slumdog millionaire…what a player!

below in italics are some excerpts from amitabh bachchan’s blog about slumdog…in italics. before watching the film, i wondered what the big rush about it was. and then managed to catch it yesterday and came and updated myself on his blog as well…so here goes a bit about both…

…it’s just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not…

i don’t know about that. has any indian in say, the past 10 years, actually tried to make such a film?

would be interesting to know how many producers and filmmakers in india would be willing to invest in such a project. a project that has no stellar cast, is basically held together by a bunch of kids from the slums and the story is about life lived in the backalleys of the country. hell, there is not a single song in the film, just one stuffed in with the final credits…shooting on location in the middle of mumbai…in the heart of mumbai…hardly using any safe, structured studio space…such a concoction is cyanide for indian producers. come to think of it, slumdog millionaire is a film that probably puts most people working in bollywood to shame ‘coz it takes a ‘Westener’ to come to this country and make an honest film about the country. sad comment considering that we probably have the largest pool of producers and filmmakers in the world. however, none (or maybe just a handful) have been able to capture the city beyond the fancy sets of kamalistan studio or mehboob studio or this studio and that studio…

it takes guts.


 If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations…

yeah, sure. but we don’t need to be so apologetic about our underbelly and draw comparisons with those in the West…and by the way, who are these nationalists and patriots? are these the guys who went for a walk in the taj after the carnage, wondering whether to make a film out of it? or are these the people who were armed with .303 rifles trying to cope up with fire from AK-47s?

someone please provide some clarity…


The commercial escapist world of Indian Cinema had vociferously battled for years , on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray at all the prestigious Film Festivals of the West, and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass oriented box office block busters that were being churned out from Mumbai. The argument. Ray portrayed reality. The other escapism,  fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice…

well, if bollywood chooses to make escapist, commercial cinema, then bollywood should not complain about investing in that choice. it’s something that is sucked up by the masses anyway. shah rukh khan running around the rain drenched slopes of the alps, crooning away to perfect glory or govinda and shakti k dancing and prancing and gyrating with village belles in an obscure part of uttar pradesh…don’t expect the palme d’or for that…

and anyways, why do we need a tiny golden statue from the french or the italians for our cinematic styles and choices and philosophies? this is a bit confusing…on the one hand, we’re trying to hold on to the idea of ‘indian culture’ and all that and find it disturbing when a ‘westerner’ makes a film about us, yet on the other hand we demand lollipop awards from the west to certify the stature of our cinema (read ‘culture’). ironical isn’t it? (just an afterthought…did anyone complain about fine balance by rohinton mistry? that’s a brilliant book that totally shreds apart the idea of the ‘city of dreams’….has the beggar mafia…politicians…what have you…no one seems to complain about that…)


anyways, the whole point is that bachchan now says that he was misquoted. or that his entries in the blog was blown out of proportion. the above excerpts in italics have been picked from his blog verbatim…you may check. and i’ve tried not to blow them out of proportion. if you think i have, then i guess i can cower and say that you are misquoting me! anyways, this post is about the film…so without getting into an acerbic contest about the furore surrounding it, just a few initial thoughts on slumdog millionaire…thought of watching the film again before attempting anything but then the first bits and thoughts are probably going to be the least refined and brashfully honest…

– slumdog is a film that touches upon aspects of this country that you hardly get to see in mainstream cinema. the beggar mafia…tourist mafia…sanitation…adolescence…urban spaces…the debate around who owns these spaces…development…migration…etc. etc. etc….sounds like a huge list of themes from an archive of the delhi documentary film society…but it’s not. and that’s the joy of watching the film. when the filmmaker’s comment is embedded in just 2 minutes of the film but touches upon a raw nerve that we still don’t want to talk about.

which other hindi film have you watched of late that goes:

man: ae timepass band kar yaar bahut urgent hai.  (quit with the timepass, this is urgent man!)

jamal: sharam maar rahi hai…ispe koi time limit thodai na hota hai. (it’s a shy one…and since when was there a time limit on a crap?)

man: lindi meri border pe aa gayi hai bhai…jaldi kar. (my crap’s on the border brother…hurry up!)

