To what lengths would you go to get an autograph from a superstar actor? What all would you be willing to jump to get close, very close – in you face close – to a star that has sold you dream after dream after dream all your life? Jump from a chopper! Fly your family from Bay Area to Chicago and pay tons of money? Swim through a sewer??? Nah… the mentioned tasks are too easy if the superstar in question is Amitabh Bachchan. And Ladies and gentleman, of all the directors who have in some form or the other paid tribute to the Greatest Star of the Millennium – let me declare – Danny Boyle topped all of them and beat them with none even close! And that’s just one shot in Slumdog Millionaire.
Danny Boyle’s (Train spotting) latest is a story around how a boy born in the slums of Bombay win’s his love riding on the back on his experiences from his growing-up days to answer 15 questions and convince an overworked cop that he is not cheating on the show. Nothing more to it! If you let go of the initial adrenaline of being the fortunate few to watch the film in one of the most liberal places in the world where for large diasporas, India signifies freedom and a place to find solace and happiness, then you will walk out feeling very full at the treat dished out to you.
The movie is cinematic, right from the word go, and that in itself is an achievement worth bowing to for a director born in a different land. Mumbai does not exist in the film – it’s all Bombay. And a Bombay that you would have probably never seen before. The amazing interweave of colorful and lively people and the corresponding contrast of the slums makes you believe that that characters and as a natural extension, the people, are oblivious to the inhuman conditions that surround them. A mix and match of rugged goons, docile orphans, street smart kids and IndYEAH eyed foreign tourists makes Slumdog a movie full of surprises at every turn of the plot, a plot that covers every aspect of what this great city offers – religious wars, cosmetic ill-treatments, power-struggles, showmanship’s, dream-sellers, rag’s to riches poster boys, mafia don’s, super-model prostitutes, trigger-happy teens and fearless humanists. And to point out very strongly here – Boyle does not fall into the trap of Indian Sentimentality even though he does get into the mind of an avg Indian Raju very well.
There is just too much of good work in the movie to talk about film – AR Rahman’s back-ground score, just the way he makes you tap your feet to the unfolding visuals and not be conscious about it al all, Irrfan Khan with his characteristic non-acting acting expressions, Saurabh Shukla as the overweight short-circuited hawaldar, Mahesh Manjrekar as the Mumbai ka Don, Dev Patel as the Lover-boy and Anil Kapoor as the evil & condescending host of “Who want’s to be a Millionaire” – that they gel so well with the characters that the viewer is just mesmerized all through to notice flaws if any. And for an Indian watching a film based on India and be very comfortable is the highest grade you can give to any alien director. Especially the guts and the ease to show the bitter truths of real India without making a mockery. And especially to show how horrible Taj-Mahal actually looks in broad daylight and how horrendously dirty its surroundings are.
To review a movie like this, you need lofty words, words that justify the effort and the pains labored into making a film like this – touted as the costliest film made in India – a one man’s vision. The setting and the breaking-news type of screenplay make it a riveting watch with no moments to pause. Yes the lead pair looks a little dull in spots and the English dialogues don’t sound too plausible at some special weighted scenes but considering that the movie was primarily packages to cater to the west’s sensibilities of how to view India – Danny Boyle has set a bar that will be very difficult to beat.
But if there is one winner to drive this movie to the very brink of Oscar’s – that’s BOMBAY! Slumdog is a movie where you will see the city like you have NEVER EVER seen before. It’s like prose from Lin Baba’s eyes from Shantaram turning to Poetry and Rangoli all at the same time. The sadness, the apathy of the residents, the acrimonious nature of the harsh truth’s of life, the relentless mockery of life towards the under-privileged and the gifted alike, just blown to insignificant particles before the power that the city is – and the way it was all captured by Anthony Dod through his camerawork or more rightly cameras work – is nothing short of pure chilling genius. Bombay never looked so right before… all the reams of paper eulogizing it have found the right visuals now, hence allowed to settle in comfort of obscurity. Slumdog Millionaire will carry the baton for a significant time from now.