Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

A typical Bollywood story told in a non-mainstream Bollywood way. Loved it for the way it showed Mumbai slums from the outside and inside, and slum kids' relations among themselves and with the rest of the world. The film has elements of Mira Nair, Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Varma- Boyle apparently regards Black Friday, Satya and Company as greats, and you can tell it built upon them. There was Satya in the oldest Latika's life in a don's world and Salim's complexity, Black Friday in depictions of Bombay slums, slum-police relations and riots, and Mira Nair in the children's social world.

Loveleen Tandan, Boyle's co-director was Nair's casting director for Monsoon Wedding. Tandan insisted on Hindi dialogues for the film's first half which worked wonders. It made the first half especially alive for me with the children's language, like the little Jamal to Latika 'Ab main professional singer ban jaaoonga, apna time aa gaya hai... hum log Harbor Road pe rahenge.' And Salim when they lost Latika- 'Kisne haath chhoda? Haath kyun chhoda?' And telling Jamal why they couldn't go back, ' Woh teri aankhe nikaal dete.... chammach se.' And later, in the morning, 'Ab chalein? Pet mein choohe kood rahe hain'.

For becoming familiar with places like an insider- the shitting grounds, the dumping grounds, the school classrooms, the pipes on which people walk. This was my Bombay for two years and is the Bombay of millions of others who call the city their own.

The switch entirely to English made the film flatter, slower, and western, because most people in India never talk exclusively in English. English is punctuated with many meaningless meaning-making words in Hindi and a million other languages. And paradoxically, at the same time, the grown up Jamal and Latika's story became Bollywood kitschy. But a brilliant cast with Irfan khan, Saurabh Shukla, Raj Zutshi, friend Himanshu Tyagi, the brilliant child actors- Rubiana Ali, Azharuddin Ismail and Ayush Khedekar as the littlest Salim, Jamal and Latika, and Madhur Mittal as the oldest Salim. A fanciful story, well told, and the stuff of dreams.