Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire can serve as a textbook example for how a movie should be made from a book. Danny Boyle takes only the basic, very interesting story (the best part of the book) and a few other key ideas from Vikas Swarup's Q & A and then puts his own spin on it. The more unsavory aspects, which would be even more unpalatable on screen, are removed, the violence is toned down, the confusing non-chronological style of the book is dropped and the more over-the-top plot points, like the twists in the climax, are left out. With Boyle's kinetic directorial style and Rahman's fantastic music, the end result is a consistently gripping, entertaining film.

As I mentioned when I wrote about Q & A, the idea of a young man(Jamal) appearing on a quiz show and answering the questions from the knowledge he has gleaned from various happenings in his life, is very innovative. There is suspense when each question is posed and a kind of elation when the segment leads him to the answer - not always in very obvious ways. The individual segments - like the time he acts as a guide at the Taj Mahal - are interesting by themselves but the fact that each of them has a purpose adds another level. Though the questions referencing events his life in a chronological order(unlike in the book) seems a bit convenient, it does help us get a fuller picture of his life and makes it easier to connect with him. The final question brings a smile to our lips though the way it is answered is a bit of a letdown

Though the more unpleasant aspects of the book(like, for instance, the incest) have been dropped, it is still not easy watching some of the difficult turns that Jamal's life takes. But Jamal's undying love for Latika is definitely heart-warming. It is the thread that runs through the movie and connects the segments. As the two meet under vastly different circumstances in different stages of their lives, we keep wishing that each meeting is more everlasting than their last one. They way they find each other for the last time is the result of a very clever narrative and is much more satisfying than their meeting in the book.

Rahman's score is scintillating. Like he did in Rang De Basanti, he surprises us with his choice of music for particular sequences. But once the surprise wears off, the music works beautifully and really enhances the appeal of many sequences (like the one where some kids leads the cops on a merry chase through the bylanes in the slums of Mumbai).


At 2:46 AM, Blogger Ganesh said...

2008 has been a great year for AR Rehman overall,expecting many more masterpieces from him this year too!:)

At 5:53 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

"Rahman's score is scintillating"
I totally agree. Just listened to the soundtrack a few days ago. "Lathika's Theme" especially is a gorgeously romantic track.
BTW, to stray off on a tangent here, did you know that the complete Background score for "Jillunnu Oru Kadhal" is actually available? A friend downloaded it off the net so am not sure of the specifuc site. It contains 75 tracks and some of them especially instrumental interludes of "Munbe Vaa" is sublime stuff!

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The background music when the kids are being chased by the police is "Paper planes" by the Srilankan chick MIA, if I'm not wrong?!!

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was waiting for your review of this movie, for me it was an ok movie (I have not read the book. All the questions, situations seems too contrived. But the acting from Jamel and his brother actors (from childhood) was very good.
I hear Oscar buzzing... but dont know whether the movie will stand a chance.

Take care

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Only last piece of that chasing bgm is "Paper Plane"

- Viswa

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ganesh, oh yeah. wish atleast one of his masterpieces had been in Tamil though :)

kaykay, i gotta hear the soundtrack so i can recognize the pieces by name. now i just associate them with scenes from the movie :)

anon, i've heard that too :)

swaps, i didn't think it was oscar calibre but its been snapping up so many awards :)

viswa, thanx :)

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Kish Nara said...

This is one of the good movies worth watching be it DVD or movie hall.

Almost 90% of the people at my work have seen this movie, and everyone liked the movie.

In a nutshell, you'll not be disappointed.

Thanks Balaji for your excellent review on this movie.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Anush said...

I saw the movie (Dvd rip ) and loved it was more closer to Bollywood movies , but Boyle has has given is touch and made it visually stunning , Rehman's score was brilliant ... somehow felt the kids did a much better job than the older lead pair !
A brilliant feel-good movie !
But the movie is not liked by one and all in india though .. people are sore with Boyle , there are complaints tht he exploited the poverty of India to make a successful movie by just showing the bad sides !
there are ppl who claim this is no different from regular bollywood movies !
i personally dont agree to tht .. even if its closer to indian masala flicks , he has made a good movie all the same
But movie being in English was slightly odd ... ofcourse its a UK production and made for US/UK audience ... but for me it was weird seeing slum dwellers , policemen , gangsters speaking in English !!!

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

siva, u're welcome :)

anush, i felt that(he was exploiting poverty, etc.) a li'l bit, like when he showed the kids running alongside huge piles of garbage and general filth. but he didn't dwell on it and captured the happiness of the people living there :)


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