saleem: customer baahar khada hota hai toh sab time limit hota hai jamal. (when a customer is standing outside with money, the time limit kicks in jamal)

now THAT’S a comment…on a lot of things! go figure…

or, when you have a scum laden little kid…jamal, who just picked himself up from a cesspool of human waste and dashed off to get an autograph from amitabh bachchan…who is not only amongst the richest stars in the country, but an iconic figure that the nation has, for some reason, come to revere…that’s the point when these two people…become symbols of the extreme spectrums that this country has come to symbolise…in a childish and simplistic way, all the muck and dirt and dark shades one runs away from colliding with the power, fame and money that one aspires to have…it’s quite a moment if you think about it…maybe i’m reading too much into it but hell, that’s what art is all about…

– slumdog is a film that really showed me the mumbai i’d come to love. the madness and the joy and the fervour and the people. having spent a couple of months in the city, i always wondered why bollywood never sold us anything beyond the ubiquitous skyline and the joggers parks and a few shots here and there of the gateway…slumdog was a fest of colours and energy…something that was brilliantly captured in the stylised cinematography and editing. if one were to get into the technical bits of it, it’d just be this long list of things to talk about so will refrain…

– the acting, well…brilliant! azharuddin ismail (youngest salim) and ayush khedekar (youngest jamal) were as convining as one could want them to be…so were tanay chheda (middle jamal) and ashutosh gajiwala (middle salim)…just thought that dev patel and madhur mittal were just not as powerful as their younger counterparts. they seemed to be missing a sense of urgency and purpose in their acting…but again, that’s a very personal opinion. anil kapoor, irrfan khan and saurabh shukla delivered, as usual.

– the music worked real well. the underground music fused with rap worked brilliantly. kitsch of colours and sound. one of the visuals from the bowels of the red light district where a man and woman were in an intimate position…seperated from the rest of the world just by a thin piece of the cloth…or when the camera pans down from a gaudily dressed sex worker to reveal couple of infants bawling away…without making it seemingly obvious…where there are only hints left to pick up…still can’t think of any film that took us to the brothels like that. we tend to romanticise everything. but this film somehow felt bitter and real.


i have so much to write about slumdog millionaire but my thoughts are all scattered and by the time i manage to collect them, this piece might just become too structured and prosaic…

so finally, leaving with prem kumar’s oft repeated phrase from the gameshow…this is something that sums up the film…this is something that sums up danny boyle and the entire team that went to make the film what it is…

what a player…what a player…what a player!



~ by mentalsyrup on January 25, 2009.

16 Responses to “slumdog millionaire…what a player!”

  1. brilliantly put! thanks 4 putting many things i feel about the film into words. 🙂

  2. Great writing and that too after one watch…yeah mumbai and the trains, the landscapes of the thar..never have i seen them so coloured. I think a lot of the criticism is because the ‘westerner’ shot it, canned it, will get an oscar..probably.
    I think Amitji got a lil flustered with the stink that comes with all the crap..did i miss the hand trembling when he signed the picture…naah i must be imagining it…heheehe:)
    i loved salim’s was edgy, dark and grey…more than jameel maybe…i wonder what was happening in that head…the slumdog gangster…survivor..i mean not to take away from jameel’s character…the guy who actually sees it all…I thought after watching the film, maybe its about India, and its abt time…but hope and love are universal themes…maybe thats why a beach doesnt capture audiences like slumdog…i guessing its unfair to compare but im a fan…that’s what we do. compare…

  3. georgie, it’s jamal! heheheh
    u kno, im suddenly taken back to the new-wave of indian cinema like shyam benegal’s ankur, nishant, mandi etc….which r relevant till today. thy dont make em like they used to.

  4. harry – as always, thanks man…! but that doesn’t take away from you NOT pulling out something abt the film…we’re waiting for a read…

    nitin ‘arnold’ george – it’s jamal man…jameel sounds like the lady across the counter in an unani medicine shop…whoops…did i just stereotype there?! also…isn’t a post due??

  5. dint know there was a potent critical concoction waiting to explode here when u said there’s a lot to write about slumdog…a great read though…from start to finish.

    I think one of the most beautiful sub-texts of the film (among the other zillion themes it touches with brilliance and panache, as u mentioned) is about the choices that the characters in the film make. In many ways, Salim and Jamal are symbolic of the choices that are made in life, irrespective of the stakes involved. Like Nitin said, i too loved Salim’s character…it touches the acidic hues of grey the most…but the larger point is that although the brothers suffer and endure the same muck and slime, yet eventually the choices they make take them either closer to a fortune or to the taste of blood in a bathtub. its interesting that, more than Jamal it is Salim who embodies the trials and dichotomies the toughest choices in life…at his death one isn’t sure of the nature of his realisation…is it remorse or is it the painful understanding of the utter futility of it all…if only it had been portrayed more evocatively by the actor playing Salim…his performance left much to be desired for.

