Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is all about chasing your dreams - using whatever vehicle you can find coming your way. Wait, its not a motivational film, not the Chicken Soup variety. Its about the world of opportunities, both missed and grabbed. In the movie this vehicle changes from being a die-hard Amitabh fan to being a beggar, from traveling on top of trains to finding your way through the underbelly of Mumbai's slums. And eventually being on a reality TV show. But these are all tangible ones - the real vehicle is the burning desire that's inside.
The movie is disturbing on many fronts. It would be difficult to turn your face away as you are driving past the slums next time. It would be difficult to listen to 'Darshan do Ghanshyam' the next time without feeling the bile rising inside.
The ending is fantasy-like, the stuff that dreams are made of. But you believe that it can happen - more importantly, it can happen to anyone, including yourself. That's the magic of reality TV, isn't it? It makes a character from the screen step out and sit next to you, put an arm around your shoulder and say to you, "You are not yourself anymore. You are now me."
The film spends a lot of time in the Mumbai slums. In a Shantaram-esque way, it neither glorifies them nor pities them. Just shows them the way they are.
The casting is brilliant, to say the least. Anil Kapoor is really the only celebrity, as the script demands. Yes, there are other well-known characters like Irfan and Saurabh Shukla - but those who stand out are Dev Patel and Freida Pinto. Dev is like the boy next door, ambivalent in his choices, believer in his destiny, one who finds himself at crossroads more often than once in the story. So many times he gets pulled in one direction by a larger force, but as he grows up, he starts making his own choices at the cost of upsetting the same larger forces. Freida is not exactly beautiful in the conventional sense of beauty (the script doesn't demand it in any case) but she is beautiful in a different manner. She speaks through her eyes (her character doesn't have too many lines) most of the times and evokes a pain that may of us - I daresay all of us - keep wishing that it never surfaces. She is achingly beautiful. The little Jamal and Salim are equally brilliant, spontaneous as only children of that age can be. One cant say the same for the teenagers portraying the middle stage of the characters.
The film has deservingly won four Golden Globe awards, but I must say that Jai Ho is certainly not AR Rahman's best output so far. It shows how a not-so-great-music can ride piggyback on a great movie. In fact, the background music near the end (just before Jai Ho) is the piece de resistance - truly superlative.
You might hate reality TV and Kaun Banega Crorepati. But the movie is not these. Don't miss it.