Oscars 2009: Slumdog Millionaire

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Slumdog Millionaire- 5 Reasons why it shouldn’t win

Hours to go before the Academy announces its Best Picture award, and we have an unprecedented frontrunner in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. I watched all the nominees for the Best Picture award except ‘The Reader’ (not one more holocaust movie please), and amongst the four i.e, Curious case of Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost\Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire – I would go with either of the first two for Best Picture.

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“Slumdog Millionaire” is a good movie, but a forgettable one, as my friend said about Delhi-6. I don’t think I need to repeat whats good about the movie because laurels have been heaped on it from every front, but I still don’t get it when ‘Headlines Today’ says that 1 billion have their fingers crossed. Why and all?

There are several things which go against the movie, and if its walks away with the Best Picture award tonight (which it will 70-30) – that will be one more decision (like ‘Chicago’ and ‘Crash’) which will make the Academy wince in the future. These are some of the arguments I feel hold true against the movie. Yes I could be missing the bigger picture here, but my understanding is that as far as art is concerned, there is no bigger picture, but only finer aspects.

1.  Let me try to write a 30 mins skit for annuals. One poor guy winning One crore on the game show.

How does he do it? Well, he is uneducated, but he knows the answers to each question in “Who wants to be Millionaire?” by his life’s experiences.

Ok Cool. So he comes from a Slum and wins this game show.

Slum where? Bombay, and we’ll connect each question to life in Bombay.

What is there in Bombay?  Slum, Beggarmasters (lift directly from Rohinton Mistry’s novel), Red Streets, Underworld, Call centres. End of Bombay.

He goes to the show just for the money? No!! put a lost love thread, some concoted logic that vamps in Bombay regularly watch this quiz show and he is on it to grab somebody’s attention.

Good, Sounds like an Oscar.

If there is a more palpable reason as to how this movie came through or how it is structured, it would be nice to know.

2. Bonsai Garden of characters: Any good movie, and for that matter any art form, draws strength from its portrayal of the human condition. “Slumdog Millionaire” is one movie that is in such a hurry that not one character develops beyond the point of extracting sympathy (yeah you feel sorry for Jamal at times, for Latika at other times) or drawing a ‘Yuk’ for some gross portrayal. Except for a few moments when Latika makes her choices, there is no ambiguous terrain that the characters face nor are the characters complex. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a movie of stunted characters with no space, no time and no questions around them whatsoever. Imagine that in comparison to the build up in last year’s winner ‘NCFOM’ or even blockbuster winners like ‘Gladiator’ where a space of silence and brooding lurks around the characters. “Slumdog Millionaire” fails miserably and I guess it failed the moment it was scripted.

3. Extremes to tittilate:  How believable is Prem Kumar (the talk show host played by Anil Kapoor)? He almost behaves like Ravan in one of those half baked mythology serials. The way he openly makes fun of the contestant throughout the movie (given the half-baked actor Anil Kapoor is), calling him a ‘slumdog’ on National Telivision is unbelievable for me. Is such a character or show host possible anywhere in the civilized side of the world. Are we supposed to believe that this CENTRAL character is real?

Look at the extremes that happen in the Police station, for that matter its extremes everywhere in the movie. And that must be some film noir in itself. But definitely it doesn’t deserve an Oscar. Danny Boyle could have put placards saying ‘Hero’, ‘Villain’, ‘Uncouth-Bastard-show-host’ and we would have taken it for granted. Messed up movie.

4. “Slumdog Millionaire” is a little too phony: Jamal absorbs like a sponge from real life experiences, including the names of American Presidents in dollar notes and inventor of revolvers aimed at him, but he does not recognize the face of Mahatma Gandhi in currency notes though he goes around the country earning a living from quite an early age. I see a contradiction here. The scene where Jamal says he does not recognize Mahatma Gandhi was an unneccessary scene added there to drive home a punch line, and it does jutt out like many other scenes.

