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Slumdog Millionaire Review and the Amitabh Bachchan controversy

January 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire is a love story rather than a story about India’s poverty. Yes, the poverty is there constantly, hanging like a noose around Jamal’s neck. Poverty is the backdrop of the movie, and the director, Danny Boyle, uses every possible aspect of Indian poverty that he knows to make this story come alive.

The movie has a raw feel to it. As if the director has taken a magnifying glass and showed up all the warts without flinching – the crime, the corrupt police, the filth, prostitution, communal riots, the inhuman conditions in the slums, the garbage heaps, beggar gangs, and the life of street children. He has sewn all these elements together into one story and that hits you hard. It is meant to.
A recent Indian tale of street children, Traffic Signal, one of my favourite movies, seems positively sanitized as compared to Slumdog.

But this does not mean that Boyle has exaggerated anything. He has simply told the truth, although in the way of film directors – dramatically! He serves it up in the space of 121 minutes, by making almost everything bad happen to his lead characters. The unpleasantness of it all hits you right between the eyes and wrenches your heart out. That’s what his movie aims to do.

The scene where they show the slum “toilet” is one that I doubt any Indian director would have shown this close. But it’s a scene that western audiences will lap up, and why not. It is an example of how terrible our sanitation is. We know its horrors, but they don’t. The movie is clearly aimed at western audiences, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Sure, Boyle’s movie doesn’t explain why so many children become street children, just why Jamal (Dev Patel) and Salim (Madhur Mittal) do. It doesn’t explain why street kids become beggars, just why Jamal and Salim do. But that’s because this isn’t a documentary. It’s a story about two brothers, told in an almost Bollywood style! Dramatic and unbelievable.

I was really happy to see Boyle expose the adult gangs behind the child beggars. Bhandarkar has done this too, in Traffic Signal, the first movie of its kind in Indian cinema, but for some reason our critics had trashed Traffic Signal. I remember being puzzled by that! Thankfully it went on to win a National award which means that we aren’t that myopic.

Boyle’s depiction in far more effective than Bhandarkar’s…perhaps because he had a real story to tell, and he did not hesitate to show it harshly. Boyle is almost merciless in the depiction of street life and poverty in India.

Slumdog is a well edited, tight, fast moving film, and carries you along with all the implausibilities in the story.

Yes, the story is unbelievable, but well, that’s cinema for you. And it’s good crowd pleasing cinema. Not great cinema though. I am quite sure that our Indian critics would never have raved about this movie this much had it been made by an Indian director and if they hadn’t known that this was “Oscar” material.

This is what a Washington Post critic says about the film (he liked it by the way) and I agree:

…outlandishly contrived plot, “Slumdog Millionaire” could easily be relegated to the category of cinematic stunt… sounds like a fairy tale, and thinking of it as such is the best way to encounter “Slumdog Millionaire.” (If the audience doubts the film’s underlying sense of fantasy, it should stick around for the rousing closing-credits sequence.)

Another drawback in the film are the acting performances. Anil Kapoor as Prem Kumar is average at best. Irrfan Khan (the police inspector) and Dev Patel (Jamal) are slightly better but nothing earthshaking. Frieda Pinto as Latika was wonderful. She not only acts well, she looks right for the part, she has that thin undernourished look that is so necessary for her role. Madhur Mittal who plays Salim is excellent as well and looks the part perfectly. Again, kudos to Boyle for the casting. The kids in the first half of the movie do a good job too.

I do not think that this movie deserves the Best Film Oscar, but it deserves an Oscar for the music. The background score is awesome.

I hope the movie does well in India. I am sure our audiences will enjoy it as it’s got all the elements of a Bollywood drama, including a song tagged on at the end! The only drawback is its late release here. It’s been showing in film festivals abroad since August and was officially released in November in the USA and in early January in the UK. With the movie generating so much hype many people seem to have watched the pirated versions and I am not sure whether they will now want to see it in theatres.

The Amitabh Bachchan controversy: I am not a fan of Amitabh Bachchan’s and frankly have always disliked him (as an actor) but I think we need to be fair about his comments on Slumdog. It does appear that he did not really slam Slumdog Millionaire as was claimed.

Lets see what he actually said:

On blog, comments for the film ‘SlumDog Millionaire’ and the anger by some on its contents, prompt me to say…If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. Its just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not.

That is the statement that generated huge controversy. He begins by stating that he was reacting to comments and also clearly uses the word “IF.” Nowhere has be said that he himself was hurt by Slumdog’s depiction of India’s poverty. However, to look at the other side, some amount of bitterness is evident in the words that follow. For one thing he implies that it is “patriots” who would get offended by the film. I am not sure whether he meant people who think they are patriots, so lets give him the benefit of the doubt. AB also says that Indian films don’t get the recognition they deserve on the global stage. Sure, that’s true, but it would be indeed surprising if the best of Bollywood was recognized by say the Oscars. It’s natural that Americans would view films they themselves make as the best. Hollywood films are made for western audiences and it is western audiences who will on the juries of the film awards.

AB has realised that he had put his foot in his mouth and has tried to rectify matters. No, he hasn’t taken his words back, he has simply explained what he meant.

He has said:

Media, in India has taken the pros and cons of OTHERS, as MINE, built their headlines and put it safely out, thereby, causing the consternation. All the expressions that have been attributed to me are in fact the expressions of others…

I too was influenced by the media coverage of this issue in India and perhaps thought that AB was jealous, but I realise that it was a mistake on my part. What is regrettable is that some misinformed journalists raked up an international controversy about his remarks, and Amit has discussed their trashy journalism here.