  6. well, there are very few films who make you feel hmmmmmmmm – complete. 🙂 mayb im over romanticising, but, i really felt embalmed by this one. i felt like a slumdog…n arent so many of us? yup, mumbai….how much life passes you by in a minute on the streets of that city… many stories….n slumdog tells them so well. when i saw that birds eye view shot of the slums in the o saya seq, it brought to my mind, my airplane landings in mumbai airport. what do you think when u c that from the comfort of ur flight seat? or what do you think when a kid begs in front of you from the comfort of ur car? i think slumdog, will make every moviegoer think about these questions. and ya its so ironic…that amitabh is present in the film as this iconic character—–who is worshipped by the masses—-the man has his idols worshipped—-and he seems to have some unexplaianble problem with the depiction of their lives…he was once the angry young man who fought for the rights of the masses against corrupt officials in his films!

  7. rintu – true, this film is about the shades of grey that salim personifies. drawing parallels is an inane act but can’t help think about city of god and little ze’s character…watch it, you’ll find strange links between the stories…not because SM was ripped, but because the themes are universally human…

    harry – the film does get one thinking doesn’t it. hopefully we should see some young indian filmmakers doing some hardcore filmmaking in the coming years as well…and blogging excitedly about them as well!
    ps-i was prodding you to fill up your blog! 🙂

  8. nice read…

  9. Perhaps you were busy sucking on your mum’s tits and so have not seen Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay. Do watch it and then contrast it with the pile of crap that is SM!

  10. that’s an apt reply for those powerplaying guys who are planning to keep india under their covers , so that they can stay on top and make money as much as possible.

  11. salauddeen/ selva: most detractors of SM are unable to come up with any sustained and pointed logical arguments about how the film ‘affects indian culture’

    anyways, it’s pointless getting into a war of words with inarticulate folk like you…as someone once said – “arguing with a fool is like fighting with a pig…it will get dirty and the pig enjoys it…”

  12. hey salauddin brother
    c’mon you dont have to be so infantile in someone not having seen a film…(assuming sushmit has n’t).
    Im guessing your angst with the post lies primarily with the fact when sushmit writes nobody captures mumbai like danny boyle. Is that true or is it too late in the night? Right Sallu?
    I won’t compare the two styles of film-making, i could i dunno if it’s worth elaborating here…but lemme offer you a simplistic perspective on why i like the film… i think SM (salaam mumbai) was an ok film nothing great..but thats my personal view…I loved SM (slumdog millionaire) partly also because I lived a slice of the history..the hysteria that was KBC…
    Now thats how you compare (pardon my non-erudite manners) in a civilisation…none of this breastfeeding stuff (by the way aren’t tits banned on screen!!!)
    And Selva , it would do a world of good to read an earlier post on censorship on this same blog…now. Not that you want to ban films or anything, it’s just that u guys seem to have spent too much time surfing hate blogs/porn/snuffing that sort of stuff…Chill out, smoke a doobie… a French film and i dont mean Ratatouille…lets debate films but keep it cool bro…

    P.S: Saladin…i mean Sallauddin…talking abt sub-texts…is that a latent oedipal complex i sense from your comment…I mean i love tits too but not way you like ’em boy. I like PIGS too..yum:)

  13. hey guys , i think there’s a grave misunderstanding of my comment regarding the slumdog commentary by sushmit ghosh.actually, i posted a comment on arindham choudary’s website regarding his anti slum dog sentiment and mine was in no way different than sushmit ghosh’s. i clicked in the reference from arindham’s blogspace to this one. sushmit’s commentary about SD was very apt and that’s what i meant by his reply ( sushmit’s ghosh reply to arindham choudary) and not the one quoted by salaudin. just because my comment was beneath his without proper context, it was taken as an apt reply by salaudins. i never meant it to be that way. my apologies for writing an incomplete comment.

  14. my comments regarding arindham choudary is on his blogspace just a few comments from your own. you can check it out to make sure that i appreciated your meticulous reply as apt and not salaudin’s.

  15. selva – i think the fact that your didn’t really contextualise your comment, got it all read wrong. anyways, hope you enjoyed the read and we take back our words…they stand strong for our other friend salauddin though!

  16. thanks a lot, bro.

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