I have a confession to make. I’d never heard of Slumdog Millionaire until it was shown to rapturous applause at the Toronto International Film Festival – where it won the People’s Choice Award. I was very curious. What was radical off-the-wall British director Danny Boyle doing making a movie in India – more importantly, what right did he have to do it without telling me about it? At first, I was tempted to ignore the movie as a gimmick – but every newspaper and magazine I picked up raved about it, so eventually I gave in and saw the movie. I soon realised it was the best decision I’d ever made in my life. The movie’s energy, compassion, tension and vivacity completely swept me away. So much so, in fact, that later I paid again and again to see the movie two more times in my local cinema. For me, Slumdog Millionaire was not just a movie, it was a turning point in cinematic history – and I had been privileged to witness it. What an experience! What a thrill! But I’m not the only one who feels that way – let’s see what this movie also means to the rest of the BollySpice team….
Aly who saw the film first at the Toronto Film Festival says: “For me, Slumdog Millionaire is almost inexplicably brilliant because it somehow managed to take a grim, depressing and dark tale and make it uplifting. Moving at the speed of light, the film crosses paths with so many different characters and ways of life that you feel like finally there has been a single film that’s able to encapsulate the unbelievable strength and will of a diverse city like Mumbai. Jai ho!”
Prathna loves the whole film but it was one scene that really stood out for her that summed up why she loves the film so much. “For me the most amazing scene is of course ‘Jai Ho’. I especially saw the movie again in the cinemas recently just to watch that song on the big screen. I think its just amazing that Longi managed to put together so many extras, two non dancers, the simplest and plainest moves on the planet and yet create a song that is better than any Hrithik Roshan or Shahid Kapoor piece that there ever was (so sorry Hrithik and Shahid fans…. I am one of you so don’t worry). If you study the song (which obviously I have done one too many times) the moves are the simplest and in fact are quite repetitive, but the small edits made to the song and the number of extras & their energy makes it extraordinary! To top it all up, it doesn’t have expensive costumes nor does it have an incredible set as the location is on a train platform. Amazing. For not being such a big name, this is Longi’s biggest project. Sadly, most of his other works hail from very small budget or B Grade films that many of us didn’t even know existed. So this choreographer who knows the easiest and most effective way to create magic in a song has been hiding for way too long!
Fariha loved the message of the film and said, “Why do I love Slumdog Millionaire? Because for me it’s a very heartwarming movie. It’s very realistic in what it shows; I have seen kids in slums and handicapped kids begging on the streets. I think the movie sends out a very positive message as well: just because destiny hasn’t always been with you doesn’t mean you give up – keep on going and you’ll get what you want at the end. I also love the whole ‘Jai Ho’ sequence at the end. It’s such an amazing song and the video makes it even more amazing. The kid actors in the movie are another factor for me to love this movie since they take this movie all together to a different level. I love this movie because it’s unlike any I’ve seen in a long time. This is what dreams are made of.”
Reema’s reasons were simple but encompassed the whole film: “I loved the whole concept of the movie. That the only reason he knew all these answers that a regular person wouldn’t is because he lived it. That whole premise was just amazing to me. That’s why I loved it.”
Mansi loves everything and wrote: “I love Slumdog Millionaire because not only is it brilliantly scripted, cast, shot and edited, not only because it is a rags to riches story with a happily ever after, not only because of the song and dance Bollywood number at the end but because it was a story well told. And it made all of us put our bets back on the idea of destiny, friendship and love. You watch Jamal fight his way until the end with Rahman’s hum beating with his heart while he crosses corners and goes distances to find Latika, his true love. But he finds love because of the happenstances of fate. And because they were meant-to-be. It is a story all of us can truly believe in because it reminds us of ourselves when we dreamt dreams of millionaires and drooled at finding true love. It takes us back to the time when we listened to the teacher narrating the tale of the three musketeers, when we automatically signed ourselves up for Athos, Parthos or Aramis.
“It is a beautiful story unearthing happiness that comes in the smallest of packages; when Jamal finds Amitabh Bachchan, when Latika giggles or when Salim hops over the roofs of Dharavi. It is a beautiful story.”
Sheetal loves that it has everything that makes a great movie! “In a time where movies want to make some sort of statement on topics such as global warming, terrorism, war or racism, Slumdog Millionaire comes as a refreshing modern day fairytale that reminds us of the simple lessons in life. Lessons such as never giving up, being pure of heart, honesty and of course love. It has romance, action, comedy, drama, a thrilling sense of suspense and surprising a song and dance routine. It is a complete entertainment package. Slumdog Millionaire is inspiring and thought provoking but mostly it is entertaining, and at the end of the day that is what cinema is all about. I love cinema and Slumdog Millionaire is cinema at its very best. That is why I love Slumdog Millionaire.”