Related Reading: People from the Dharavi slum are as hardworking and honest as those from other areas
Chandni Chowk to China Review
Ghajini Review
Rab de Bana di Jodi Review

51 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2009 10:21 am

    बाकीचे काय म्हणतात मला माहीत नाही, पण एक शाश्वत सत्य आहे – “जर तुम्हाला श्रीमंती चे प्रदर्शन करता येत नसेल, तर गरीबी विकायला शिका”
    स्लमडोग मिलियनएरर हा तथाकथित सिनिमा आहे जो भारता मधल्या दरीदरी पानाचे तद्दन किळसवाणे दर्शन घडवतो. 9 पैकी 10 वेळेस तुम्हाला काय गरज आहे झोपडपट्टी मधले जीवन काय असते हे पाहण्याचा?
    आणि भारतामधल्या अर्ध्याकच्या बौद्धिक समाजाला वाटले – ‘अगदी खरा आहे बाई, झोपडपट्टीत असेच असते..काय सिनेमा काढला आहे..! याला ऑस्कर मिळायला हवा’

    शिट..लाज वाटली पाहिजे समाजातल्या दंभिक आणि दुटटपी बुद्धिवंतं ना…भारत म्हणजे झोपडपट्टी नाही, भारत म्हणजे गरीब लोकांचे साम्राज्या नाही म्हणजे मेहेनत आणि प्रामाणिक लोकांची गळचेपी व्यवस्था आहे. असे पण नाही..

    भारत हा जगाचा अर्थव्यवस्थेतला उगवता तारा आहे. भारत एक अव्यक्ता शक्ति आहे. टिप – ती शक्ति झोपडपट्टी मधे राहून गरीबी चे भांडवल करत नाही की रस्त्यावर गुंडगिरी करत फिरत नाही. ती शक्ति आज जगातल्या मोठआल्या कॉर्पोरेशन मधे डॉलर, पौंड कमवात आहे.

    झोपडपट्टी ही संस्था केवळ भिकार राजकारणी लोका नि तयार केलेली घाण आहे..!!

    मुळातच तुम्हाला ऑस्कर चे एव्हढे कौतुक का आहे? तुमची मानसिक गुलामगिरी कधी संपणार आहे??


    • Jeet permalink
      March 28, 2009 2:41 am

      Tumche Marathi Chchan Ahe bare…
      Slumdog is one of the best plots I have seen. Even my International friends liked it…Ramania, China, Indonesia, USA
      It is not about slums or poverty. The movie is successful because of it’s good plot and narration style. Yes the social poverty aspect goes with the movie coz it is meant to uncover the drama from rags to riches…No offenses to any slums etc.
      It is just how the story is told that people liked.

  2. January 24, 2009 10:41 am

    Well I liked the movie,for the way it didn’t shy away from the truth.As to why other country’s don’t allow their under belly to be shown,one thing the movie makers might be shot or quartered or whatever…

    I think more than patriots politicians should have a problem,where is the development they promised?

    It will be tough for some people to digest the movie,for eg,my mom started crying during the communal violence you said it talks about those two boys and their life..

    If not for Pinto, I don’t think the movie would have had such an impact 🙂

    I agree, Pinto is the star in the movie as far as I am concerned! 🙂 – Nita.

  3. January 24, 2009 11:02 am

    Very fair review; love it. More so because I have seen the film, and your review has done justice to it.

    What’s puzzling is people suddenly objecting to the image of India that is portrayed. What’s with that? 1) It is, like you said, a very realistic image of at least a part of India, and 2) what are other Bollywood films about? Skimpily clad women dancing in the freezing snow and green hills – is that representative of India?

    I’m not sure I’d call it a love story as such. There is that romance angle, yes – and the reason he enters the competition is so his love finds him. But even then, I’d say the storyline is more about serendipity, and about Jamal’s life – which just happens to be one of poverty. His love happens to be just one aspect of his life, as does his brother, his polar opposite in almost every way. It’s wonderful how it’s all woven together into a very telling narrative.


    Thanks Gauri. About the love story, I guess I am a hopeless romantic and I just loved that long shot of the little girl that Jamal keeps thinking of! It sort of tugged at my heart strings and it was so wonderful to see this boy hang on to the love of his life. I was floored! About people objecting to it, I think it is more to do with the shame they feel rather than anything else. In any case a movie director should have the freedom to depict whatever he wants, he has to tell it as he sees it. That is honesty. I think this film is an honest one in that sense. – Nita.

  4. Dev permalink
    January 24, 2009 11:14 am

    Nita, I more or less agree with your review, except the performances part..which I think were more than above average.
    “Yes, the story is unbelievable, but well, that’s cinema for you.”
    I also wish it stays just a cinema..but when films become such big, as this one has, they generally become textbooks on cultures and nations. To give an example, it’s incredible that how so many people in my MBA class here still used to quote film “Gandhi”-made 25 years ago- to talk about India.
    I also dont think that SM is great cinema, but then this year hasnt been that great in terms of very good films, plus SM talks about a very different mileu, something new & different for academy award members…hence so many nominations.
    Though my favorite for this year remains “The curious case of Benjamin Button”, unless I change my opinion after watching “Reader”, the only one I havent seen yet from the top 5 nominations.

