Monday, 26 January 2009

Slumdog! Slamdunk!

I have been to see the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire film, with my daughter and a friend this week.

I have hesitated in posting about it, as it is difficult to actually put my feelings about it into words. So I apologise  if this is more meandering than usual, but I will try.

The story - and I won't give it all away- is about the city street children, two brothers and their friends. The kids collect rubbish from the refuse mountains that they sleep on and which they are seemingly surrounded by in Mumbai, India. After appearing on the Indian version of 'Who wants to be a millionaire'  Lamal is accused of cheating and is interrogated about his answers. The story that follows is Lamal's story and explains  how he comes to know so much.

The film is a feel good film for sure, but it feels a bit incongruous given that much of it deals with the harsh realities of the children -of all ages- living on the streets and of what appears to be the commonplace abuse of these children, by not only the adults looking to exploit them in exchange for a meal and a roof, but also by their contemporaries, more like dog eat dog.

I felt a bit like l did when I saw Shindlers List  or  Life is Beauitful in saying what a brilliant film it was afterwards but feeling uncomfortable about it at the same time.  That is so hard to say when it seems to be at such a cost to these children. I'm sitting there stuffing my face with sweets or popcorn and the people on screen are starving and being abused and manipulated.  What price this enjoyment l thought! I love to be transported in books and films, but this didn't sit so comfortably.

On Friday I saw on BBC Breakfast TV a feature on a real life Indian  Who wants to be Millionaire winner. He won 1,000,000 rupees. He still lives in the same one room home with his family and mother. He still drives his taxi cab, he has spent his winnings on a mobile phone, a fish tank and exotic fish, a washing machine and dishwasher, a flat screen tv and other 'luxuries' for his family. He is a very happy man. He continually plays a recording of his winning appearance on the show o his tv and mobile phone.  Now of course, he is a celebrated local! 

There are hundreds and hundreds of films made in India and some on this subject. These aren't seen around the world. The fact that this film has an Indian author, the diplomat Vikas Swarup and has been made by a British director  Danny Boyle - and l believe is a C4 produced film-  it will actually be seen around the world. 

In the Sunday papers I've read about the Indian premiere this week, apparently Anil Kapoor the famous actor, who plays the quiz show presenter,  grew up in a slum himself, said the film, "...would be terrific inspiration to kids all over India.....It's a a film of hope.''

India Knight writes that it educates and entertains all audiences, British, American as well as Indian. I heartily concur.

btw if anyone knows where I can get some 'Bollywood' type dance classes let me know, it looks so much fun!
In case you are left in any doubt I did love the film!

thanks David!! Author blog award


  1. As multiplex cinemas are not my favourite places, I shall wait until this comes to TV and be sure not to miss it when it does - sounds thought provoking...

  2. Interesting, I've been watching trailers of Slumdog and thinking I wouldn't mind seeing it. But I do agree, I think it would make me feel uncomfortable too.

    CJ xx

  3. I can't wait to see it, although with the poncey reservation that it's been one of my favourite books since it came out (and I TOTALLY recommend it).

  4. Saz, your pics are beautiful - Such films are difficult, non? It's good if they're thought-provoking, feelgood and offer hope to others, which perhaps this film will do, as you say...

    I don't know if you saw on TV Paul Merton in India - It was really interesting and well-observed; Paul spent time with the stray children that live at the station, and so on, and the hermaphrodites, who live sort of half-lives, begging hard and yet looking out for each other, and so on.

    If this film makes people re-evaluate how others live, and encourages them to work in support of them, such as charity work, even in a very small way, then it's a good thing after all, more edutainment! xox

  5. A friend of mine saw the movie over the weekend and she said she found a bit odd that the film ended with Bollywood dancing during the credits that was reminiscent of a High School Musical scene, after showing such horrible scenes of torture at the beginning. But I have to agree that Bollywood stuff is cool. I've been interested in trying some belly dancing one of these days :-)

  6. frumpy, another film critic, eh? But you do a useful job for us all with this one - though shouldn't that be "Slam Dunk"? ;-)

  7. I walked out fairly early on -although my husband says it got much less violent.
    Here they billed it as a 'feel good movie' - which it probably was in the end - but the violence against children was so graphic - walked out when they were holding child down to pour acid in his eyes.
    I think they should warn about the violence .
    A bit like sex in movies - we can get the idea about it without being assaulted.
    We are off to India next

  8. I know exactly what you mean. At the end of Schindlers List when the real people appear one after the other I felt like such a voyeur; as if their whole experience had been trivialised by being turned into a film. And don't get me started about watching the women walk into the showers - it was NOT necesary.

    (gets off soapbox)

    Because all the versions of this in our bit of France have been dubbed into French I'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD.

  9. I've heard nothing but praise for this movie (including from my Mom, among other relatives and friends) so I will definitely see it, but I appreciate your review and will probably be more "ready" for the sad bits. Thanks!

  10. First an aside to French Fancy .. while there are still people in this world who do not believe the Holocaust happened, films like Schindler's List and especially scenes like the women entering the 'showers' NEED to be made/shown.

    Sorry, had to say it.

    And everyone I know who has seen Slumdog has had similar reactions .. any film, book or recording that makes them aware, makes them think about how lucky they are doing their job.

  11. sorry to use this to reply to Daryl - but just had to say that surely to people who don't believe that the Holocaust happened, then a film by Spielberg is not going to convince them. Now if they saw Shoah - that might.

