Monday, January 19, 2009
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Just tell me a good story Mr. Moviemaker, it's really not too much to ask. While you're at it go ahead and challenge me by making that story just a little different than the other ones out there, teach me something I didn't know before and make me feel an emotion - any emotion. You don't need to blow up a bunch of stuff (although sometimes it does make the story more fun) or spend a billion dollars making your point - just spend some time telling me a good story and that will make all the difference. The tale of Jamaal (Dev Patel) aka the Slumdog and how he just might become a Millionaire is a good example of how to by make a very special Bollywood movie by someone who has no experience in how to do so - but who does know how to tell one heck of a story. Danny Boyle has directed two of the most original and exhilarating movies of the past few years with 'Trainspotting' and '28 Days'. And if you can make movies about drug abuse and zombies (respectively) a movie experience, by all means then, go ahead and try your hand at a movie about - street children, orphans, religous riots, lost (and found) love, crooked cops & even crookeder criminals and last but not least - game shows.
If you don't know how in the world anyone could have possibly made a movie about all this and have it ALL MAKE SENSE then watch this little independent movie that is the current darling of the awards circuit. Winning the Golden Globe for best drama, best director, best screenplay and (drum roll please) - best original score for the maestro A.R. Rahman - who became the first Indian to win the prestigous prize. The awards will most likely continue to pile up as it has been nominated for 11 awards at the BAFTA's - the British equivalent of the Academy Awards - and is all but a shoo in for the Oscars themselves. Danny Boyle did his homework and watched a slew of Bollywood gangster movies to get a feel for the genre. Indeed, he called out 'Deewaar' (1975),one of my all time favorite movies, as being 'absolutely key to Indian cinema'.
With all the accolades being heaped on this movie the only thing I was worried about was the possible backlash about how India is portrayed in the movie like this rant from the Big B himself. Considering he is so prominently figured in one of the movie's key scenes I am somewhat taken aback by his reaction to it. Bombay is one of the greatest cities in the world and this movie portrays it in one of the most honest ways I have ever seen it done so. We get enough of celluloid eye candy from the glorious musicals that Bollywood pumps out year after year - a movie or two that shows us the seedy underbelly of the city is refreshing (if somewhat unsettling) as well. A friend of mine called me after watching an advance screening and asked me 'What would you do for an autograph of Amitabh Bachchan?' and then told me I had to go see this movie. Indeed, when I saw what our protagonist Jamaal is willing to do for the autograph I instantly knew that the makers of this movie 'got it' when it came to Desi culture.
The soundtrack boasts many great tracks that represent the first collaboration between A.R. Rahman and the Sri Lankan born singer M.I.A. They were both mutual fans of the other when the director of the movie introduced the two and challenged them to provide a soundtrack that was as frenetic as the city itself. The result is a product that helps move the story along at a breakneck pace but slows down the action when needed. Today's selection is Ringa Ringa which is played when Jamaal and his brother Salim go looking for Latika (Freida Pinto) in the city's notorious red light district. If the song reminds you of Choli Ki Peeche it's because it was sung by the same two singers as that classic Bollywood tune, Alka Yagnik & Ila Arun.
*Evdience that 'Slumdog Millionaire' has already achieved success in the US that is usually reserved for Hollywood productions - the yellow scarf that Freida Pinto is wearing in the movie has been on the 'must have' lists in many a gossip rag. Adding to the mystery of the movie, the wardrobe designer says it was a one of a kind piece that would "bookend the journey--to tie her childhood yellow dress to her final look".