5. The Hype: The hype raking in the moolah is fine. But the current rags to riches hype in the US is not just about the story but also about the movie. The history of the movie is pretty much like that of Jamal’s with a shoestring Indie budget, and its distributor shutting down before it released, and Fox Searchlight stepping in and the movie going on to become one of the Indie Blockbusters of the year. There is way too much hype around this “under-dogginess”. Yes it is in stark contrast to the like of ‘Benjamin Button’ which has the richness of the producers carved on every frame, but that is no reason for “Slumdog Millionaire” to win the award for the Best Movie of last year. The award for the best movie released last year should go to the best movie that was released last year. “Slumdog Millionaire” isn’t that movie.

P.S: But then the whole controversy about ‘Slumdog’ showing India in the bad light is very unnecessary. Certain scenes are there to make us wince, some to make us laugh and some to forget – its almost like a Bollywood movie in that way. But even then Amitabh Bachchan who had a problem with the movie can rest assured be confident that,

1. The cinematic value of ‘Slumdog’ will be higher than all Amitabh Bachchans movies released in the last like 120 years combined.

2. There are these unbelievably bad stuff that happens in India which Big B may not know like selling off girls to prostitution and sometimes marrying girls to trees. Yeah, the other India sucks.

Post Academy: Here is to Danny Boyle’s fast paced, energetic movie! Kudos to the winner! But stuff like this happens.

I still remember March 5th 2006.

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17 Responses to Oscars 2009: Slumdog Millionaire

  1. balu February 22, 2009 at 11:55 pm #

    if you wer not an indian, but still be a film lover, will this post be the same?

    What is there in Bombay?…
    is it required that he need to show everything of bombay, or just the things of his interest(what ever be it)

  2. BVN February 23, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    YES!

    And a lot of film lovers would agree that ‘Milk’ should have got the best movie.

    And not one of these 5 reasons are ‘Inidan’ reasons, they are relevant for any film.

    The things shown in Bombay are things which any 10 year old can name, Do they show anything new, anything different other than the cliched agenda items of Indie films?

    Neways the winner takes it all 🙂

  3. Rajiv February 23, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Yo BVN!! Get to office man…there is an email u need to respond to!!

    I totally agree with this SlumD phenomenon thing. It’s not a great movie. Good movie with lots of hype that’s all. Haven’t watched Frost/Nixon, Doubt – but I thought Wrestler and Milk were great movies. And amongst the two, I’d pick Milk for Best Pic. Sean Penn won rightly.

    Milk is not loud/grandiose. Its subtle and sticky. It accomplished so much – telling the personal story of Harvey Milk, story of the gay rights movement, social issues faced by gays (applicable even today)…in hindsight so much was woven around one guy’s life story

    Winslet should have won for Rev. Road. Damn! she was good in that. Ledger — obviously. Cruz – I’ll hold comment until I watch “Doubt”

  4. scorpiogenius February 23, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    First of all, whole hearted applause to Slumdog and the makers of the movie!! and hugs for Rahman for the achievement..

    My piece of moon is that an “Indian” movies conquered the LA center stage. No arguments about the British tags on the movie, but for 1 billion Indians, it is nothing too different from a Bollywood flick. I watched the movie all alone in a remote European village cineplex, and I found nothing “hollywoodish” in the movie…neither did I see any ‘Oscar’ qualities. But I wont complain.

    The fact that the music of the film doesnt even count as among the best 50 scores of Rahman explains it all. How can ‘Jai ho!’ be even compared to the likes of Iruvar, Roja, Rangeela and Lagaan? Ask Rahman himself..

    But “Slumdog” is a realistic portrait of the other Mumbai lifescape, which desi films have somehow failed to paint. It may not be a classic like the ones you mentioned, but an Oscar is an Oscar, so lets all be happy about it, what say? :))

    PS: I like your new layout BVN, Kudos!

  5. Sreeram February 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    I was talking to some of my (American) friends (average Joes/Jenns) about this movie. They think its a chick flick in an Indian backdrop. And they don’t give a rat’s ass for the poor portrayal of India. The movie, I reckon, which deserved an Oscar for best movie was not even nominated in that category; WALL-E. It was far better than
    – Boyle’s BS
    – Weird show of Brad Pitts (he is sexiest man alive in the world ..so what … I really felt bad for Aniston sitting in the second row away from the lime light … it would have been really hard on her ….)
    – Movie abt commi homo sexuals’ (and SOG’s … for the record i didnt say that first …)
    – Kates’ show of unimplanted disproportionate assets (Holocaust ???)
    – Frost\Nixon ….they wont give Oscars to movie with a backslash in the title.

