"Forget the Us vs Them debate. Go for the pure cinema experience". This is how Nikhat Azmi (TOI) signs off her review of Slumdog Millionaire in today's paper.
You know what? She's right. The only way to enjoy this movie is leave your cynicism at home and enjoy pure art. Because thats what it is. As the world probably knows the story by now, the movie is about a slum kid who wins "who wants to be a millionaire". Everyone cries foul on this and suspects he's cheated and he painstakingly explains how each question was linked to an incident in his life.
A script that goes back and forth between a gameshow and the contestant Jamal's life is a great way to make the film and makes me want to get my hands on the book from which this is adapted (Q&A). The movie is not about portraying India or poverty or flesh trade. The movie is about hope. And how it survives in the darkest of places. About love and how it thrives when all else dies. And about determination. To make one's own destiny.
The best acting in the film is surprisingly by the children who play early years of the main leads. It is not so surprising, once you discover that they're not actors but slum children. Their honesty shows and touches your heart. The other actors do a fair job but not one to be applauded. One person wasted in the movie is Irfaan Khan. The actor has shown his brilliance in many movies and could have been given a meatier role. His hawaldar (kallu mama), on the other hand, does a great job in the tiny role he got.
AR Rehman doesnt disappoint but he doesnt dazzle either. I can understand why hollywood would go gaga over the music and to be honest, the background score is good. But we, who have grown up on Rehman's genius in Roja or Bombay or Dil Se and so many more know that 'Jai Ho' is not Rehman at his best. It's just a decent piece from a genius who creates music from his soul.
The one aspect that I felt the movie lacked was the accented english of the main leads. The children did great...and talked in the local dialect and tone of Mumbai. But the actors fell into this english spoken in an accent that can in no way be Indian. Jamal, one can understand (if one must)as he works in a call centre. But the local gangsters of Mumbai just dont cut it. The only reason I can think that the director did this is to keep this film in the mainstream cinema category at awards and not in the foreign film category. But, it may have been more impactful if the actors were allowed to speak in the local accent (if not language).
But let us refrain from being too critical. 4 Golden Globe wins, 10 Oscar nominations, many other accolades. Is it worth it? I would say yes...many times over.
Dont watch it as an accomplishment for India. Dont watch it as a critic of poverty tourism. And dont watch it as a documentary of Dharavi Slums. In my opinion it is none of those. Watch the movie for the pure joy of entertainment. And you will not be disappointed.
Rating: 4 on 5