    Dev, that’s an important point you made, abut the fear that western audiences might think this is some sort of treatise on India! It’s just a story and its a story that uses the poverty element to the hilt. It’s certainly been sensationalised particularly the shit scene. I cannot imagine any boy jumping into shit to see AB, but in a way it shows the obsessive nature of Jamal and I thought it was okay to use in a dramatic narration. But its important the western audiences see it as such. About the performaces, I am not sure which performances you mean, but I thought Pinto and Mittal were really well above average and so were most of the kids. I was not impressed with the other actors much. – Nita.

  5. January 24, 2009 1:02 pm

    I wanted to ask you for this believe me!
    I did not watch SM but heard so much from ppl arnd in so diff ways that i was vexed! somehow evry interest i had was whoooosh gone!

    I loved traffic signal too, it was touching and it was facts/….and if this is bollywood movie for westerners yes it cud well be what it is! coz its a movie!

    But I dont know, am i proud of it being in oscars? dont know!! this time again, i felt a lot of extra hype given by media and channels for this! 😦

    Well, I don’t feel particularly excited about the Oscar bit but I do feel happy for Rehman. World recognistion is great for an artist! – Nita.

  6. January 24, 2009 1:27 pm

    Me too saw this movie yesterday and was shocked to see the audience laughing at certain scenes which were pretty serious. Apart from the music there was nothing extraordinary in it. The script would have been even better and natural had the lead characters spoken in hindi. The director boldly portrays the truth but he seems to cater to the western audience’s conviction that there is nothing better in India as he selectively portrays the negativities alone. But for us Indians it is a good oppurtunity to come out of our cocoons and not turn a blind eye to what may be happening in our very locality.

    Destination Infinity

    I agree DI, it was not an extraordinary movie. I also felt a little dissonance with the foreign accented English that Jamal spoke. It was wierd! And well, as you said, this movie was to make western audiences cringe and weep and make them feel! And in the process he made us feel too! – Nita.

  7. January 24, 2009 2:53 pm

    I have been trying to catch all the movies which have been nominated for the Best film in the Oscars, and I frankly have not seen something which is coming across so strongly to me as Slumdog Millionaire.

    I am not sure whether its the Indian film in Oscar nomination fever because of which I am not able to see the others as that good. Maybe as you have said, we know these things happen and that in a way makes a difference in our perception of the movie.

    I somehow find it difficult to see this purely as an Indian film or a British film. I think it’s a mixture of both. As I have not seen any of the other movies, can’t compare! – Nita.

  8. January 24, 2009 4:25 pm

    1. Good review! Balanced! Justice done to Amitabh too though I myself have been his critic over his statement!

    2. I have also disliked the hullabaloo about great acting by Jamal (Dev Patel) in particular. He is just average and okay; he seems extraordinary because of the great plot of the movie!

    3. The kids were great actors! But Dev Patel is getting the lion’s share of the praise!

    4. Anil was okay but occasionally not up to par for sure! For example, in the final scene when Jamal does the impossible, he should have been truly ecstatic in welcoming it (as Amitabh did when Harshvardhan Navathe had won!). But he was so restrained! Perhaps the director(s) didn’t see the winning episode(s) of KBC! However, Anil deserves kudos for the bathroom scene where he drops a hint for Jamal; he really convinces us that he is sincere in helping!

    5. Though I went gaga over the film, I also think it does not deserve to be the best Academy award film! I have not seen the other nominated films but I think there must be a better film! This, however, does not mean this is not a great film!

    6. I agree with you that the Indian reviewers would not have been so enthusiastic about it if it had not won laurels abroad! For example, Nikhat Kazmi (Times of India) has given it 4.5 stars! She must be under pressure! By the way, Nikhat kazmi is a plagiarist and her review of the film Shark Tales was lifted from the Chicago Suntimes!

    P.S.: I like your idea of changing the blog header. It truly refreshes things. (F5, so to speak!).

    Thanks Vikas. Yes SM is a good film no doubt. About Anil Kapoor’s acting, well, I think in parts he was good and in parts he was terrible and if one took an average of his performance in the movie I thought it was below average. As for Dev Patel, I think he was average or maybe a little above but I think his foreign accented English was a big drawback and I felt he wasn’t natural. Language is so important in a film! But to give Dev Patel credit, he wasn’t acting badly, as I felt Anil Kapoor was in some scenes. About Nikhat Kazmi, I have heard of this, and well I usually do not like her reviews because I feel they are kind of hurried. – Nita.

  9. January 24, 2009 4:59 pm

    I saw the movie yesterday. What a movie it was!!!
    Worth a watch.

    Did you people notice the clock in Railway Station in the song Jai Ho? The clock shows 00:58:02 when the song starts and is in sync with the time of the song.

    When the song ends, it shows 00:00:56.

    This kind of perfection I could see only in RGV and Mani Ratnam films.

    I didn’t notice the clock. Wow, that’s impressive! – Nita.

  10. January 24, 2009 5:15 pm

    I am yet to watch SM, but a word about the depiction of the toilet: Danny Boyle shot into prominence with “Trainspotting”, a film which has attained a certain cult status by now.

    Trainspotting also has this hard-to-stomach sequence where a drug addict craps into a horrible toilet and then in desperation, dunks his head into it…aarrgh!

    The man has a toilet fixation, I tell ya!

    Toilet fixation eh! Looks like he was spot on when it came to which country to shoot in! 🙂 – Nita.

  11. January 24, 2009 5:36 pm

    What others are ranting makes no difference except the fact that ‘If you cant show how rich you are, just sell your poverty’ .

    Slumdog millionaire, the currently hyped movie does nothing more but portays a lousy picture of poverty relevant in Indian slums.

    9/10 times, why the hell anyone of us want to see the lousiness and creepiness of urban slums?