  6. Sreeram February 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    And on ARR ….Original Score – I will pull a Richie Benaud ..”its fair enough” ….Best Song – Peter Gabriel … suck on that …for not showing up ….
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5htFJdJlWZP8zR7ulv176b4wQFe-A

  7. fo February 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    FO

  8. BVN February 24, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Rajiv,
    As discussed :), I agree on the Milk part. Yeah but shit like Crash happens!

    Scorpio, you are unstoppable :), even I felt patriotic and all for a second. Jai Ho! Yeah thanks for noticing the theme change. and you know what there is only one authentic film awards and that is the Kerala State Film Awards. what say?

    Sreeram, hmm, ninne pandu collegil vilichirunna peru WALL-E. Chumma :).

    “Frost\Nixon ….they wont give Oscars to movie with a backslash in the title” athu kalakki.

    And its exactly because the Joes\Jenns go to Shreks and Spidermans alone that the Oscars now go to movies across the pond. The so called ‘internationalisation’ of Oscars.

    FO, You FO first. Ninte Anbumani chethi njan pattikku ittu kodukkum 🙂

  9. FO February 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    ithu njan paranju kodukkum nokkikko

  10. Karthik February 27, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    ‘Benjamin Button’ should have won ‘best picture’…no doubt..in what way is slumdog superior to that movie?

    anyway felt happy for resul and rahman..

  11. Srihari February 28, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    I havent watched the movie and dont intend to because I avoid hype like the devil. But the story is so much in the news, I couldnt but agree with your assessment. Its a feel-good masala movie with cliched, stereo-types of characters that validate Western prejudices about Third-world aspirations. I did not have much regard for the Academy to begin with, but after I heard the award-winning Jai Ho, even that little regard vanished.

  12. BVN March 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Karthik, the problem I had with Button was at times I felt I was watching Forrest Gump. Eric Roth already has one Oscar for Forrest Gump, and Button is like it. He’ll make it a habit then 🙂

    Srihari, I watched the movie quite some time back with an open mind and no hype and it wasn’t anywhere near a classic. And I like your blog

  13. Ajay March 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    I have only one word for you lot, two words actually, “Dark Knight!” 😀

  14. Aum March 23, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    OM=AUM, INCARNATION OF AUM (OM). RASUL POOKKUTTY’S COURAGE

    Pookuty, who won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing, said the award was
    in recognition of the talent available in the country. He had
    dedicated the award to the country which gave the world the word ‘Om’.

    LIVING GOD PARAMATMA AUMKARAM “AUM AMMA”

    The Mantra AUM (OM) appears shining on
    Aum Amma’s Forehead.

    A True Miracle in INDIA.
    ,

    AUMKARAM AUM AMMA IS THE
    INCARNATION OF SUPREME TRUTH

    “The Whole World is the symbol of “AUM”[OM].
    The Past,Present,Future and that which is
    beyond(Paramatma), These three periods of
    time are also just”AUM”.

    – Mandukya Upanishad

    http://www.aumamma.com see special link also, RARE DARSHAN ,The Self
    Effulgent Light
    http://aumamma.com/darshan/index.htm SPECIAL LIGHT

    youtube – Paramatma Aum Amma

    http://www.aumamma.org

    Unlike commonly seen today, Paramatma Aum Amma is not confined or
    surrounded by any Organization ,Ashram or any other commercial
    activity whatsoever

  15. Srihari March 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    BVN, thank you.

  16. Babu Syed April 2, 2009 at 5:10 am #

    good one!

    read mine at http://babusyed.blogspot.com/

  17. ajith May 14, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    SDM is not a great movie..but then is oscar a great award?
    I would say that SDM is a beatuiful love story. Moreover its a movie about kinship and brother hood. To borrow from the film itself – its about three musketers -nothing more ,nothing less

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