Slumdog Millionaire: Does it even deserve an Oscar nomination?
February 5, 2009
The script of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is a much better version of the original book- Vikas Swarup’s Q & A. However for the life of me, I cannot fathom why it is being lauded as Oscar material.
The film revolves around the life of Jamal Malik (Dev Malik), a young lad from the slums of Mumbai, his brother Salim and his sweetheart, Latika (Freida Pinto). He’s on the verge of winning the Indian version of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’. And his antecedents are being investigated in the hope that the scam behind his knowing the answers is revealed. Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla play the investigating policemen rather disinterestedly. The film ebbs and flows with the trials and tribulations of Jamal.
Yes, India has poverty, slums, child prostitution, riots, thieves, child exploitation rackets and all that— but is that all of India? The movie is told entirely with a white man’s perspective of India. The glee of discovery is inherent with the director’s moves as if India is that exotic land where the dark, dingy and drudgery all co-exist. And there are places where he carries it a bit too far. That jump into a pool of shit only to get an autograph from a famous left-handed superstar was far-fetched. Expecting children on top of a running train to trapeze on a rope to steal food— Boyle was certainly imagining things too far. And indeed, which slum municipal school teaches The Three Musketeers?
If it wasn’t nominated for the Oscars, I would have called it an ‘OK chalta hai’ movie. Dev Patel is adept in his role. Anil Kapoor is just about OK. The rest are wasted. If there are any actors to be lauded they are the slum children who play the childhood versions of Jamal, Salim and Latika. They are real- and people you can identify with. And who’s silly idea was it to make the main protoganists dance to ‘Jai Ho’ at CST? At least the children would have done a better job of Bollywood dancing than these two rookies.
To be fair to AR Rahman, the work he has done so far deserves more than ten Oscars. But even he will know that Slumdog’s music has nothing to sing about. His previous compositions- Roja, Bombay, and the rest of them—- are par excellence, compared to this watered down insipid fare.
I am proud to see India represented at the Oscars. But it makes me aware that we have had much much better movies which have all been neglected. Simply because a white man didn’t make them. Why- TZP, Black, RDB and why, even Dil Chahta Hai were far better than this one! Let’s face it.
Hollywood can’t make the movies Bollywood can, and it neither has the sensibilities to appreciate good cinema!