    Incredibly, the so called intellects are busy remarking ‘ Oh my, look at true, slum life in India is just like that..This film should get an Oscar’

    Shit..We should be ashamed of this so called intellects and pseudophiles. India isent about slums, India isent just about poor and crippled people, or it isent a place where people are expolited just for the heck of it..

    In this capitalist world, India is reckoned as one of the growing economic power, India isent about roaming on streets, or behaving in a rowdy manner..

    Tip – the so called underutilized power of Indians is seen when we find talented people earning top dollors, pounds etc..

    This slum and stuff is just a bloody politico supported crap..

    But one question remains unanswered, why do you need a foreign Oscar to acknowledge that we can make a good film?

    Harshad, this is not an Indian film. Secondly, it’s just a film. Thirdly, there are those who will feel this film is not good, for various reasons. That’s fine too. It’s a free country. – Nita.

  12. January 24, 2009 7:08 pm

    Boyle has really done a good job with this movie. While the movie deals with the gory details of the underbelly of Mumbai, it doesnt really leave you with a sick feeling. The story feels like a commentary and at the end you just feel good about the whole movie. Very well done I must say.

    The music score by Rehman is amazing, the actors who played junior Jamal and Salim were the real stars. They were simply too good.

    I thought Freida Pinto was overhyped. I think she had just 15 mins of screen presence in the whole movie.

    Overall yes the film does leave one with a good feeling at the end. And that’s also true what you said about Pinto, she has a limited screen time but I thought she shone. In those 15 mins of fame she did good. – Nita.

  13. January 24, 2009 7:41 pm


    There is nothing to be overhyped about this movie.That sais,this is simply a brilliant movie and i wonder why we,rather than trying to assimilate the real depiction and do something in this regard,are keen on trying to mourn that ‘A britisher has drawn india in colours of prejudice’..

    I haven’t been to mumai,but statistics and facts tell me that slums of mumbai are the same as that in the movie..This movie is not a story of filmstar,but of 3 kids from the slum..What else do you expect the movie to show?Dream sequences where Jamal and LAthika dance hip hop in snow in Himachal pradesh?Or roll over green grass in Ooty?

    I don’t see the point when many mourn that “Danny showed only negative parts fo india’..uh,this is such a movie and i wonder where is the scope to inject dream sequences as Drad -e- Disco in slums..

    Honestly speaking,we indians are feeling hurt for our own state of condition and hence we are barking at the firangii for being prejudiced..How hypocritical..Oh yeah,all we know is to shout loud..Nothing more,nothing less..

    Western media has more audience and hence will get more appreciation ..We have a smaller audience and i wonder why should we feel irritated when the larger team gets more applaud..What we do call this feeling Nita? 🙂

    Nimmy, well I think most people in India are applauding this film and a small section of people are criticizing it. Overall I believe in creative freedom and if someone wants to show the dark underbelly of India, so be it. In fact even if the film had exaggerated it, or even lied about the poverty (it didn’t) even then it’s just a film, a dramatic fiction film. – Nita.

  14. January 24, 2009 7:49 pm

    To add,the kids were the stars of the movie,not Dev or Frieda..Salim too has an equal role,but i don’t find any sources even mentioning his name..Frieda has nothing much to act,her childhood part had even more expressions…She is just fine,nothing more..

    On a different note,not reffering to AB in particular,i must say that people are really hypocritical.AB says that Oscar isn’t a big deal,while he and his DIL keeps running over from one international film festival to another..Why is it hard for some people to appreciate..

    Again,Oscar awards are given away by western world and hence will be concentrating on western movies..Its just logical..Rather than saying that ‘Its no big deal ‘,i guess we should act smart by establishing an award of great honour of our own and spread its charm,instead of grinning..

    Just my two cents ..

    I think everyone in the film fraternity would love to get an Oscar, even AB! 🙂 – Nita.

  15. Padmini permalink
    January 24, 2009 8:02 pm

    While I don’t think that the director has exploited poverty in India just to make a good movie (in this case), it’s true that some directors quite often do it to win international recognition for their movies (e.g. Water).This must not be the main aim when exposing or depicting the poverty of India and its seamier sides.

    Padmini, a little bit of dramatic exxageration is a necessary element in any film. So I agree that I too do not think that the director’s aim was to exploit the poverty. In fact I do not think he even expected this much recognition. – Nita.

  16. January 24, 2009 9:09 pm

    Well, AB has recently said at a press conference in Jaipur
    “Oscar has its own place…we do not disrespect it…. If they wish to give us an Oscar they can do it…if not, it would be even better,” he said.,flstry-1.cms

    With Indian film awards being available in plenty, I think Oscar does hold a great importance still and he is being really “grapes are sour” about it!!
    I also think the sentence should have been “if we get it, its ok..if not then also ok” instead of what he has said.

    Actually u know when everyone is praising SM, one more praise doesnt get you publicity. But if you criticize something that everyone is raving about, it gets you publicity.

    “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” – John B. Bogart

    I know what you mean. I think that he responded to the criticism about SM on his blog because he wanted to make a type of blogpost that would generate interest but it backfired on him! About what he said about the Oscars, that was indeed a grapes are sour remark. I think it is possible that he is getting too old to be in this industry! – Nita.

  17. boon permalink
    January 24, 2009 9:20 pm

    amitab is living in palace and travel in his luxury vehicles.that’s made him comment so(if he do so). SDM shows truth . dont be shy in it. india is not only the place of amitab and other millionaires . india is about slums and people who lives there too. if such millionaires help such people, its a good thing .rather than hiding the truths(through the films).

