Textually Yours

Why this hulla shor?

Posted in phillum by arpitaincuba on January 19, 2009

slumdog4604I saw Slumdog Millionaire two months ago, and found it average.

This exponential growth of the hype around the film, I find ridiculous.

Ten nominations for the Oscars is a little undeserved. Sure, A.R. Rehman is brilliant, and the cinematography was sophisticated. But other than that the film did not work for me.

Here is why:

A whole range of desi and videshi accents of Jamal
At the onset, the ” poop diving five year old Jamal has a “road-side” demeanor and a very “ghati” accent. No doubt the kid is from the slums. As time progresses, another child actor from a upper-middle class background, and an English medium education starts to portray Jamal. He delivers his dialogue with that “sing-song convent school” English and his body language indicates a certain degree of refinement. And then there is Dev Patel. Dev is from London. Jamal is suppose to be from the slums. So why does the slum dog develop a clipped Brit accent, and is unable to pronounce simple Hindi words properly?

Such inconsistency cannot be ignored!

The two very distinct parts of the film–one kickass, and the other vomit inducing.

I watched the first part of this film riveted. It was fast-paced, poignant, real, and engaging. However, all this came undone in the second part. The corny Latika love story, the dance sequence, and some strange belief in fate made me feel like I was watching a different film. From a detailed, and intense focus on the struggles of a slum child, it deteriorated to a formulaic masala film. The clichés of love and yearning were unbearable, the dance sequence unnecessary, and the whole reference to Godfather with the brother in the bathtub was bizarre.


M.I.A’s music felt disconnected with the urban-scape of India. It has an edginess no doubt but would be more suited to a film that is about the Diaspora rather than the desh.

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  1. Vineet said, on January 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I reckon this movie was/is supposed to be consumed by the non-Indian population. Hence the obviously shoddy casting choices (did they even have a casting director?) are evident in every turn of the scene.
    I thought that the plot was brilliant…..the rest of the movie failed to live up to the plot.

    Throwing a song and dance sequence in the end of the movie was another evidence of the target audience being non Indians….cause god forbid…..an Indian movie without pelvic thrusts and synchronized dancing.!!!! appalling !!!!

  2. Jack said, on February 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

    As one who doesn’t know my desi from my videshi, I have to say that caprices of casting didn’t bother me much, although I can certainly understand how they might rankle someone with a lifelong familiarity. But, medieval and Renaissance masterpieces depicting biblical scenes are notoriously inaccurate in quotidian detail. And it’s been suggested that if Newton had had the huge quantity of precise data available today, he might not have developed his law of universal gravitation–a broad stroke that summarizes and explains the minutiae. As for a “strange belief in fate,” a culminating moment of Destiny was comprised of a myriad trivial moments, which seem to form a plan, when viewed in retrospect. Lots of metaphysics emphasize teleology–what do you mean by “strange?”

  3. arpitaincuba said, on March 1, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Jack, here is my main issue with Slumdog Millionaire–it is a British film made for a white audience being consumed through the brand name of Danny Boyle and using the trope of unimaginable poverty to attract the white gaze. As a post colonial subject with the collective grief and memory of colonization, the inaccuracy of the film is extremely upsetting. Once again, a British film is exploiting the misery of slum life(poverty that the British/First World have been responsible in creating and sustaining). This has been consumed by the First World as excellent cinema when their are clearly HUGE flaws in the film. Furthermore, why do these slum images continue to be perpetuated in the Western media? Does India not have anything else to offer other than dire poverty and the Taj Mahal?
    Newton had a positive influence in the world but cultural imperialism has wrecked internalized self-shame in so many post-colonial individuals. Hindi and vernacular Indian cinema has produced several films that have poignantly portrayed the violence and rage of slum life but so many of us Indians have swept these films aside to uphold this British film as a celebration of the Mumbai slums. Why? It is the residual post colonial shame that we have for our own talent and culture. For us, something Indian will never match up to the “superiority” of the West. So most of us will choose to be blinded by this hype for Slumdog and forget about Chandni Bar and Satya. Moreover, has anybody even heard of Indian films such as Chandni Bar or Satya in the First World/West? No! Because the Western world is incapable of appreciating something that is outside their established white first world. So many hippy-dippy liberals here in San Francisco have come up to me and said that the film “educated” them about India. However, when discussed in detail it seems to that film merely perpetuated their notion of third world poverty. Do you not see how Slumdog’s success highlights the domination of Western cultural hegemony in the minds of post colonial subjects, and the inability of the West to recognize anything that has come from outside their established first world?

  4. Jack said, on March 4, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Well, to be sure, my apprehension of this movie was much less as a documentary of concrete facts about India in particular than it was about larger, more transcendent issues. I really don’t doubt your points–in fact, I expect such issues. Only classics transcend their context, and not by shedding it. Consider Shakespeare and Shylock. The question for me is: is there anything visible if you try to focus beyond such surface detail? I think there is an overarching point to the movie. Not that it’s necessarily great, nor classic, nor do I necessarily agree with it. You are probably right about how most people are responding to it, though. That’s largely the artifact of opinion makers, of course.

    By the way, being in SF, are you familiar with the radio show “Philosophy Talk?” They recently gave our Dionysius awards for movies, and SDM was prominent. Also, what is your position on the Aryan/Dravidian historical model?

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