Slumdog is Deewar redux

Harneet Singh | FULLY FILMI<br>It's a defining moment of Slumdog Millionaire. A six-year-old slum kid locked in a makeshift toilet jumps into a pile of shit just so he can run and get an autograph of his beloved Amitabhji.

Written by Harneet Singh | Published:January 22, 2009 4:13 pm

It’s a defining moment of Slumdog Millionaire. A six year old slum kid locked in a makeshift toilet jumps into a pile of shit just so that he can run and get an autograph of his beloved Amitabh ji. There he is covered in a poop suit standing next to the iconic superstar who signs on his dog eared photograph.

I’m no award barometer but I have a gut feel THIS moment___ that encapsulates the indomitable “spirit” of Mumbai,you know,living in shit yet having the joie de vivre to face life challenges head on with a smile on the face___ clinched the golden globe for the Danny Boyle directed recent classic.

With Oscar in its sight,Slumdog Millionaire is reveling in its current status of being the big event movie. If you haven’t seen it by now,then you just ain’t happening. Yeah I saw it. Yes,I loved it too but don’t hang me when I say I found it just like a Hindi film. This statement doesn’t take anything from the genius of Mr. Boyle. Nobody captures visuals the way he does,the film with its brown and beige colour palette is lyrical in its visual treatment. (I know I’m digressing but what’s with Boyle’s fascination with toilets? Remember Trainspotting that notoriously featured Ewan McGregor diving into the worst toilet ever?)

Anyway back to Slumdog Millionaire,I found the film very Deewar-ish. It has all the ingredients of the great Bollywood Salim- Javed films of the 70’s. Slumdog Millionaire is made as an out-and-out crowd-pleaser with dollops of masala thrown in. It’s a world of two orphans,Salim and Jamal who have to survive in the big bad world. It’s a world where evil goons gouge out the eyes of street kids to make them beg on the streets. It’s a world where orphaned girls end up in brothels. It’s a world where the elder brother takes to the gun and the younger one manages to get out and become the righteous hero. And to top it all of,the heart of this slum story is actually a love story,where the righteous hero fights all kinds of odds to find the girl he loves,and in the process also becomes a millionaire. Hindi phillum,anyone!

I reaffirm once again that I loved Slumdog Millionaire. But I also can’t help if it gave me a déjà vu feeling. For a Hindi film lover,it doesn’t tell me anything new. At the same time I can also see why the film is being lapped up by the western audience since it has all the stereotypical trappings of India to cleverly appeal to them. And therein lies the genius and cleverness of Mr. Boyle. Make no mistake; I don’t suffer from a third-world siege mentality where I am offended by anything that does not show my country in a purely glorious light. But at the end of the day,the fact is that Asia’s biggest slum has won us a Golden Globe.

Maybe I fell to the hype machinery of the film,but I felt as if I could’ve taken something more out of the film. If it had managed to transcend its masala origins to become something greater___ like howThe Dark Knight transcended its comic book origins to become a mesmerizing study of pure evil___ then it would have been a masterpiece,at least in my diary. Or maybe the Hindi films have really spoilt me.

Slumdog Millionaire is a great film but I won’t term it as a masterpiece. But yes like all great films,this one too teaches us a lesson: to respect our wonder world of Hindi masala films. All I’m saying is that if it takes a Danny Boyle and Golden Globes to make us fall in love with our cinema culture then it’s fantastic. That’s the master stroke of Slumdog Millionaire that I’m taking home.

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