Oscar hungry mainstreamers may be decried by many, who don’t really care for what the Gold man’s verdict is year after movie-reel(ing) year, but it does serve to bring the movie to their notice, if nothing else: splashing its award winning Music Director and other participants on newspapers whose corresponding article(s) speak of how the movie has crossed every pre-Oscar hurdle, and how winning an Oscar will serve as such a big boost for 26/11-ed Mumbai, to say the least.
To quote A.R. Rahman: “I hope it wins an Oscar. Indians are crazy about Oscars”. With so much exposure, everyone ends up watching it. Whatever their reasons be, to categorize it, to see it because everyone else has, to say it’s overrated and not really worth it etc. Opinions and viewer ship, all increase to lead to one large cacophonic fest that is the aftermath of the 21st century’s most widespread art form. Movies!
With all the brouhaha behind everything I had heard of Slumdog, I expected a movie so grand, that ‘mass’ in mass-appeal would include everyone, and suffice it to say that it turned out to be the kind where I say so while actually meaning it.
Charged with fraud over alleged cheating in the Indian version of ‘Who Wants to Be Millionaire?’, Dev Patel’s character Jamal Malik is telling the inspector (Irfaan Khan) and his portly sidekick the story of his life in an answer by answer form, while in resigned denial of what he has been accused of doing.
Jamal Malik, the protagonist’s character is nervous, funny, guileless, kind, romantic, angry, sarcastic, freewheeling and self-righteous, exactly where the story needs him to be. While having the film based on Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A, the story weaves in and out of Jamal’s present and past, where he associates different events to the sum total of knowledge in his head today.
In Malik’s case, the experiences were part of a larger whole and always so shocking and transfixing when seen, heard or felt while emotion ran high in him, that he never forgot them then on. This use of memory and association is seamlessly portrayed here. It is also a sure-shot entry into the hearts of the greyest cynic: At the risk of generalization, we’ve all had moments when adrenalin and association confuse, co-relate and engrave in our memory, what we may not had given a second glance. Inane, but innate.
While arguably, doing this must have been naturally storyteller-esque for Swarup in his book, having achieved this in a manner that is superbly entertaining in a movie merits more than just a polite golf-clap. The intelligence is further honey-ed by Rahman’s characteristically flamboyant and endorphin producing background score. Western audiences probably take to it so well, because of its no-holds barring, drum-y, huge stage, meant-to-inspire-awe music. The kind that makes you cheer in the scenes preceding the hero’s final success and the villain’s fall from smug and wealthy grace.
The Highlight of his highlights is his destiny-lore sharing Freda Pinto or Latika, as her character is named, as an orphaned slum kid like Jamal and his brother. Later Latika, the coveted virgin ‘Cherry’ in Bombay’s Pali street and then the abused and ill-treated keep of a powerful Mumbai mafia lord. Jamal’s only purpose for having entered the show is, “Because I hoped she would be watching”. Their coevality is confirmed and acted upon by him before he enters the show, having met and then thwarted in their Happy Ever After by the mafia lord’s goons (including Jamal’s elder brother Salim played by Madhur Mittal), our hero sets out to mend his life, and consequently, that of his forsaken girlfriend’s in a manner so fatalistic, the viewer can’t help but appreciate it.
A smile-inducer in a non-sappy way, a winner at the Box Office and begrudgingly in the eyes of artsy movie buffs, forgive the cliché, but Boyle and his team deservedly laugh their way to millions.
This then, serves as Jerry Rubin’s proverbial longhair that works between the kids on the street and the millionaire businessmen, combining elements of both in a Hollywood meets Bollywood extravagant meeting of the twain.
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