Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I watched and liked ....

I watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ over the weekend and quite liked the movie. Sure, the movie is slightly sensationalistic in parts, but isn’t that true of practically any work of fiction – literary or cinematic?

If the critics were complaining about how the movie is not faithful to the book, I would concede their point. Like most successful adaptations, what the movie does is to take the basic premise of the book, and uses it to tell a story that works within the framework of a movie. Which is a good thing – the only movie I have seen which is 100% faithful to the book, and is as much of a classic of the book is Love Story. In every other case, the movie and the book tell similar, but not identical stories.

But the criticism being levelled against Slumdog Millionaire has nothing to do with the nature of the adaptation. People are tearing the movie apart because of its so called ‘unrealistic’ depiction of urban poverty. And that is a criticism I just cannot accept. The movie does nothing more or less than depict the reality of life of the urban poor.

An aging actor who has forgotten that ‘Angry Old Man’ doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Angry Young Man’ claims that the movie doesn’t depict the real India. It doesn’t, but can any one movie or even a series of movies capture the diversity of this country? Can he name even one movie in the history of Indian cinema that has captured every single facet of India? In his heydays, the said actor attained fame for his portrayals of ‘Slumdogs’– did he spend even a day interacting with the actual residents of a slum in order to ensure that his portrayal was accurate?

Critics claim that the movie is full of unrealistic moments – how could so much have happened to any one person, and what is the probability that he would be asked just those questions in a reality quiz show. I do not want to get into a debate of whether the incidents depicted probable or even possible – all I want to ask is why the same critics did not raise the same questions about the immensely popular ‘Rock On’? How many investment bankers of less than eight year’s experience live in the kind of apartment that Farhan Aktar had in the movie – yet, that was accepted as a part of the creative license enjoyed by filmmakers. Why then should the makers of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ be denied the same creative license that Indian film-makers enjoy?

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is a gritty movie about surviving in the slums of India, and I, for one, would recommend the movie to anyone.

And as for the Oscars - ‘Jai Ho’. Slumdog Millionaire is no better or worse than many of the movies that do well in the Academy Awards, and if the jury feels that it is the best movie made this year, I for one would stand-up and applaud.

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