It was only after the hoopla over Slumdog Millionaire had subsided that I got my chance to see the movie. By this time my expectations were sky high. And why not?..the winner of the Best Picture Oscar has always been one in a million. So it was with this benchmark that I sat to watch Slumdog Millionaire. As the film rolled by I waited for a shot that takes away a “wow” !! But instead, I came across some major loopholes. In fact the film left me confused, if not a bit disappointed.
The film, as we all know, has been praised (and also criticised) for its realistic depiction of the Indian slum life. I agree that every realistic film does have its elements of imagination. I also subscribe to the view that such creativity is necessary for delivering the underlying message. As such, the questions of the television show, which coincide with events in the hero’s life, form a very interesting thread binding the film. However imagination seems to run too far when a blind beggar knows the fact that a hundred dollar bill carries Benjamin Franklin’s image. Besides, this blind boy begs in Mumbai’s railway subways, which hardly see any American tourists. Had this incidence been shot at the Gateway of India, one may have forced oneself to believe, though remotely. A bigger fallacy is the fact that the hero (Jamal) does not recognize Gandhiji’s image on an Indian note. Going ahead the hero (who is unaware of Gandhi) is smart enough to confidently search for his brother’s contact at a call centre terminal. Not to say he is a chaywala (canteen boy) at this time. It would be surprising to see a chaywala even switch on a computer, let alone meddle with a complicated screen. Agreed the film is an adaptation of a novel but these exaggerations appear too glaring to be ignored.
Dev Patel who plays Jamal, definitely did justice to the role. However one big misfit was his British accent. A slum dweller speaking in impeccable English itself sounds weird. A foreign accent sounds weirder. Slumdog, being a British film, the language is understandable. However Danny Boyle could have selected an Indian artist for this role. After all Indians have worked in hollywood films and their accent is comprehensible.
On the other hand the heroin, played by Frieda Pinto, did have a more acceptable accent. But her depiction of Latika’s character was certainly not impressive. Latika is a poor girl who has spent her childhood in a brothel and her adolescence with a gangster. The character’s cruel past completely eludes Freida’s expressions. In fact if one watched the movie halfway onwards, you would mistake her to be a middle class college student. In fact when she escapes her captor to meet Jamal at VT station, one would expect her to be scared. As opposed to this she is as relaxed as a teenager would be after bunking a class.
I admit that Danny Boyle has done a remarkable job of presenting the grim realities of Mumbai’s slums. Kudos to him for not overstretching some of the ghastly incidences nor making them melodramatic. Apart from the lapses that struck me, Slumdog is certainly a well-made film. But I can’t get myself to appreciate it as one in a million.