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.


“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.