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".


ajnabi said...

Apparently Amitabh didn't really rant against Slumdog, he was just posting quotes from his comments section for debate and the media picked it up without bothering to clarify. I really am looking forward to seeing the film. :-D

Anonymous said...

Nice picture of Maya. I read somewhere that she had worked in Rahman's studio in the past. (I think while recording Kala - probably about two years ago.) It's true, though, that they never met during that time.

I had actually thought that her favorite composer was Ilaiyaraaja, because of the brilliant way that she sampled a song from Thalapathi in her song "Bamboo Banga." But nice to see her working with Rahman - and getting this film's soundtrack out on N.E.E.T., a label that she founded and manages (though in this case, at least, as an "imprint" of Interscope - I don't really understand that record biz stuff).

Anonymous said...

LOVE this song and the entire Slumdog soundtrack! I can't stop moving whenever a Slumdog tune is played and hope Rahman wins an Oscar. And after I missed seeing him, the cast, and SRK at the Golden Globes, will make sure I watch the Oscar ceremony!

Thanks for the post. BTW, I am now exploring more M.I.A. songs -- do you have a favorite album?


Bhargav Saikia said...

Dreams on Fire and O Saaya are my favourite tracks. But I truly feel Rahman has done better work than this in films like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se etc. But then it's brilliant to see him get all the awards this year :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree that the Dil Se soundtrack is better (and probably others are too). But I'm an old fan of M.I.A. - followed her music back when much fewer people heard of her - so it's very pleasing to me to see her have such a big part in this work.

Anonymous, I assumed your question was directed at Doc Bollywood. But maybe the doctor isn't in. So, since I have some expertise on this matter (unlike probably many other things covered in this blog :) ...

IMO, Kala is the best, and if you like filmi music, it's definitely the one to buy. It's got samples from three old Indian films and references to a fourth. My favorite songs among these are "Bamboo Banga," which samples from Ilaiyaraaja, and "Bird Flu," which samples from R.P. Patnaik.

Sanket Vyas said...

Ajnabi - Thanks for the clarification, I hate that I was duped into spreading the falsehoods :( Looking forward to seeing the review on your blog!

Richard S - I too am a fan of hers back in the day. Went to see her in San Fran with a DJ buddy of mine in 2004 when she was just starting out. I am not that well versed on Tamil films and thus quite ignorant of composers like Ilaiyaraaja - there is just so much Hindi music out there that I discover everyday that there just isn't enough time to listen to all the music I would like (come on lottery!). I like the song 'Bamboo Banga' alot and will have to check out the original some day. For that matter the entire Kala album is alot of fun.

Sally - My favorite album is her debut Arular with her hit single 'Galang' on it. Kala is wonderful too but there is something raw and hypnotic about Arular that I just can't shake - maybe it's because I saw her perform so many songs from that album live.

Bhargav - I agree with you completely. I honestly don't think this is his best work but it might be the most accessible for a global audience. I too loved the music from Bombay and Dil Se so much better. But like you said, it is absolutely wonderful to see him getting the acclaim he so rightly deserves.

Anonymous said...

Shall I join Bandwagon abt Rahman? I also agree that in his past he has done way more great job. I wonder why nobody is talking about or making a movie on Bombay Dreams Rahman worked magic on that.

Anonymous said...

Richard S. and Doc,

thanks to you both for recommendations on M.I.A. albums and tracks. I will enjoy checking out your suggestions!


dihara said...

It is Very interesting to see the movie about Indian life, about poor life. Thanks to writer and director of this film for their work. link on this film