    Sorry fff

  12. Hi FFF, yes, it was quite a gripping film wasn't it. I had only heard a radio play a couple of years ago about the real winner in India. But those slums and photography of bombay and Taj Mahal were just amazing.

    I believe the lead guy comes from Harrow. xxxx

  13. Fhina- yes l did see some of the paul merton ser series, it was very good and colourfull..

    billy- thanks for the headsup re typo!!

    Frenchfancy - no prob, type away!!

    Daryl- you are right of course!!

    Jenny- great photography..and yes the chap has only had one part and that wa sin l am not 15yrs old..I didnt watch it/

  14. Daughter went to a preview before christmas and loved it but she said she came out of the cinema, managed to get round the corner and then burst into tears.

  15. I see you mentioned Schindler's List - which was based on the novel Schindler's Ark, by an Australian writer!


  17. Hmmm... I wasn't sure that I fancied this film, although I knew that it was a good one. Now, I'm sure that it's not for me.

  18. Yes, this is one I've GOT to see! Thanks for the review...Peace - D

  19. Sometimes it is the films that make us feel the most uncomfortable which leaves us with the longest lasting impression. That you felt guilt and frustration at the plight of these kids is perfectly natural, it sounds as though this film works on several levels.

    Thank you for the thoughtful review - I will wait for it's release on dvd, it sounds well worth a view.

  20. I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire so thank you for the review. If you want to find out more about India I can recommend David McMahon's book Vegemite Vindaloo.

    By the way I have tagged you.

  21. I'm intending to go next week - not to a multiplex but to our local indy cinema. Thanks for the review!

  22. I saw this movie earlier this week. I wouldn't say that this type of movie fits as entertainment or that it is enjoyable. Let's say that I do appreciate the educational experience in the guise of entertainment - in today's world, if that's how you have to get people to understand, then that's what you do. The feel good part to me, came not from our winner winning the money and the girl but that he was able to maintain his values throughout his life regardless of the ordeals thrown at him - he was loyal and honest. I was not at all uncomfortable but that is not to say that I felt no compassion either. I don't feel guilt at my own good fortune to have been born here to middle class parents and struggling to get where we are. I haven't stepped on anyone's toes to get here and I don't knowingly take advantage of another's misfortune (although of course, that is built in to many of the products and services we enjoy every day)

  23. Thoughtful post and great insight. I just re-watched Schindler's List again last night because I do remember it being so fantastic... but as I sat in my comfortable, warm living room squirming at the images I had to ask myself if this was the best "escape" for me this week.
    Congrats on your mention at David's, I'm so glad he sent me over to read this one.

  24. Saz, you and Moannie received plaudits on David's Post of the Day once again - Well done, you two for making Blogland a better and a brighter place!!! Big hugs x

  25. Ahhh....I loved the millionaire who still drives a cab, etc. I would do the same exact things then, as I do now. But maybe not have to work as hard!! I'll have to look into seeing Slumdog.

  26. It was difficult to watch Schindler's List (but so worth it), could not bring myself to see Life is Beautiful, but now I am questioning my choice. I will see the film you mention and LIB.

    Visiting from Authorblog POD

  27. Congrats on being David's Post of the Day. This was a great post and I know what you mean about this sort of movie.

  28. I know exactly the feeling that you mean Saz...when I saw the little red coat in Schindlers List I cried...I cried everytime I thought about that little red son, who has seen Millionaire, advises me to wait til it comes out on DVD...he knows me well, so there must be a reason. Gran Torino will give you that uncomfortable feeling as well...but sometimes discomfort is good for us.
    congrats on Post of the Day nom

  29. The more we see, the more we know, comfortable or not. I've yet to see this one though. Looks good.

  30. Slumdog Millionaire shows a very different side of Mumbai than the one I normally see every day. Its just been released here and I must go see it. I wonder whether it'll just leave me heart-heavy though. I love bubble-gum movies which make one feel good at the end of it. Poverty and the exploitation of it is tragically a commonplace thing here. I wonder whether I'm ready to overdose on it in a movie theatre.

    People in Mumbai are divided in their opinion about this movie. Some are ecstatic that the movie composer, AR Rahman (a genius, by the way), won so many awards including the Golden Globe and is nominated for the Oscars.
    Others are furious that in showing the disgusting underbelly of Mumbai's slums, other countries are getting a very lopsided view of Mumbai. There is so much more to Mumbai than slums and exploitation.
    My take : it exists, so get used to seeing it presented in movies until it is eradicated. Unfortunately, poverty sells in movies. One of the other BIG movies from India was 'Salaam Mumbai' ... again set in squalor and poverty and exploitation (sigh) in Mumbai.

    'Bollywood dancing' is great fun! Go learn it, or rent out a dozen DVDs and copy the dances :D

    Anil Kapoor lived in a slum?! Thats news to me! I wonder whether it was a bit of 'masala' thrown in for the promos ?

  31. Try to google the website Upasana, it may give you some tips on classes in your region. We have a class in Newcastle. Once went to a belly dancing class for a few weeks, really gets the muscles working xx

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Thanks for stopping by!

Take the weight of your feet, draw up a chair and pour yourself a cuppa. Leave your troubles at the door and together we shall ride out the storms.
I will walk a while in your shoes...

Saz x

just dropped by... visit Mum's blog and to say Hi to a few friends... I hope you know, you are all never very far from my thoughts. Many of whom I...