    I think AB has played the poor man in many many films so I do not think he objects to that. In any case he has denied having said it. – Nita.

  18. January 24, 2009 11:13 pm

    This comment is not context of the quality of this movie, but about the supposed things this movie is supposed to teach us Indians (that even you have alluded to).

    If a Western filmmaker does want to make a movie on the ‘real’ India, he/she should make one on the massacre of Dalits in Khairlanji. Trust me, what the lower castes in villages of India go through everyday is much more than the squalor of any slum, anywhere in the world. Not having a decent toilet sucks, but it is nothing compared to being killed for drawing water from a well.

    If an outsider/insider really wants to get the blinkers off the Indian middle classes, he/she need not do much more than make a movie on the life of an average Dalit, a Kashmiri or a Manipuri person. I think Indians and the world will learn a lot more about India by watching Kavita Joshi’s Tales from the Margins than any slumdog movies.

    The blinkers need to come off, but not about poverty of which they are well aware of (and can really not do too much about) but about the rabidly anti-minority and anti-lower caste attitudes of the Hindu middle classes.

    Vikram, if a film about poverty by a foreigner has raised the hackles of many a “patriot” you can imagine the uproar if a foreign film director makes a film about caste! Say a love story of two people from different castes set in rural India! I just hope that after such a film is made, some NRI journalists don’t go around telling lies that we in India have not made films about caste differences and now at last a foreigner has dared to expose it! 🙂 In fact the number of such films by Indian filmmakers are there.- Nita.

  19. January 25, 2009 12:00 am

    nita , really have a different take on this controversy
    firstly, in his view this film got recognition by western audience just because it was directed by hollywood directors,now my question here is that if he has so much of problem with it, why didnt he went on directing or acting in a a film like SL ….he too is recognized abroad …..then why there is such an inferiority complex that if an indian would have made this film it wouldnt have been applauded!
    secondly, such underbelly might exist in developed country as well ( agreed) but, this is also a part of india , we are trying to just project the developing part of india which uses latest gadgets, bang on music etc. but the actual life does thrive in the slums, jhugis (that is another india)
    reality is hard, and people have problem when the truth is told (specially when it comes from somebody,s else mouth)
    Mr Bachhan has very critically got his view straight on SL ….but you see there is a lot of difference in “seeing the change and being the change ”
    next, moving on to oscars, if we all feel that there only western movies get due recognition there, then stop sending your nominations
    and i think if indian cinema has started getting due recognition, then lets start with our own awards comprising of jury from all over the world,
    and let it be fair enough….in that case we will be surely bigger and better than oscars
    but charity has to begin from home … lets just see what our filmakers choose for

    Arpit, this film got many excessive stars by the critics. I have no doubt in my mind that our film critics get influenced by the Oscar hype. I sincerely believe that SM, while a good film, is not a great film and does not deserve excessive stars. – Nita.

  20. January 25, 2009 12:20 am

    This slum and stuff is just a bloody politico supported crap..

    ROFL..People in glass houses should not throw stones at others…

    A slum film is expected to be about slums,not about Yash chopra set typo..

    And oh well,patriots who are ashamed,pls refer to facts before yelling’India is not about slums’ of India is all about poverty,malnutirtion and sorrow..So well,better read more and make a comment..

    Ignorance is bliss…

    I think all of us should see this as a film about people, not about poverty. It is a story about a poor boy who struggles through life. – Nita.

  21. January 25, 2009 1:43 am

    But one question remains unanswered, why do you need a foreign Oscar to acknowledge that we can make a good film?

    Harshad, you said it!! While I do understand that artists do have a desire to be recognized by their peers for their work in the form of awards like Oscars, are the talents of Sanjeev Kumar, Mammootty, Shabana Azmi, Kamal Hassan, Naseeruddin Shah, Mohanlal or Om Puri – to name a few – any less than those of Robert de Niro or Charlie Theron, just because these Indian actors never won an Oscar whereas de Niro and Theron did? Is an Oscar winning movie like “Forrest Gump” or a Hollywood movie like “Scream” more relevant to Indians, or a movie like “Satya” or “Black Friday”? I’m not putting down western movies – they make their share of brilliant movies as well as slickly-packaged crap too – but at least take some pride in Indian movies!

    But the current dynamics are such that the source of pop culture for the world is America, and it’s a one-way traffic when it comes to movies and music.

  22. MUSHTAQ KHAN permalink
    January 25, 2009 2:29 am

    We must not be so emotional that a firang has sneaked deep inside our garbage but the fault is ours who nurtured so long the filth around our lovely homes.well said. But why our gentlemen doesnot do something to remove the dirt than preferring to sweep under the caarpet.

    Bravo Mushtaq! great comment! – Nita.

  23. January 25, 2009 5:40 am

    Harshad Joshi:
    Get a sense of life, a sense of grace and humor: the world is in love with the movie, you are not (nor am I, though I really enjoyed the movie). Fine enough!
    But don’t bring that nationalistic, jingoistic crap into it. The filth and gore of urban India is real and a crown in the ugly face of our socialism.
    Good review, as always, Nita.

    Thanks R. 🙂 – Nita.

  24. January 25, 2009 8:18 am

    correction: “…than those of Robert de Niro or Charlize Theron..”

  25. Nil permalink
    January 25, 2009 5:43 pm

    I liked to movie personally. Well acted, great scenes, the switching of time frames between past and present was quite effective.

