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Posts Tagged ‘but it stars…’

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288644Just 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.

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Anil Kapoor plays an arrogant host wearing a sleazy suit. He’s perfect! Get a taste of that HERE.

I LOVE the song Paper Planes by M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam), and was so excited that it popped up in this film, look:

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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!?”

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Just like many of the best movies India has to offer, this one has a score written by A.R. Rahman. Listen!

During the film I thought how it reminded me Millions (2004), and no wonder, because when I went home and looked up Danny Boyle, I saw that he also directed the sweet and beautiful Millions.

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.”

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Heat and Dust (1983) is a Merchant Ivory Productions award winning film, with a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based upon her novel, Heat and Dust. It was directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. Ivory performed tanpura for score music with Zakir Hussein‘s sitar. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications there was “a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain’s growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history”. In addition to Heat and Dust, this cycle also included The Jewel in the Crown (1984) and A Passage to India (1984). (wikipedia)

Heat and Dust (1983), could I call that Bollywood?

OK Shashi is right, it isn’t Bollywood, but it’s set in India and stars Shashi Kapoor, so that’s good enough for me. I got it from my local library and it’s as part of The Criterion Collection, which never disappoints. I had read the book by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and then realized that there was a movie, which apparently was a huge hit in Europe, and other parts of the world but wasn’t widely distributed in the US, which is why I wasn’t familiar with it. Here’s a case where I enjoyed the book and movie equally. If you get a chance to see it, be sure and listen to the commentary version to hear interesting things the producer, director and actors recall about the shooting of the film. The DVD booklet described the film as follows:

Heat and Dust was adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from her Booker Prize-winning novel, and tells two stories in parallel through the use of splicing and juxtaposing of scenes. Flashbacks, and flash-forwards, which connect the Indian past (in the romantic 19203) and present (the 1970s). In the first story, Olivia (Greta Scacchi), a junior administrator’s wife, has an affair with a local Nawab (Shashi Kapoor) that shocks the British community, and at the end she goes to live alone in a mountain retreat. The second involves her great niece Anne (Julie Christie), who comes to India to research Olivia’s life and on a different level repeats her experience, becoming pregnant by her Indian lover Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain) and traveling finally to the retreat in the mountains where Olivia had ended her days and where she herself hopes to bear a child.

I enjoyed seeing Shashi starring in a movie with his real life wife, Jennifer Kendal. Kendal died in 1984, and this movie was made in 1983, so this was one of her last films.

Kendal had a very Bollywood-esque character who got to say some racist dialogue. She warns the young Olivia to be careful, since she knew a British woman who had been molested by and Indian, “since he’d been ironing her underwear, after all. And they eat all that spicy food,” said Mrs. Saunders. She goes on to say:

Now that’s very Bollywood, isn’t it? To have a racist Britisher saying outlandish and offensive things. Another Bollywood moment was when I saw this actress, and knew I’d seen her before but couldn’t place it. She was marvelous and really captured my attention, even though her part was small. Do you recognize this woman? Not Julie Christie, but the woman with the bindi?

It’s a young Ratna Pathak, (wife of Naseeruddin Shah) who I last saw in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, playing Jai’s (Imran Khan) mother. And the final Bollywood ingredient to Heat and Dust was the inclusion of hijra.

Well Shashi,

I’ll tell you what a hijra is,

“In the culture of the Indian subcontinent, a hijra (Hindi: हिजड़ा, Urdu: حجڑا) is usually considered a member of “the third sex” — neither man nor woman. Most are physically male or intersex, but some are female. Hijras usually refer to themselves linguistically as female, and usually dress as women. Although they are usually referred to in English as “eunuchs”, relatively few have any genital modifications.” (wikipedia)

Watch the trailer and look at what Siskel & Ebert had to say here.

Read Ashmita‘s review of the book here.

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