Review of Slumdog Millionaire  

Posted by Vee

A lot of people will try to pull you down once you attain the ultimate triumph. There will surely be detractors along with the appreciators. That’s exactly is something happening to Slumdog Millionaire. Not surprisingly the most of those detractors are our fellow-countrymen/women whereas West has embraced Danny Boyle’s version of India like never before. Even Mira Nair could not create the hysteria with her Salaam Bombay back in late 80s what Slumdog Millionaire has done in last couple of months since it’s release in select theaters of Northern America.

I remember getting in argument with a friend on Facebook when he commented robustly on my status message (‘Speechless after watching Slumdog Millionaire’) stating Slumdog Millionaire is bad remake of Mira’s cult classic ‘Salaam Bombay’. I leave it to the people who have seen both the movies to make their own opinion. For me the similarity ends with the fact that both are set in Mumbai and slums of Mumbai have been captured quite viciously by both the directors. Mira’s movie was and will be one of the best to come out from Indian Film Industry. But show some maturity by not comparing it to Slumdog Millionaire.

Amitabh Bachchan cannot fathom what the fuss all about Slumdog Millionaire is and mentions in his blog that Mumbai was shown in disgraceful manner. Few of our own makers here have shown their anger by saying that Slumdog Millionaire is a "generic western movie about India". I say what the fuck? First of all treat a movie as a movie. If Danny decides to make a movie based on a book written by an Indian (Q & A by Vikas Swarup; who himself says that he has his approval stamp) then I do not see any reason to malign him and the hard work of those associated with the movie. If it’s badly scripted/directed, if editing and actors suck then open your big mouth and rant as much as you can. But no way demean any movie based on how real/unreal it is. Is that the basis to judge a fictional piece anyways?

Mr. Bachchan played a character (Sexy Sam) well in his mid-fifties or something romancing and shaking his booty with girls half his age. K-Jo and Ekta promote infidelity at the drop of the hat and RGV doesn’t go beyond underworld stories where murder and rapes are child’s play? So, all that is acceptable and slums of Mumbai aren’t. A film-maker has all the liberty to make what he wants to and how does he/she wants to.

Bhandarkar made Page 3, Corporate, Traffic Signal and we acknowledged him by giving National Award every time. I am not saying adorn Danny with National Award, but give him and his movie a fair chance. Some of the French/Iranian/Korean movies which I see are upsetting to the core you feel disgusted later; not because they are badly written or shot but because they fucking tell the story in such a moving way you cannot but be in awe. No one complains. Most of them go to win the awards. So, why is there so much of fuss in India? Is it because a foreigner made it? Oh come on, I know we have few makers here who are better than Danny by leaps and bounds. Nonetheless Danny has made this movie and we better accept it the way it is. After all, it’s just a movie.

Everyone is saying that it is a rags-to-riches story of a slum boy from Mumbai. I would not say that. Rags-to-riches stories are those where the sheer hard work or the plain luck (by chance) get you the moolah. No doubt Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is playing ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ but he is not playing to win the money. He is playing hoping his beloved Latika (Freida Pinto) would be watching the show. And indeed she was. The movie in actuality is a love story than a rags-to-riches story by participating in a reality game show.

Youngest Jamal (Ayush Khedekar) and youngest Salim (Azharuddin Ismail) are brothers who pull off petty mischief every now and then. Always late for the school duo or musketeers take the youngest Latika (Rubiana Ali) as their third musketeer after their mother gets killed in the riots. Orphanage doesn’t go well and they all run away in the middle of the night only to be chased by the owner Maman (Ankur Vikal) and Co. Salim and Jamal manage to get on to the moving train while Latika is running along with the train whilst holding Salim’s hand. Despite the desperate cries of Jamal to pull Latika in, Salim intentionally leaves her hand.

The fate takes the brothers to Agra and back to Mumbai (it was Bombay when they had left). It had been seven or eight years since the last time Jamal had last seen Latika. They finally trace her. She is being taught classical dance to be later sold of course when Jamal sees her through a key-hole. Salim exclaims she is hot and opens the door. All three are united but life changes for all of them thereafter. Salim ditches his own brother at gun-point after throwing him out of house only to be left alone with Latika. Latika too agrees to sleep with the brother for the sake of Jamal’s life.

