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Friday, January 23, 2009

“It’s written, no?”

4 Golden Globes, 11 Bafta nominations and 10 Oscar nominations later, India is rejoicing! As TV screens beamed an ecstatic cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire, I knew I had to get to the nearest cinema hall… as soon as possible. So with my leg in a plaster, I limped to the silver screen… more to whet my curiosity than to watch the film. I guess that’s how films gross huge returns during the first weekend of their release. In Slumdog’s case, the hype was well-deserved. And I have to admit that as we groped to our seats in the dark, I was a feeling a little taller than usual- with pride for the recognition of Indian artistes.

After all, the cast of the film is Indian or of Indian origin. It’s been shot in aamchi Mumbai. The star music composer is Indian. So is the story… but the treatment of the film isn’t. It was made with a Western audience in mind…with ONLY a Western audience in mind. Why so? After all, a rags-to-riches story has always had universal appeal. But Mumbai’s slums and their filth, her local trains and the sea of people that flow through them, her poor children and their destinies… are unfortunately, a very integral part of the Indian consciousness. The looking lens of the director and his team is so conspicuously foreign! To put it plainly, it’s a film by the goraas, for the goraas. (It is, in fact, a British film).

But I won’t hold it against them. Though the film failed to move me in the soul-wrenching scenes, put there with an intention to shock, the spirit of the film is magnificent. It’s about a young boy who got damn lucky. Destiny had willed him to get there… but not before showing him the worst in life. The directorial ingenuity and technical brilliance shine in some well-executed shots that I have never seen before. (Watch the movie to find out, I am not going to play spoilsport). Rahman’s music is so Rahman-like that it’s difficult to tell who’s catching up with whom-the story or the background score.

On the acting front, one clear negative is Anil Kapoor. He’s a great actor and though he has a strong part to play, one regrets not seeing the Anil Kapoor of the nineties who could convince audiences with one scene. Positives: A big hats-off to whoever conceived the character of Jamaal’s (the protagonist) elder brother Salim. I have not seen a more complex character essayed in a long time. If anyone wants to know the meaning of “a character with grey shades”, please observe Salim- the protector, the friend…but also the rogue, the heart-breaker… and the street-smart.

Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan, Mahesh Manjrekar…all do justice to their roles. But the film belongs to its child actors…HANDS DOWN!! They lift the film onto their tiny shoulders and place it on a pedestal higher than most adult actors can ever hope to reach.

Now, we wait for February 22… when destiny opens its cards on the fate of the film. Maybe it’s written, no?