Monday, 9 March 2009

Slumdog Millionaire or Conviction calling?

How many of us would take the route of plunging into deep shit to get close to our heros in life? And hold out his photo [while we are inside the shit] to save it –from getting spoilt?

How many of us would not take the bait of selecting the option: Ricky Ponting when the answer is made available to you and when 1 crore is screaming at you?

How many of us would go the extra mile and wait for our Latika? And more significantly –take her back, even after whatever she has been through?

And how many of us believe in destiny, our destiny that is written?

We’ve read a lot about Slumdog Millionaire. It’s won the Golden Globe, the Bafta and recently the Oscars. Some have praised SDM while some have cursed it. An iconic actor of the 70s-80s eras has said that it’d be better if SDM does not win the Oscars. Why? Is it because it showed the India which we do not want to believe is true? Your guess is as good as mine.

Whatever are the views of these demi-Gods, but the fact remains, –whether you like it or not –maiming small children and making money out of begging is a thriving business; -the gangsters, the kothas, the easy money via theft is very much there. But then, so is Jamal –the truth. Why did we fail to appreciate that fact? After-all he is the protagonist in the movie and is shown as the truth. Why have all the critics forgotten to look at that side? We go overboard to react saying that the “Goras” [whites] like and want to see India as dilapidate third world democracy and hence all the awards. I cannot comment on that, and having watched SDM, I find no reason as to why IT should be nominated for Oscars, leave apart winning it. Probably they are true, probably the Goras DO want to see India that way. So if I am to give my views about SDM, I’d say it’s an intelligent movie but worth the Oscars? ...Naah, not even the National Awards!!!

The storyline is nothing remarkable. A smalltime kid makes it to Who Wants to be a Millionaire and out of sheer luck and a few coincidences, wins it as well… but not before raising a lot of eyebrows. In fact the whole nation is shown to be on the standstill when Anil Kapoor asks the final question and Jamal takes his own sweet time, looking as casual as can be [which I do not thing anybody would be while sitting on the hot seat with a million rupees just out of reach] to go for the Dial-A-Friend option.

Flashback. Jamal is a young Mumbaikar who stays in Dharavi [the biggest slum in Asia] and loves playing cricket just besides the corner on the concrete strip of the Airport…The Mumbai Airport. If you remember, when you’re approaching the Mumbai Airport via air, we get a glimpse of The Dharavi.

The kid is shown to have lived through the Mumbai Riots where he sees his mom being hit [killed?] while he keeps running with his elder brother, Salim for safety, for food, for a living. It is here that he meets his childhood sweetheart Latika, another survivor of the Mumbai Riots. Being fascinated by The Three Musketeers they call themselves Athos-Porthos and Jamal wants Latika to be the third Musketeer, which Salim denies.

All of a sudden the surviving kids of the slums are taken under the care of a “God-man” who wants to make the lives of the kids better… But in reality he’s the conman who runs the business of crippling children and making money out of their begging business. When Jamal is being taken to him for the audition, a quick code word exchange [Athos-Porthos] with his brother saves them from a frightening future. While they make the escape, Latika is left behind. Jamal promises to himself that he’d come back for her.

In the months to come they make a living out of selling eatables and toys in the trains. Sooner than later the train takes them to Taj-land, Agra and he realizes that creating the “Jamal” version of Taj Mahal’s history and selling it out to the Goras is not a big deal –and we thought that the Goras are really THAT intelligent ;-). Having filled their coffers they make their way back to Mumbai, to find his Latika.

A lot of enquiry, catching up with old friends and he finally is able to find Latika; though their rendezvous lasts only for a few hours. This time it’s his brother to be blamed. Being the elder one, he claims his rights over Latika.

Jamal again goes away, away from everybody he knew.

Come out of the flashback. The present Jamal is shown to be working as a chai-wala in a local call center. A quick stroke of luck and he get access to one of the computers and is able to trace his brother and meet him up. Old wounds open up, but his brother does not have any idea of Latika’s whereabouts.

Again destiny plays its part, Jamal finds out Latika, but this time around she’s a mistress of a local goon, Javed for whom Salim works. She’s gone far, quite far… she asks Jamal not to return. But Jamal insists that she comes out of that dirty world and escape with her. She refuses his proposal though he promises to wait at the CS Terminal railway station daily at five in the evening for her. On the first day she comes to meet him there but is captured and taken back by Salim to Javed and one of the men slashes her cheek with a knife to scare away Jamal.

Jamal again loses contact with her, when Javed moves to another house. Having set his mind on the task Jamal tries to find out ways to locate Latika. And this is when he realizes that she’s a viewer of WWTBA-Millionaire show and if he has to get to her, the show is his platform.

Now is where intelligent direction comes to play.

As we all know, in the WWTBA-Millionaire show there are series of questions and on being able to answer one correctly, you earn the money and graduate to the next level. Jamal makes it to the final question though the host feeds him a wrong answer, which Jamal does not accept. At the end of the show, Jamal has only one question left to answer rightly to win the 2 crores rupees when he is taken to police custody. He is tortured there, because they believed that how much ever bizarre it may sound, a simple "slumdog," could never know the answers to so many questions.

On the next day Jamal answers the last question rightly and wins the 2 crores. Everybody is surprised. There are approximately 15 questions and he answers all of them rightly. Stroke of luck, eh? Well not really. All the questions have in some or the other way has been linked to his life except for one.

The direction of the movie is such that when Anil Kapoor asks a question to Jamal we have a flashback. And the incident related to Jamal’s life where-in that question has the answer is shown. The inventor of the pistol, the bhajans of Surdas, the face of Benjamin Franklin on the 100 dollar bill… every question has a relation to what has happened with him. This is the best part of the movie – the flashbacks and the strange coincidences. This according to me is the single USP of SDM.

Just when Jamal was about to be asked the last question, Salim helps Latika escape giving her his mobile phone and the car keys and asks her to escape and run away to Jamal while he would take care of executing Javed.

In the last question where he was asked to answer the name of the third Musketeer –though he never knew the name, he made a wild guess, but not before utilizing the option of Phone-A-Friend. This time he [first musketeer] makes a call to his brother [second musketeer] which was received by Latika [the proposed third musketeer]. He does not get an answer but again his destiny saves him; the correct name was Aramis.

And on the other hand, his brother having killed Javed is discovered to be lying on a bathtub filled with money and is shot dead, but not before uttering his last words, “God is great”.

At the beginning of the movie, a question was asked:

"Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees. How did he do it?
A) He cheated,
B) He's lucky,
C) He's a genius,
D) It's written (Destiny)."

The correct option is D, shown at the end of the movie.