R S Prasanna

Spam that tries to be literature.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Overhyped Millionaire

I saw "slumdog millionaire" finally.

For those two or three people who do read this blog (my mom and dad including), heres my two cents review.

The concept of the whole movie, in terms of the structure, the story device, is very interesting. I remember Meena, a friend guide and philosopher-wannabe, had read this book almost two years ago. She had told me to read it too, and she asked me to adapt it to screen. Apart from a smirk, I did not give it much thought. Not as if if I wanted to adapt, I could have. :)

Anyway, so I loved the basic premise of the movie. Hats off to Vikas Swarup for coming up with a very nice idea.

I loved the frenetic direction of this movie. The sound design of the movie was top class. For all those who say cinema is a visual medium, and underplay the importance of sound, this is another example added to the long list of good movies that use sound design as an integral part of the film "watchers'" experience.

I loved the first 30 minutes of the movie. The shots, the editing, the color-schemes, and the sound design, and some of the acting... Also, this is when the central story device is revealed, so that adds to the freshness of the opening.

Coming to the acting. I was terribly disappointed with most performances. While I can understand (and discount for) the need to use English, and I understand that it may tinge the performances a bit, I don't understand why they could not have used a more natural dialog style? Why were the English dialogs so "written" and spoken like a college English production? I mean Jamal speaks more like a corporate managaer than a slumdog. He could have used broken English at the very least?

The kids in the first 30 minutes gave the best performances. This could be again because they spoke their natural language. But that's no excuse. Mira Niar has directed better English performances in her movies. Way better, actually. Monsoon Wedding and most parts of Namesake are a case in point.

Rahman's score was hardly impressive. It was sufficient, but hardly elevated the movie. "Jai Ho" was atrociously lame, but it fitted in with the equally bad dance, and the even more atrocious desision to include this song as an end to a "realistic, gritty" movie!!!

All this has nothing to do with it winning laurels.

Given the bad state of writing in Hollywood, I am sure this movie could easily be way better than most. And it certainly is a good movie, no doubting that.

I am only saying that I think this movie could have been way better, and easily so, that's all. And it is riddled with flaws.

Anyway, I learnt a lot while watching this movie. And I am very happy India is hot on the international circuit. That could have added largely to the hype about this movie.

The movie certainly deserves accolades. But not to the level some stupid critics are saying.

Finally, I was amused at the trope borrowed from "Bollywood". The word "Destiny" is used so much, to explain away tough screenwriting problems. Must say that these guys are smart! They took the one thing from "Bollywood" that suited them the most. Reduces their workload! "Destiny!"

Keeping with the downward slide of the movie, the silly Bollywood dance in the end was a fitting finale to the stupid ending. This is what danny Boyle would have liked about "Indian Cinema" so much, that he chose to use this to spoil an already mediocre, rushed-up ending.

So, overall, my two cent verdict: a good movie that could have easily been way better.

There are many cinemas in India. Bollywood is one of them.

There is another little cinema, that actually was looking at the west, as sort of a greener pasture.

And that cinema may now start worrying.


Kudos to the Slumdog Millionaire team. It's not your fault that the world is hyping your film. Enjoy it while it lasts!

And hey, I'm not complaining!

"I am an Indian director, Hire me tooooooo!!!!"


Blogger Femme de gourmande said...

Yup i agree with everything u say.

cheesy end to a great beginning!

3:50 AM  
Blogger samhita said...

Nice Review Prasanna! Although I liked the concept, I felt the movie is being overrated. btw why are you underrating your review?

5:57 AM  
Blogger Premal said...

I am going to disagree with you rsp on your thoughts that it is an average movie that is over-hyped.

I think it is horrible movie and "what the hell are these guys thinking?".

But before I get into that, lets find some common grounds. I absolutely loved the initial 20-30 mins of the movie. The premise, the drama and visual beauty on the screen seemed unreal for a moment. And then... it underwent the chewing gum effect.

Using English as an excuse for the lame performances is ridiculous given the fact that most bollywood actors would hardly give an interview in Hindi. I think it was in part a clash of sensitivities of the actors and the director.

The director as well as the screenwriter probably dozed off after 20 min into the movie. I, for starters, still don't understand what Anil Kapoor was trying to do or why. So is the case with most of the characters - they are, to put it simply, razor-thin.

I also felt that the movie was a very deliberate but tasteless attempt at pandering to the "foreign" audience. I could detect many elements that bordered on mockery and/or evoking an overtly sympathetic perspective.

"Jai Ho" as you mentioned was the only part that "fit" the movie. A perfect end to a lame movie.

I like Rehman but a golden globe for this piece of ****? Come on...

This review costed me $8 (not 2 cents) as I spent 20 min writing it. Rsp just add it to our accounts.

8:16 AM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

I think the guys who made this made it as a 'quickie', never expecting it to be getting so much of international and Media/PR attention. That this movie has garnered so much press and paisa abroad is a statement more on audience dumbing down that danny boyle and co dumbing down. Like i said, while I am glad now that as an indian director, i will have it a lot easier thanks to this film, i will have it balanced by the tough task of explaining which Indian cinema I come from. but hey, no gain without pain, eh. I am happy! :)

10:27 PM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

Femme: so like we discussed, shantaram may see revival sans Mira Nair. But it will eb the film's loss. While i love Danny Boyle's visual style, I find he lacks depth and sensitivity, when it comes to directing performances and subtle themes. Mira Nair is way better in those departments. If she has a good screenwriter (like monsoon wedding. sooni tarapoorewala, me thinks) she will do a great job. And personally, i am riveted by great acting more than great visuals. Not that both can't co-exist. But for that the world will have to wait for a new director to come. His name starts with a P.

he he.

10:31 PM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

Sam: Ha ha. 'Underrating' yourself is the oldest trick in gaining sympathy. Or sympathetic responses. Not that it semed to have worked on Premal ;)

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Touche Premal! :)

9:33 AM  
Blogger Lancelot said...

I have not commented yet as I am yet to see the movie...but someone has also reviewed it in your lines

check it out


9:42 PM  
Blogger R S Prasanna said...

Lancelot: Please!!! That post has very little in common with mine. Especially the tone and conclusions of Arindham is way different from mine. Thank god!

9:49 PM  

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