Few years down the line Jamal working as a chaiwalla in a call center chances upon Salim’s contact number and meets him. In one of the most poignant scene I have seen in recent times, the meeting of the two brothers is well executed (technically, watch the scene where Jamal imagines he jumped off the building with Salim) and well acted upon; Jamal’s continuous outburst of “There was no message” shows 18-year old Dev Patel is a name to reckon in years to come. He is simply brilliant in that scene and the one after when he looks wrathfully in Salim’s eyes and says, “I will never forgive you.”

Jamal inquires about Latika. Salim chooses to ignore the question. Only when he follows Salim one day that he realizes that Latika is now a mistress (or wife probably) of gangster Javed (Mahesh Manjrekar) for whom Salim in fact works. He enters the well guarded house on the pretext of being a dishwasher. He requests Latika to run off with him which she refuses while putting forth question “what for?” “Love” Jamal says. It never happens as Javed is home then and Jamal loses Latika for third time now. The next is climax which I would not reveal.

I never felt so elated even when Bhuvan in Lagaan hit the last ball six in the climax. I still remember the whole theater just erupted with a feat (one experiences when one achieves that himself) when Bhuvan hit that six. I found myself hugging a complete stranger standing on left to me in the theater that summer morning of 2001 when Lagaan was released. Slumdog Millionaire, almost same experience but more euphoria than what Aamir & Co provided me with then in the climax; nothing taking away from the glorious climax of Lagaan though.

Coming to the performances, all three Jamal will steal your heart. The second Jamal (Tanay Chheda) who was also seen in TZP (Ishaan’s crippled friend) is convincing as a guide of Taj Mahal when he tells the Firang couple that Mumtaz died in a road accident while giving birth to child and Taj Mahal was actually built up by Emperor Khurram. Haha. Hilarious. Dev Patel is a fine actor and he will go places. He says it all through his eyes and that is what I guess Danny and other technicians would have felt to concentrate mostly on his close ups. His boyish innocent face with popped-out-bear eyes said more than the words could ever. But it’s Ayush as youngest Jamal who is the soul of this movie. That five or six something boy is absolutely incredible and the fact that he in reality is a slum boy makes it even more unbelievable. Where the fuck he learnt to act? All the three versions of Salim and Latika could not be better and special mention should go to youngest Salim and Latika along with the Villain Ankur Vikal. Frieda has been hogging all the limelight at the moment at all the right places and she deserves it. She is breath-taking in climax.

Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, and Saurabh Shukla in their miniscule roles are apt. It was quite surprising and implausible to see such a host of a reality based game show. But as rightly justified later by Anil that it’s his game show and he can do whatever he wants puts all cases to rest.

Coming to technicalities, everything from editing to screenplay, cinematography to background will mesmerize you. Within few minutes into movie and you get to feel the A.R. Rahman’s magic when cops chase the slum boys in the dirty lanes and pipes. The background score adds to the narrative and is evenly played depending on the situation with an utmost ease along with the songs ‘Ringa Ringa, ‘Paper Plane’, ‘O..Saaya’. However it’s ‘Jai Ho’ (comes with the end credits) which will make you shake your hip too along with Dev’s and Freida’s. Shot at CST, Jai Ho is a lively number by Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah and Mahalaxmi Iyer. Loveleen Tandan who co-directed the movie with Danny is also the Casting Director. What an ensemble cast she chose. Bravo!!! She played a very crucial part in the making of this movie. She has been previously associated with Monsoon Wedding, Earth and The Namesake to name a few.

It has its own flaws. Manjrekar changes the channel and the music comes on TV. The song is ‘Aaj ki Raat’ from Don but TV shows ‘Fanna’ song from movie ‘Yuva’ (Kareena moving his hands). As the movie progresses, all the leads speak English (I accepted that though many haven’t) but it’s the accent of Dev Patel which seems quite unrealistic. It is not tough to pick English but it is quite tough for somewhat literate boy to pick accented English. Was that because he worked as guide to foreigners at Taj? Or just because Dev happens to be British in real life, the angle of call center chaiwalla was added to give a leeway that he might have picked up the accent at call center? Whatever, I call it cinematic liberty which according to me if done in a lenient way shouldn’t harm the flow. And it did not.

Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent cinema in all terms. Three people who deserve all the applause are Danny Boyle (Director), A.R. Rahman (Music and Background Score) and Simon Beaufoy (Screenplay). These very three people won the Golden Globe along with Best Movie-Drama. The movie has got 11 BAFTA nominations along with the very gripping “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Oh, another masterpiece; Brad Pitt is marvelous and Cate Blanchett is alluring) and hopefully Slumdog will continue its success rate at Oscars nominations as well and eventual win thereafter. Hopefully.

A friend who has watched the movie and appreciated the direction and music cannot seem to digest all the adulation the movie is receiving. His complain is ‘Oh, you glorify the poverty of India and you win the awards’. I sneered at him and said almost what I wrote in the beginning while adding that ‘Why are you so negative about it. A film-maker made a nice movie and he is getting appreciated for it. Why the fuck we need to nit-pick in this very case and ignore many such incidences just because he happens to be a firang?’ I hope people start appreciating/ridiculing cinema the way cinema should be.

The movie is having it's theatrical release on Jan 23rd in both English and Hindi (Slumdog Crorepati). Go ahead, book your tickets and enjoy. Each to his own, though its better you watch the English version.

Taare Zameen Par - Out of Race  

Posted by Vee

I knew it and many like me knew it too that Taare Zameen Par was too feeble an entry for Oscars like Paheli (miserable), Eklavya (hopeless), RDB (many like that already made; we made it late), Devdas (Hazam nahi hua) in last few years. TZP was too long like Lagaan and very foreseeable like Lagaan; yet Lagaan was prevailing but TZP from beginning was no match to Majidi’s The Song of Sparrows (Iranian), Takita’s Departures (Japanese), Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (Hebrew; Israel) and Garrone’s Gomorra (Italian); these which I have seen amongst the 67 entries and surprisingly Majidi’s movie is out of the nine selected so far for the third round and unsurprisingly Aamir’s TZP too doesn’t feature in top nine. Majidi who made 1998’s Best Foreign Language Film Children of Heaven about which I have talked in my earlier post might be disappointed as his was one of the best entries amongst the 67 this year for 81st Academy Awards.

I am not sad for Aamir, I am not. His was not enough to be recognized globally as a good cinema so it did not make. Fair enough. I am sad for Majidi though.

Slumdog Millionaire
has left me speechless. It’s a mind-boggling movie for which I hope Boyle, Beaufoy, Mantle and our own ARR win Oscars on 22nd Feb. I am yet fostering the aftereffects of watching a mind fucking movie which is Slumdog Millionaire currently for me. I feel like crying.

With all due respect to makers of Lagaan; I feel Jamal’s last question worth 2 Million Rupees overshadows Bhuvan’s last ball six. (A Premise to my review later; COPYRIGHTED)

Excerpts from review which I hope to write soon:

I wish Slumdog Millionaire had never ended. I felt 120 minutes passed too soon; I hoped for it to run forever. I never felt so elated even when Bhuvan in Lagaan hit the last ball six in the climax. I still remember the whole theater just erupted with a feat (one experiences when one achieves something akin himself) when Bhuvan hit that six. I found myself hugging a complete stranger standing on left to me that morning in theater. That was 2001…. 2009; Slumdog Millionaire; almost similar climax (penultimate?) but more euphoria than what Aamir & Co provided me with then.

P.S. Slumdog Millionaire is extremely different to Lagaan. The reference was only to the climax.

Emosanal Attyachaar  

Posted by Vee

Today after a long absence from it, I am at it. There are times when you just should not write. I am not talking of the block, chunk or the equivalent of it; I mean you just should not. Because what you write in state of experiential anguish termed Emosanal Attyachaar these days could be hurtful to anyone; the way every TDH of our country gets hurt at the drop of hat, ‘Our sentiments are hurt’ they shout from the top of their lungs. It pisses me beyond means to fathom what sentiments in first place they brag of? Political/Religious/Physical/Biological? What kind of sentiments they carry that they get hurt so effortlessly. Nonetheless, one thing I am possibly sure of is that when called upon these same TDHs will turn out to be pansies pissing from their pants and petticoats.

By the way my sentiments are hurt too. They are not political, religious or biological and may be not even worth for those who inflicted them on me to ponder and respond but they are mine and they are immensely hurt. And more than once in last few weeks. It all started with RNBDJ. My sentiments were hurt when heroine mentions parathe waali gali to the hero. Wasn’t it Amritsar? I know of Delhi one though. How can she blatantly lie? My heart went through a series of moans every time heroine failed to recognize her own hubby in new avtaar. As a human my sentiments are hurt. I have become laughing stock for aliens and animals; because they can distinguish their partners from rest despite all of them looking same but our heroine cannot. Sigh!

