Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdogs unite: all you have to lose is your underdog lovability

I saw "Slumdog Millionaire" last night. I wasn't as clued in to what the movie was all about as I thought, which is often a good think when you wait as long as my wife and I do to see movies ($5 Buck Club), because, expectations (high ones) can often kill a movie. Anyway...

I was correct, this was a heavily Bollywood movie, the Bolly production number musical at the end in the train station was good. Not a single person in the theatre got up to leave.

I'm a bit old for this reference, but it seemed like an old Hollywood feel good movie, Capraesque perhaps?

This morning I was perusing the new Time mag (Yeah, I love reading old news...I think it is the pictures) and Danny Boyle, the filmaker responsible for "Slumdog" was the subject of the 10 quesitons feature of Time mag. You can read it here.

It is his answer to the first question that is the subject of my "counter:"

Are you surprised by the movie's reception? Armaan Uplekar WEST PALM BEACH,

Astonished--not just surprised--by the way it has been received, in America
especially. I think it's the core values of the film, the underdog who can come
out of nowhere and with nothing, and against all the odds he can succeed. And
it's a love story in the end, of course. I think all of us want to believe in
that story

Succeed? What does Mr. Boyle mean by success? The winner of 20 million rupees? That Jamal gets the girl, Latika, in the end? Jamal didn't even want the money, he somehow got on the the game show, so that Latika would see him. I wan't sure to pity this guy because of his obsession with her, or was this his sustaining force? Both, I suppose.

Either way, the "notice me Latika" or the money, Jamal's success was an ironic twist on his remarkable series of successes, if you care to define success as making it to adulthood in the squalid and dangerous conditions Jamal and Salim (and Latika) were born to.

Jamal succeeded in getting his prize autograph by jumping in a cesspool.

His quick feet kept him from having his brains bashed in more than once.

When the three of them are plucked from the dump to join the Artful Dodger's (Mamen's) criminal enterprise, Salim turns darkside to gain important insights into Mamen's operation and saves Jamal.

How many times did Jamal survive incredible odds? That the three of these kids survived at all is a success. And in the end, not to make too much of this feel good film, but the filmmaker opened the door here..."succeed"... but is Jamal and Latika likely to survive the gangster's rage at Jamal and Latika running out on him? Where do they go? Will 20 million rupees be enough for them to live happily ever after? Is the money enough to gain them respect in "respectable" society? I have no idea, but success is not what that film seems, to me, to be about. Rather, it is survival and the incredible indomitability of the human spirit. I think the film has more in common with Cool Hand Luke, than Horatio Alger.

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