Slumdog Millionaire: best picture? really?

When I first saw Slumdog Millionaire (SDM), I was surprised, at the very least, with the amount of hype surrounding this picture. I have a lot of mixed feelings (typical of me!). I feel the case of SDM is similar to the one of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. My Chinese friends were utterly surprised why the later was such a craze in the US.

In my view, SDM, at best, is an above-average Bollywood movie. It is full of loop holes in the script and exaggerations (from as simple as the fact that Who Wants to be a Millionaire is never telecast live, to the suddenly English speaking adult Jamal Malik). It is a typical rags-to-riches movie from Bollywood: good brother is hardworking, bad one takes to crime; good one is in love and is willing to do anything for it; bad one ends up saving the good one at most times and dies for him; a villian; and what not.

The good part about SDM is nice (but not special) presentation and the outstanding part is the background score by A.R. Rahman. For once, I felt that this movie made an impact through an effective use of technical components of movie making (I feel Taare Zameen Par failed in this aspect).

As always, a movie that has an impact, typically, is controversial.

In my view, the movie is not trying to say that Indians are slumdogs or anything like that. As is always seen in Western movies, at times, SDM seems to show Indians in a very stereotypical fashion. But, that it is true of every movie anywhere in the world. Indian movies always show Sardarjis or South Indians or foreigners in a stereotypical fashion and exaggerate the nuances to enhance the value of the movie, because I think people want to see that. We could be hypocrites if we said that we like those movies and hate this one for such an exaggeration.

At the same time, it is sad that most people look at such movies and see them as representative of India (I have not met a US person who has seen this movie; so, I am only guessing). But, it is the same as thinking that “Friends” is representative of American. I am sure I could make a rags-to-riches movie in the backdrop of the city of Detroit and it would show the same, and maybe, more, problems.

BTW, I do not think song Jai Ho deserved an Oscar or even a nomination for the best original song in a movie. It is not a part of the movie. It is just forced into the end credits; actors dancing at the busiest train station in Mumbai – it is hard to walk on that station!

And yes, I wish this opens the doors for Indian movies in the US. There are many better (much much better) movies made in India…

To sum up, I have not seen any of the other contenders for best picture at Oscars 2009. But, I am pretty sure that Slumdog Millionaire did not feel like the Best Picture!

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11 thoughts on “Slumdog Millionaire: best picture? really?

  1. hmm… I was quite disappointed from SDM too. Actually, it did not seem like an Indian film – the interaction of jamaal with his brother (or for that matter anyone else) did not seem like a usual bollywood film. It just seemed catered to western sensitivities.

    Was trying to think why you felt Taare Zameen Par failed on the technical aspect. Then I remembered the bits that felt ripped off from Calvin & Hobbes, etc. I guess they were more keen on making it an emotional film, which overshadowed any small technical things they tried. Anyway…

    I recommend you watch “Delhi 6” in a good theater. I liked it, but haven’t actually met anyone else who did – so don’t go with very high expectations. A movie theater is better than home video, otherwise the sound (all songs are wonderful and blend in the situations very nicely) and picturization won’t have the same impact.

  2. Maybe, instead of “typical Bollywood,” I should say “typical Bollywood story and masala”

    I felt Taare Zameen Par (and I do like the movie very much, and definitely more than SDM) needed to be much more emotional. I just felt it lacks that stretched out background music and stretched out scenes that sometimes are so essential to enhance (stretch is a better term) the emotions.

    I should watch Delhi 6.. the songs are good. I guess Rakeysh OmPrakash does that part pretty well. Even in RDB the songs were blend in very well!

  3. Yeah i agree TZP is much better than SDM

    Or or even rang de basanti! oh yeah that one was gReeat.!

    lol i feel SDM got too much overwieght fame..and now frieda pinto earns more than aiswarya rai and katrona kaif..jus for a 15-16 minutes role?
    seriously thats too much hype.

  4. //I just felt it [TZP] lacks that stretched out background music and stretched out scenes that sometimes are so essential to enhance (stretch is a better term) the emotions.//

    Really? I rarely cry when I’m watching an “emotional” scene in a movie – and i was just sitting there biting my lip trying to hold back tears with this one. I thought this one evokes a lot more emotion by keeping it very real, and not going overboard with exaggerated dramatics and ‘pity- factors’.

    100% with you on Jai Ho not deserving a nomination/Oscar. Not so much because it’s forced at the end, but because it’s average at best.


    • Aah! well, I guess that is the greatness of movies.. each person has their own views and feelings. Whether one likes a movie also depends on a personal mood!

      I think movies must (and always do) exaggerate in some form or another. Of course, I agree with things not going overboard – like in most Yash Chopra/Karan Johar movies! So, the line is very thin!

  5. hello every body
    according to me slumdog is a great piece of work. The best part is its editing. we have to keep in mind that it has been directed by a british director and he needs to make the film in such a way which can connect with the brit audiance as well as the indian audiance. acording tome he had succeeded in what he was triying to do.

    well points like a reality show is never hosted live n all that is completley irelivent a director has the right to make it in his own way. Dany has always make it clear that this has nothing to do with the reality its all fantacy.

    The problem with people in India is that before the movie hits the theater it was allready in a big hip thats what rises the expectation level and so negetive critisisim started.

    i live in london n when i first saw this movie i was taken with a blow bcoz i had zero expectatio level.

    this is a film of an international standard with an indian back drop.

    thanq / no offence

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