Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Life's like a game show

Dr. Gulab Jamun
Bollywood Man Film Reviewer

I like the way "Slumdog Millionaire" segregates people by their reaction to the film. White liberals feel good about themselves and life in general because it has a happy ending and makes them feel they know about how awful the slums of a foreign nation are (see "Barack Obama Effect"). Then there are the diaspora Indians who liked it, but laugh at its unrealistic look at slums and the mere happenstance of the plot twists of the climax. Then there are real Indians living in India who could care less and seem offended by this film. And, there are the Indians, who are in the business of promotion and filmmaking in India, who LOVE it because it could mean a way out for them and a shot at Hollywood films. 

Finally, there was me, Dr. Gulab Jamun - normal, everyday, white Indian male - who liked it as an afternoon diversion, but an Academy Award winner? This is probably the worst Best Film winner the Oscars have ever celebrated.

Why? Because of what the film isn't. Over the decades plenty of great Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta...etc) have made realistic films about their country. Did they win Oscars? No. "Salaam Bombay"? "Monsoon Wedding"? "Earth"? "Fire"? "Water"? All superior products from Indians that were ignored and even banned from the South Asian country. Now comes a white Scottish director and screenwriter who adapt a mediocre novel into a movie known as "Slumdog Millionaire." Accolades all around. Never seen so much backslapping and high-fives.

I could have written a funny post about this film. But I won't. The reaction to "Slumdog" by Westerners and its acceptance of its title is racist. I've seen better Bollywood films than this and that's the reality. A well manicured and dressed chai wallah who has the run of a call facility? A slum girl becoming a glamorous girlfriend of a don? Clean Mumbai slums? Sheesh, I would have never have believed it had I watched it. I wonder why it takes a white man in the instances of "Gandhi" and this to get accolades on Indian subject matter in Hollywood? And don't forget "A Passage to India" - another Western product - that even had a white actor playing an Indian brahmin. Nice. Can you imagine a white actor playing MLK? Hell nah.

In short, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a rip off of many Bollywood films and seems new to Hollywood because quite frankly it doesn't watch South Asian films. It only pays attention long enough to steal its fashion - right Gwen Stefani? For a time pass this film is fine, even entertaining, Dev Patel is rocking, but as an award winner? It's the worst I've seen since "Juno" and "Crash."

"Slumdog Millionaire"
Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor and some street kids Danny Boyle exploited.
Rating: 5 out of 10.