Friday, January 16, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire wins big

Caught Slumdog Millionaire the other week and a thrilling ride of a movie it is too. Nice to see it pick up 4 Golden Globe awards too, particularly for a film that contains virtually no Western characters and is only partially in English. There's been some interesting articles around recently about how it is being received in India, as a film directed by a Westerner (Danny Boyle) but about India, and some criticism that it's treatment of Indian society is disrespectful - despite its being based on an Indian novel. I myself find it kind of funny that this great warmly human story was directed by a guy whose previous credits also include one of the best zombie movie of recent times (28 Days Later).

Good article in The Guardian about how the film could not have been made by the Indian film industry, which focuses too greatly on the escapist fantasies of the middle class. Hard to argue with that; Bollywood flicks can be wonderful in their own way, but some of the best recent films about India that touch upon rawer issues (such as Deepa Mehta's trilogy Fire, Earth and Air, and Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding) were made by overseas-based Indians. Not that Slumdog should be regarded as some kind of hard-hitting documentary. Its highly fanciful twists and turns and celebration of chaste love could be straight out of any mainstream Bollywood flick, but this is nonetheless a film unafraid to show the gritty struggles in the lives of India's forgotten impoverished majority.

I liked the film a lot, but my enjoyment of it was almost ruined by a couple of factors, neither of which actually had much to do with the film. Firstly, one of my viewing companions told me that the movie was based on a true story, which it most definitely is not. But foolishly believing her, I spent the whole movie thinking to myself "Wow, that really happened?" and "Nah, that bit is too unrealistic, they must have embellished that heaps." Which prevented me from just enjoying it for what it was.

The other obstacle to my viewing pleasure was lead actor Dev Patel as orphaned slum boy Jamal Malik. No knock against Patel, who has a likeable presence, but I couldn't disassociate him from his breakout role as Anwar on British series Skins. I have seen one too many shots of Patel as Anwar the perpetually horny Pakistani teenager, exposing his skinny buttocks or furtively masturbating, to truly accept him as the virtuous hero of Slumdog. But that's just me.

Oh, but how hot is Freida Pinto in the role of Lathika? Very hot, that's how hot. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

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