Roshni gave us several reasons why she had much pyaar for the little film that could: “Slumdog Millionaire has to be loved for reasons more than one. It illustrates India in all its glory and not. It’s fabulous that we have all extremes of the spectrum in terms of the social strata and yet, India manages to function in a dysfunctionally beautiful manner. At the top of the scale, we have the rich Bollywood star that reigns and hosts a TV show. We are then introduced to the opposite extreme which are the slums. Lastly, the movie shows us the “middle class” which involves the youth of India working at call-centers, which has become the norm for India.
“We have a young boy in love who goes against all odds, overcomes his fears, sees the worst and best of times, wins a game show and in the end dances happily on the train station! This is actually beginning to sound like a Bollywood film. Only in India can a young boy and girl go through such a hard ordeal and yet come out dancing – quite literally. The spunky slum children are shown as happy children. At no point, until tragedy hits them, are they miserable with their surroundings. They love where they live, what they stand for and feel that they need to be respected too. If that wasn’t enough of a sight, viewers were treated to the beautiful Taj in Delhi and then the beaches of Chowpatty in Mumbai. The children were the highlight of the movie – they looked and played their parts to the ‘T.’
“I think most importantly, I loved it because it really shows how India is a country that needs to be recognized. No longer is India a third world country. Just think about it: Danny Boyle, a British director, (quick reminder, they ruled over India for years historically) felt the need to come to India and shoot a movie that has easily become the best film of his career! If you don’t love the movie for its story and acting, love it for it for the irony.”
Like Roshni, Stacey could not limit herself to one or two reasons: “There are so many reasons why I loved this film that I could write this feature on my own – all 6 pages of it – but since I had to share, here are just a few. To be honest, with the darker sides of the stories, it is not a film many would think I would love, but I truly did. Everything is brilliant, and by the end I wanted to see it all over again and again and again. The performances, from the young kids who were mind-blowing, to the established actors that were amazing: Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla and Anil Kapoor. Madhur Mittal as the older Salim was wonderful, and Frieda Pinto as Latika said so much so quietly, but it was Dev Patel who made the film. He was perfect, he said he wanted his eyes to speak and boy, did they; he never struck a wrong note. The screenplay was so incredible the way it all tied together and flowed from memory to present day. Danny Boyle deserves every best director award; he got exceptional performances from all the actors, and guided this little film into something extraordinary. The outstanding music by AR Rahman drives the film and again was perfect. I keep saying that word because I would not change a single thing about the film. Slumdog Millionaire is just a triumph! It is very rare that a film can mean so much, and make you feel so much, in just 2 hours and in the end leave you cheering and full of hope, but that is the essence of Slumdog Millionaire. Most of all, I love that in the end, love wins!”
Finally Andrew who wrote our fab intro had to add some more reasons why he loves this film: “For me, Slumdog Millionaire builds on the tradition of earlier Anglo-Indian movies such as Monsoon Wedding and Bride and Prejudice that seek to create a fusion of talents between east and west, creating a synergy that benefits both. The difference now, however, is that whereas Indians directed the two earlier movies, Slumdog Millionaire is directed by a European. I recognise this as being a potential harbinger of things to come. During the last ten years, the average income in India has doubled and suddenly India has entered the race to globalisation. As a nation, it is attracting attention. In particular, it has become recognised as having specialised world-class industries – such as IT services, steel manufacturing, reinsurance and above all movie-making. This has already led to the beginnings of fusion between the big movie industries of east and west – Indian money through Anil Ambani and Reliance has begun to flood into Hollywood and Dreamworks in particular; Bollywood movies are frequently filmed in Europe and the US; and the big Hollywood studios likewise – Warner Bros, Sony and so on – have begun to make movies in Bollywood. The corporatisation of Bollywood has begun. In addition, creative talents in the west have begun to recognise the depth of creative talent in Bollywood – Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Will Smith, Paul Schrader, and even Britney Spears. My prediction is that we will see over the next ten years an explosion of Bollywood movies made for international audiences, possibly even made in both English and Hindi simultaneously. I also predict that western movies will begin to take on more and more of the characteristics of masala movies as the creative talents merge more readily – Mamma Mia anyone – and that can only be a good thing, right?”
So there we have it. Although three previous Bollywood movies have been nominated for an Oscar at the Academy Awards – Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan, it seems that Slumdog Millionaire will finally help India indirectly win its first Oscar. While it is not exactly made by the Indian film industry, it does star Indian stars, is set in India, the crew was Indian and has music by an Indian musical genius. This is a true turning point in the history of Indian and Bollywood cinema. Not only does Slumdog Millionaire have the possibility to win one Oscar, it has could win 10! And you can trust me on this one – this will not be the last time that an Indian related or even a Bollywood movie sweeps awards at the Oscars. Oh no, sir. This is not the final set of awards for a single movie; this is the first set of awards for a whole new industry… Jai Ho!