I rarely have occasion these days to see new movies in theaters, but I had the good fortune recently to see two of the Oscar-nominated best films, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire, within 24 hours. It was a strange coincidence that both of them were time-jumping stories built around TV shows.
Not that my opinion counts for anything, but I thought Frost/Nixon was a far better film. It may have been that I simply cared more for the subject; but it struck me as exceedingly well-written and conceived, with all the dramatic payoffs and random brain-pleasers you can hope for in a movie. Slumdog Millionaire, meanwhile, felt forced and predictable with shallow characterizations and stock movie tricks. I am hardly the only one to feel that it is way overrated.
That said, Slumdog‘s depiction of Indian life, particularly the slum poverty, was incredibly interesting, at least to this American, even if only for its voyeurism.
Which makes me want to know what Indians make of the film. Articles like this one describe a stark split between those who feel the film is realistic and invaluable and those who feel it’s exaggerated and exploitive. There are a lot of interesting wrinkles behind the scenes as well. According to the film’s IMDb trivia page:
Mercedes-Benz asked that its logos be removed in scenes taking place in the slums. The company, according to [director] Danny Boyle, did not want to be associated with the poverty-stricken area, fearing that that might taint its image.
Danny Boyle placed the money to be paid to the three lead child actors in a trust that is to be released to them upon their completion of grade school at 16 years of age. The production company has set up for an autorickshaw driver to take the kids to school every day until they are 16 years old.
This blog has a lot of Indian readers, living both in India and abroad, many of whom are very outspoken — just check out the response to this recent post on autorickshaws — and I’m eager to hear your opinions of the film and learn how it’s being received in India.
So: what is your personal reaction, and the wider reaction you’ve heard about? How closely does the film portray reality, especially in the realms of poverty and class? How broadly is a film like this seen in India — i.e., will the typical poverty dweller ever get a chance to see it? How significant is it that the kids are Muslim, and indeed meet great misfortune because of that fact? And how much of a pejorative, if at all, is “slumdog”?