    Of course it is natural for Indians based in India to respond to it, but what some of them should remember is that SM is about slum life in India but made by a British director. It is hence a British movie, not Indian. I’m not being rude, but whenever India or an Indian is linked to something overseas, certain Indians in India (not all) love having some involvement with it.

    Like when Obama appointed Sonal Shah in his transition team, Indian media went out of their way to make her look evil by reporting on her VHP membership (whether she is a member or not is none of their business, and she is an Indian American!).

    Now onto The Big B. Yes all nations have a dark underbelly, but how do you compare the abject poverty and vast slums and shanty towns of Mumbai to those in America or Britiain. In Britain, there is a LARGE gap between the “haves” and “have nots”, but most of the poor British are still eating and in most cases have some form of roof over their heads. There is a welfare system for those on low incomes and there are social housing schemes as well. Compare that to the MASSIVE gap between India’s haves and have nots.

    Amitabh is a strange one. He sometimes talks so self-righteously like he’s the voice of a nation, yet he lives a luxury life, the same type which widens the gap between the few wealthy and the millions living in India’s underbelly.

    I would like to hear the opinions of actors like Shabana Azmi on the movie. Her voice would add more credible seeing as she’s an activist with far more knowledge about India’s poor. For people who were put off by that toilet scene in SM, watch the movie “Paar” with Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah – one of the most dramatic scenes was when both of them had to get a herd of pigs across a river (not the most romantic of things!) just to earn some money.

    Nil, I agree entirely. This is not an Indian movie but you know, I think that is why some people are upset. That a foreigner dared to talk about our underbelly! Also, about taking credit, I think one needs to keep in mind that a lot of Indians were involved in the film, not NRI’s. The co-drector, the technicians and ofcourse, AR Rahman. About AB, as far as I know he has acted in many films where he has played a poor man so I do believe that he was misquoted. – Nita.

  26. January 25, 2009 9:06 pm

    oh i dont bother about the stars, but if sincere efforts have been put in , then surely they deserve applauds.

    Yes ofcourse. But how much one likes a movie is very subjective. It is quite possible that some people may find this movie really great Oscar material and some might think it just good and some may hate it! – Nita.

  27. January 26, 2009 12:03 am

    Slumdog stand nowhere against TZP on any account.

    There is nothing wrong if a movie depicts the poverty of certain sector of India.
    Yet slumdog movie was directed less for Indians and more for americans.

    Anyways movie is ok on all accords. It may win some sort of oscar too, nothing new in that. As said many times earlier too when they can announce the crook Paul Krugman a noble winner, they can do anything.

    About Indian movies, even Jane Tu Ya Jane Na was much much better than slumdog.
    About liking/disliking Amitabh, its matters less now. Even those who dislikes Amitabh adds up to his influence of existence. He is the best actor of bollywood in present scenario, but he is gonna end. And some new one will evolve soon.

    Gargi, as you said this movie was basically targetted towards the western audience. And me too enjoyed TZP more than Slumdog, but well, I guess the western audiences would be more affected by Slumdog as they are not used to such movies. – Nita.

  28. January 26, 2009 3:08 am

    Nita, I saw this movie just a while ago. I liked it. Its a good entertainer though the story is sort of all over the place. My favourite bit was how the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ show begins to look so irrelevant when compared to the boy’s life. Towards the end of the movie whether he wins or loses is basically not important and it happens gradually question after question. I liked the fact that the characters in the movie were very independent in spirit as well as their lives.

    Yep, this was a good entertainer! I also loved the way Jamal was free spirited and wanted to live his life his own way. I loved his character! – Nita.

  29. babudeepan permalink
    January 26, 2009 7:32 am

    Perfect screen play!!!!!

    Right on! – nita.

  30. January 26, 2009 12:43 pm

    Watched the movie yesterday. My daughter Supriya read your review and the comments and has this to convey:
    1. She liked Dev Patel’s acting more than Frieda’s, though as you said her trim look suited the role.
    2. Most of the children were really good especially the youngest Jamal – Ayush Khedekar, was he?
    3. Ram’s Comment said as follows:
    ///Did you people notice the clock in Railway Station in the song Jai Ho? The clock shows 00:58:02 when the song starts and is in sync with the time of the song. When the song ends, it shows 00:00:56./// – Well my daughter asked how that can be perfect? It has to be 01:00:56 to be perfect – and yes it was perfect in the movie 01:00:56!

    A lot of people have like Dev Patel’s acting and I don’t know why I was not impressed. He just seemed so artificial to me! And I agree, most of the kids were wonderful in the movie! – Nita.

  31. locutus83 permalink
    January 26, 2009 4:21 pm

    Hi Nita, I was waiting for when you would write an article about Slumdog Millionaire.

    I saw the film last Saturday in Kolkata, the same day I saw a superb Bengali film “Antaheen”. Both were just released a day before.

    The problem was that I watched it with a biased mind, since I had read Vikas Swarup’s original novel “Q&A” a month back. (Which I found supremely racy, amazing and heart-warming).
    My subsequent reaction and review may have been different IF I had not read the book BEFORE I had watched the film (heck, I must never do that again 🙂 – The only set of films I thoroughly enjoyed, inspired by books I had read before, were the Lord of the Rings Trilogy Masterpieces – the best ever motion pictures in cinematic history in my personal list!)

    Unfortunately, S.M. depicted by Danny Boyle did not have too much of an impact on me. I was constantly trying to compare and judge the coherence of the film scenes and the story with the chapters and flow of “Q&A”.
    In my opinion, for all the technical excellence, tight script and production, I think Mr. Boyle has botched up on the story front a wee bit.