Shobhaa De did not help either. I spent last week of last year in Mumbai and hoped of bumping into her somewhere, anywhere blowing kisses in air or tasting wine on the pretext of raising money, conscience for whatever reasons. Alas, she was in Goa. And I find her as livid this year as last in her writings for the same reasons. She is still holding onto the same schema, same positions have been revisited. She is tired of the analysts, politicians, tired of India showing evidence and Pakistan rejecting it out-and-out. She doesn’t realize she is doing the same through her articles.

Madam De talks of how the New Year has brought a New Beginning in the lives of the people of Mumbai. I was there for a good one week and I do not see much difference in the attitude of people this time compared to my visits before the attack, before the blasts and after that. Wonder what upbeat thing she is referring to? The only disparity (amongst few) was when few of my friends unlike me refused to celebrate and decided to spend the eve at home. Apart from that nothing visibly singular or buoyant about this whole upbeat business. Or possibly the rich ones are flashing it on their sleeves or the wrists which holds the champagne glass. Or may be she is so happy about the whole damn getting together of ultra rich Ambani brothers to celebrate sister’s wedding anniversary in Goa that she mistook it for the new beginning and sane attitude.

I wonder in what way that conveys the message of solidarity and of new beginning. These industry stalwarts, actors and celebs like her passed comments, wrote articles and more articles and welcomed the New Year in the safe cocoon of their plush abode by stating ‘It’s a new beginning as we are almost burying our differences’. Like heck I care if Ambanis come together. A commoner like me who traveled through the locals still feel unsafe; moreover I was appalled to find not even a single scanning machine at the major stations (Andheri, Kurla, Bandra et al) for I was carrying two huge bags. The other day TV actor Nikhil Arya entered the station with rifle and no one questioned him. Is that a new beginning?

How good these actors and industrialists have turned out politically? We do not have to be rocket scientist to know what transpires between the trios of Big B-Anil-Amar. We know how Govinda almost had to forego his seat when he was caught in a video footage along with Dawood. Amitabh’s exit from politics when the heat rose and Dharmendra’s discomfort as he found himself incompetent is no secret either. However now I wonder how Madam De is going to respond to the Comments by Big B in response to the comments initially made by her considering he is chaddi-buddy with the same Ambani she has been singing praises of. I hope you remember how she had lambasted everyone from SRK to Hrithik to Aamir to Big B after the attacks as these stars chose to keep quiet unlike her. SRK responded to her by calling her a ‘Cynic in designer Saree’ which I feel was quite an apt description of her but only second to the ultimate one by Sonam Kapoor who called De a ‘Porn Writer’. All said and done, isn’t that an Emosanal Attyachaar on all of us? We can blissfully ignore all this and move on but someone has to show you guys how trifling it all sounds and looks to us. You guys always fail to get the bigger picture, general understanding of us commoner.

If these were not enough, Aamir did his part of Attyachaar by doing what Mithun, Sunny and Akshay have done gazillion times in past. Unlike Attyachaar of De and gang, his Attyachaar deeply hurt my sentiments too. My sentiments for Aamir always have been that of a great thinker, a creative brain and a one stop dukaan of cinema. By Ghajini he has hurt my sentiments a great deal and my faith in him is defunct now.

The only good Emosanal Attyachaar is the one composed by Amit Trivedi (of Aamir fame) for Dev.D. The song is too good for the words and the rock version by Bony Chakravarthy indeed rocks. In fact all 18 songs of the movie rock. Not many know that Abhay Deol is also a good writer and it was his idea to make a modern Devdas which Anurag wrote and directed. It’s going to be one mind-fucking movie for sure. Critic Joginder Tuteja said, "Chuck the very thought around whether this album will do well commercially or not; it is an exemplary piece of work and that's what that matters most". Yes, that’s what matters most and for me as a fan of Abhay, Amit and Anurag that’s what matters most. What else a fan needs if his favorites act, compose, and direct top class stuff. So what if it’s Emosanal Attyachaar of multiple kinds listening to the songs continuously, in-loop the whole fucking time I am awake. I let the songs grew inside me and trust me it gets even better after 3 pegs down. Three cheers to Emosanal Attyachaar. The link to the Video

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