Monday, February 16, 2009

Dumbslog Luminaire

I was alright with the movie except that I felt it would have been better if it had been made in Hindi and by Bollywood. Otherwise no complaints really. It is escapist fare that manages to convert horror to entertainment. Par for the course.

I think the single most horrific scene is the blinding one. At least it would have been traumatic for most people who grew up in India. I am not sure if children are actually maimed by beggar gangs but I was assured that this was the case through my growing up years. In a country that has exposes on everything from poll rigging to human trafficking to corruption in high places, how does something like the deliberate blinding of a child never make news. Are beggar gangs part of a powerful mafia that has effectively muzzled a nation- leaving aside a few novelists and film-makers?

I find it hard to believe that breaking limbs can translate to good economics for anybody. The explanation for the droves of miserable beggars in India maybe lies in the fact that this is a huge population with zero social security. With large scale migration to cities, the old family-clan-caste support framework has also been eroding. Someone sufficiently below the poverty line and very physically unfit will be left to fend for themselves. Childhood cataracts, accidents, polio- think of the number of such cases in a population of 300 million. These people will in all likelihood subsist on charity and band together and maybe there are gangs that get into the business of organising them and sending them out to beg.

Please God let this be the explanation for the legless beggar who sits stoned at Bandra station, mouthing softly the worst of curses at the auto line wallahs as he holds out his grimy cupped hand. Let him be someone who fell off a train and lost his leg and now spends his days in a heroin high rather than...god I don't know what I ask for, forgive me.

Lets get back to Slumdog. I wish it had been made in Hindi with English accents rather than the other way round for that would have reflected reality. The teenage Salim and Jamal speak like South Bombay convent boys and that really took away from what could have been a gritty and witty punch in the solar plexus. Then again the grown up Jamal is so cute and cool. And his English! It is not just in England that we can place a person by the way he speaks that language. Most foreign educated boys from excellent Indian families will make an effort to mask their 'accents' in India, so they do not stand out. Jamal comes across like that kind of elite but not elitist boy. Chaiwallah-no!

Which brings us to the character of Anil Kapoor. Why would a TV presenter so crassly put down a young fresh faced kid who most of his audience is rooting for? I have seen Amitabh Bachchan unbending to barbers from Bombay and teachers from Delhi. And the audience snickering whenever AK sneers Chaiwallah is quite unbelievable.

I wish the movie makers had developed the plot (a very good one, to give Mr. Swarup his due) better. For starters let Jamal's character have been someone more credible and less saleable. A more hard-bitten face with harsher lines would have worked better in increasing our wonder at his knowing the answers and explained the presenter's skepticism. And then we could have seen that Jamal's cockiness (are you nervous?) was getting under the presenter's skin. The movie could have shown better how the anchor's attitude changes from benevolent to patronising to doubtful to skeptical to angry to rancorous.

Anyway all this is likely to have been lost on an international audience. How would it matter if the constable spoke Bambaiyya or no, or if Salim looked more in character than Jamal? Maybe the outlandish effects (shit covered kid), corny cracks (Mumtaz Mahal dying en route to the hospital to have a baby), a shocker (spooning the eyes out) and good music is enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great one! I loved the book, but the movie made me feel sick.