    It seemed too much like a fast-fairytale, and the connection between some scenes seemed to be lost. In some places, the background music by Rehman was not appropriate even though the music itself was good.
    Although S.M. was “inspired” by ‘Q&A’, I felt that Boyle could have included one or two more stories from ‘Q&A’ and could have made the flow of the film better and the story more complete, while still maintaining the integrity, length and technical excellence of the film. (If you remember, Peter Jackson’s LOTR part-3, ‘Return of the King’ was almost 4 hours long (uncut version) and people loved it. Jackson tried to depict the film as Tolkein would have liked).

    And yes, I really don’t understand why people get so worked up about ‘depiction of India’s poverty’. Poverty exists in India; most of us see it everyday, and most of us really don’t care about it at all. Why do then people get their panties in a twist when shown some of the same poverty on the giant screen??
    And if they really care so much for the ‘image’ of the India, why don’t they do something constructive to improve the image of the country, rather than uselessly criticizing foreign films??

    Thanks locutus83. It was great to read about a comparison of the book and the movie. I too have heard that the two diverge quite a bit and I am quite sure that the book was far more coherent than the movie! Boyle has taken some liberties with the story I think for cinematic reasons. Also the criticism about depicting India’s poverty is amusing! As you said it’s a foreign film! – Nita.

  32. January 26, 2009 11:27 pm

    I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about? I saw the movie today and its great. Loved it. Also, its not just about the slums. And its all right if a foreigner has shown a part of India to the world. Its reality and no one can deny it.
    Why can’t we just watch a movie, enjoy it, come back home and go to sleep? 🙂

    Ditto! 🙂 – Nita

  33. January 27, 2009 7:11 am

    Dang! Are you fast or are you fast 🙂

    This SM fuss is really crazy. I liked the film. My first reaction was it’s a story told with no stereotypes and no judgment whatsoever. I was a bit apprehensive when the movie was released here — God, another slum story!— but was pleasantly surprised by Danny Boyle’s handling of the subject. For the first time I felt a Westerner was not being high and mighty or condescending about his subject.
    Yes, it is an American production for an English audience adapted from a book by an Indian. I don’t think Boyle went out to “depict” India one way or the other. If people watch his Trainspotting, you’ll know what I’m saying. I think he’s a humane film-maker. I wasn’t offended as an Indian at all. In fact, I liked the indomitable spirit of the characters!

    And yes, you are right, this is not novel to us, but this movie was meant for a non-Indian audience, so it’s okay.

    And I agree with you, the music simply rocked!

    We part ways with the casting, though (credit, Lovleen Tandon). I thought Anil Kapoor was awesome as the devious host, without any of his Bollywood over-drama. I wasn’t so excited about Dev Patel. I thought the children were the absolute best. I’m glad they won the SAG award for best cast.

    A recent Indian tale of street children, Traffic Signal, one of my favourite movies, seems positively sanitized as compared to Slumdog.
    Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s what mainstream Bollywood does. Sanitize.
    And these people are us, Indians, not any underbelly. It’s quite okay to tell their story as it is. How many Indians actually live the Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum lifestyle?

    @Gargi. I loved TZP and Jane Tu, but seriously? Wow! I don’t even see a comparison. But I guess that’s what makes art so cool. No two people have to agree. Given the two different kinds of audience the movies were made for, I’d say they are very much at par.

    Me too thinks that Boyle was not trying to depict India, but simply trying to make a good movie. He has not been judgemental, that too I agree, he has simply been objective, as only a foreigner can be! I think for them the shitting outside and kids being left to their own devices is indeed terribly shocking and yet, he was not judgmental, just showed it without flinching. And I agree that the kids were wonderful in the film! However I think that Indian filmmakers should make films the way they want to too. I mean, Slumdog was no more realistic than many a Bollywood film, although the setting/background was realistic. – Nita.

  34. Ram permalink
    January 27, 2009 9:51 am

    @Gopinath Mavinkurve

    Thanks for the correction. I wrote it as 00:00:56 with 01:00:56 in mind. Error is regretted!

  35. Ram permalink
    January 27, 2009 9:56 am

    I saw the mistake the moment I posted the comment and intentionally I did not post the correction.Just wanna see how many will take it seriously!!!!

  36. permalink
    January 27, 2009 10:59 am

    I believe that Indian filmmakers ‘d love to make an direct and a powerful movie like SM, but maybe the production houses won’t allow them to be so.
    A controversy would hinder the chances of the film to run well at movie halls.

  37. athira permalink
    January 27, 2009 6:07 pm

    nita i did not like the movie. the concept was good but the portrayal didnt touch me. the language switch to accented english when kids hit 15-16 was a huge let down. it really stopped me from warming upto the characters. acting was no great shakes either. kids did an excellent job but dev patel hugely disappointed. i did not feel like rooting for him in the climax.
    and i frankly didnt understand why our critics who always trash the fantasy genre of bollywood masala movies was competing to award 5 stars to SDM! the whole movie resembled a good masala desi movie – where the hero wins incredibly every time!
    no probs about the way slum life is shown – tht was the only ‘realistic’ part of the movie. but i did wonder in his 20 yrs of life Jamal did not meet one good guy in India? every indian in the movie comes out to be crooked exploitative stealing n murdering cheapos with no moral side at all!! wht’s the good people vs bad people ratio in a country of one billion according to danny boyle ?!!
    there was no need to blacken anil kapoor’s character as well – which game show host is so negative to a winning contestant?
    if boyle said it was just a story told from a certain perspective it would’ve been fine. but he said the movie celebrates the spirit of mumbai – really?! i dont remember one shot where it captured the resilience tolerance and the ever so welcoming outlook of ordinary Indian.
    if this is oscar material then something is rotten in denmark! give me anyday a rang de basanti or wednesday or tare zameen par instead of such hyped western ‘perspectives’ n i will happily pay double of a movie ticket!

