Just what does this remind you of: tragic mothers, slum scenes, orphans, trains, police interrogations, a love story, coincidences galore, super bad gangsters, great music, and references to Amitabh Bachchan. Sounds like Bollywood, hai na? Well almost. In my recent drift to not Bollywood but almost, (The Pool, Heat and Dust) I followed the recommendation of Renegade Eye to go check out Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The movie is based on the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup. Shri Swarup-ji’s website has lots of great information about book’s transformation into a movie. From an interview with the film’s director, Danny Boyle:
‘It’s called ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’, It’s based on a true story, and it’s about a kid from the slums of Mumbai, who has nothing – he’s ill educated, he’s illiterate – and he goes on the Hindi version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and wins it. And they can’t believe that he’s done it. They think he’s cheated. They think he’s getting signals from embedded chips in his body, or that there are people coughing in the audience, but he won it. ‘What’s clever about the film is that the structure shows you how he knows the answers. Certain things have happened to him in his life and they happen to ask questions about those things. But the real reason he’s on the show is to get in touch with the girl he loves but has lost in the chaos of Mumbai, and all he knows is that she watches the show religiously. So he’s not even there to win the money, but that’s when you win I suppose, when you’re not even trying.’ (source)
I was lucky enough to get tickets to the premier of the film, and just like when I watched The Pool ( 2008 ) in a theater recently, I was surprized that this movie had some Bollywood stars, but this time I didn’t cry out “Anil Kapoor! Irfan Khan!” when I saw my familiar Bollywood friends on the big screen and avoided being shushed. Phew! There are several other fantastic Bollywood character actors in this film that my Indian Film Industry fans will recognize, like the inspector, Saurabh Shukla. I love a film on the big screen, but there are definately perks to watching at home where horrific scenes can be muted or fast forwarded and this film has a couple of those, so be preparred. I nearly walked out, but was glad I stuck it out and stayed. I loved the tribute to Amitabh Bachchan within the film and I wonder if Amit-ji has seen it. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s really a very sweet honor paid to Mr. Bachchan and I’d love to hear his reposnse to it. Ifran Khan is also fantastic as the police inspector, but who am I to say since I love all his work.
Anil Kapoor plays an arrogant host wearing a sleazy suit. He’s perfect! Get a taste of that HERE.
Bollywood popped up again in a scene where people were watching Aaj Ki Raat from Don (2006) with music by Shankar-Eshaan-Loy and playback singers Alisha Chinoi, Mahalakshmi, and Sonu Nigam. Since I was in an art house theater I didn’t scream out, “Hey that’s Priyanka from Don!” But I thought that! I also thought “Aaj ki raat means tonight, do you people know THAT!?”
I’ve given you plenty of reasons to see this film, and if you’d like to see more, watch the Slumdog trailer.
p.s. Stop over the MemsaabStory for a review of the film.
p.p.s. I had wondered about Amitabh’s reaction to his tribute in the film, which he has since commeted about in his blog, which I first read about in an article by Emily Wax. Washington Post Foreign Service writer Emily Wax’s insightful article, Protests & Praise “Slumdog’s’ Mumbai Realism is Divisive contained a bit of Amitabh’s reaction:
One of India’s iconic Hindi film heroes, Amitabh Bachchan, whose likeness appears in the movie as the object of a slum child’s adoration, criticized the film for portraying a poverty-stricken India. Big B, as he is known in India, wrote in his blog that if the movie “projects India as [a] 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.”