Reeaaalllyyyy (hoooaaaa……yawnnnn…..mmhmm…) slow. Almost like a documentary at times.

5. Anil Kapoor admits to have been raised in a slum himself. So it’s kinda unbelievable that he wants a kid like him to lose the show & tries to shove the wrong answer down the kid’s throat!!!! Jealousy, thy name is Anil Kapoor. New age definition.

6. Didn’t know a show like ‘Who Wants …’ or KBC or wotever u wanna call it, is aired live on TV. Wowie.

7. Bas bas, bohat ho gaya.

Er, don’t expect the movie to live upto its hype. And you’ll walk home nice & dandy.

I didn’t.


TheVolts says:

Oh boy, I can’t wait to see this one. Too bad that I haven’t got the tickets for the movie yet. Thanks for the review!

Dhara Vee says:

Why werent the little kids Jamal and his brother taken to the golden globes??! saala they were the stars of the movie man! instead we hav fried-a pinto wearing skimpy clothes doing a penelope on the red carpet.

blinkjet says:

@The Volts: You’re welcome!
@ Dhara Vee: Whatttt?? What was Fried-aaah there for? Best guest appearance award??

Here is some fresh stuff for you to argue with me on :-)


Anand says:

My big peeve about the movie is not about whether it shows the ‘real India’ or not, whether it is condescending or not or even whether it is “targetted” at Indians or firangis.

My peeve is that a film must stir the emotions…or get you to think. It has no third purpose.

This film does neither. You never FEEL Jamals sense of utter degradation as he drops into the shit, the Pinto is as cold as a slice of salami when Jamal finds her in the hoodlum’s house, no emotion furrows the young Latika’s brow as she is rescued by the brothers from the whorehouse, the brothers in their travels across the country are as cheerful as a couple of sparrows.. you never see the fear and uncertainty that two little kids would feel.

It flits past events… it never shows you either the wounds or the scars…and after a token nod and a wave of the hand at ‘reality’, moves on to the next question on the show!

Shiva, Company and Satya were far more visceral in showing the underbelly of Mumbai.

Hell, this movie is no different from a hundred films where pre-pubescent kids discover premature titillations, are separated for 23 reels and sing ‘kya hua tera vaada…’ as adults, before they are finally united. “Magar ‘setting’ alag hai” is about all I can say.

This film leaves you COLD. But then Doyle probably enjoys lukewarm, weak tea more than a hot spicy mulligatanni!

blinkjet says:

Thankyou, Anand. Yes, the film failed to touch me too, not in the way it could have. But in essence, every film has a point of view, and I cannot deny that I disagreed with this film’s stance on India. Too many generalisations in there. Too much appeasing of the goras. And certainly way too many assumptions. That’s the brain part talking.

On the heart front, yes, the film didn’t quite lodge itself there for me. You’re right that the feel is lacking. I wasn’t provoked enough into DESPISING the villains (forgettable faces that sleepwalked through their roles) nor did the suffering of the protagonists get transformed into a ‘feeling’. Bang on.

very thanks for posts.

blinkjet says:

You’re welcome! :) Thanks for stopping by.

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