  38. raghav permalink
    January 28, 2009 5:22 am

    For me the winner is creativity (storyline) and the direction apart from the acting by the young actors.

    I also agree that I liked Pinto in the movie and i really don’t understand why only Dev Patel was invited to the Letterman show n not Pinto.

    A corner of my heart says that Amitabh is right in what he said, although firangi or non is not a issue with me.

    I think the movie has been made with a lot of honesty.

  39. January 29, 2009 10:55 pm

    Like your review. I also liked Traffic Signal, I think the movie fairly portrayed the reality and from the way you said SM also portrays that. I am yet to watch this movie, I will soon!

  40. Eya permalink
    January 29, 2009 11:35 pm

    I am not surprised Freida Pinto was not asked for the Letterman show. After all, she is only a supporting actress in the film, while Dev Patel plays the absolute main role. And I liked him. About Pinto it was hard to think anything, as she was there too little time for me to judge her acting. Typical damsel in distress role.

    At first I thought that the movie is too incredible in its co-incidense plot – in reality the girl would have just disappeared forever after she was left at the “orphanage”. But then I realized this was like the early silent melodramas they made in the Hollywood, which are based on 19th century melodrama concept. This was put together with some Bollywood movie concepts and postmodern over-the-head cinematic language – an interesting and entertaining mix.

    And re the depiction of India’s slums: if the locals feel the film reveals unpleasant truths about their country, how about doing something for the slum problem? Don’t kill the messenger…

  41. January 30, 2009 1:00 pm

    Irrespective of what the various opinions about the movie are; the movie has attracted a lot of viewership in America, especially after gaining 10 nominations for Oscar 2009.
    I guess time will tell how may Oscars the movie will bag.

  42. January 30, 2009 6:45 pm

    The movie was awesome ..
    Screenplay ,direction ..just awesome ..
    thats the thing which made it different from bollywood movies .
    A r has done a fantastic job ..
    I just wish he wins oscars for it ..

  43. JK47 permalink
    February 10, 2009 12:14 am

    Slumdog is a brilliant movie in entertainment terms, it panders all the right ingrediants esp to the white middle class.

    It is even more attractive when they see it is a British director and producer. Therefore we can make a movie better than those coolies in there own land and about their own culture. It is like a bad curry, that an Indian with good taste can see a bad curry a mile off, but a white person will simply consume it. Like the attitude to curry in the 1970’s, Indians were called smelly/curry breath and made fun of , now in TV you get white chefs making it and it is the national dish!

    It also portrays Hindu as the agressors and Sikhs as greedy heartless souls. Hindu’s are passive by their nature, and Sikh Gudwara’s give our free food to anyone, a true reflection of reality? Again Islam is seen as the victim, could you imagine if Muslim were depited in the manner that Hindu’s and Sikhs are? The book had the main character as Ram Mohamhed Thomas, representing all faiths and all people. So why does the main charicter have to be a Muslim? Because this is a UK film, and the UK media always protray Muslims as victims.

    It is a reflection on how and why they want portray the most passive religions as evil.. Why because they can.

  44. Adam permalink
    February 20, 2009 10:34 pm

    “Poverty exists in India; most of us see it everyday, and most of us really don’t care about it at all.”


  45. vasudev permalink
    February 21, 2009 10:56 pm

    seems it won the bafta award or something? my son was telling me. no one bothered to take any picture of india’s IT story? even if someone did, i am sure it wouldn’t figure anywhere in oscar or bafta. afterall, india is the only place on earth which has slums. indians are proud to show our slums to foriegners. foriegners have always held the view that india is a land of dirt/poverty/snakes/snake charmers/rope climbers/magicians and occults. so why not our indians join the westerners and make some money by selling the story of ‘india is dirt and now it is proven!’.

  46. March 17, 2009 2:54 am

    this is one of the most amazing movies ive ever watched it funny inspiring a definte work of art its truly and amazing love story

  47. December 18, 2011 4:03 pm

    and u know what the americans and the brits now call you after every little mistake you make…. yea right.. a bloody slumdog.. people praising this film are people who don’t have to fight/argue or interface westerners in their own backyards.. they call u a developing economy only at YOUR FACE.. thats right.. wake up.. .. this is the first thing thay now call indians when they want to abuse us.,.. f*&&**** sulmdogs.. ( i am not suggesting that wouldn’t have called us the same if it were not for this movie) no matter how many explanations u give or how many excuses u muster up.. the movie is insulting and demeaning. there are a lots of good things about india too.. why dont they make a movie about chinese slumdogs.. the Chinese will gauge their eyes out. a movie is not just about acting.. or a few coins .. it is about image projection about a country and its people.. what an image we are creating..and lapping it up too.. maybe we want india to be a slum thats why the west only lends us a helping hand…

  48. December 18, 2011 4:11 pm

    btw.. for example there is desperate poverty in china too.. but they make kung fu films instead making movies like this where everything is bad and horrible…. (IMAGE PROJECTION) but in india this is the best masala to win an award.. i would hate the film even if an indian director made this kind of drivel. humiliate your country to win Oscars and the bafta… keep it up folks.. lap up the crap being thrown about your country and then thank them too..


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