Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Hype and marketing success called Slumdog Millionaire

I finally watched "Slumdog Millionaire" yesterday and I am wondering how a movie as this is finally going to win multiple Oscars having taken both public and jury for a ride. Worst of all it may even win Best Picture. Imagine a movie as "Slumdog Millionaire" being in the same league as "Gandhi", "Titanic", "The Lord of the Rings", "Saving Private Ryan" and the host of other great Best Picture winners. Instead if it is going be snubbed by the Academy that would be justice to this mass-hype and marketing gimmick called "Slumdog Millionaire".

So how come the hype:

1. Catchy words - "Slumdog Millionaire", the first steps of good marketing, a catchy movie name. "Silence of the Lambs" is a good example. Considering the global recession a story as this is certainly a welcome break for the times. Reminds me of reports of how during the days of "great depression" in the U.S people would go and watch plays showing men and women coming out of their poverty and earning wealth. It was a way of satisfying themselves in the hard times. The rags to riches story of "Slumdog Millionaire" and its name could have been one such choice that the makers of the film made.

2. Nothing big about the story. Protagonist from extreme poor background winning a game of millions against all odds and emerging victorious in the end was anybody's guess. But what was ridiculously coincidental was the wild chances of every question being strongly associated with events in the main character's life. In the news it has already been reported that one of the Questions in the movie as to who sang "..Ganshyam.." does not actually have the right answer as shown in the movie.

3. Exaggerated visuals - a. The shit scene where the boy dives into the shit-pool was too much to take, though most of it is true. Where is the good side of developing India? There are homeless people, dirty people and things so bad and dirty in the U.S and other developed nations but how many Americans are showing these in Hollywood movies?

b) Children living atop train-tops by climbing on them using ropes? And again children doing trapeze-acts from these rooftops like dangling from a rope to steal food from the windows of passengers below? These are the concocted stuff of the directors/story tellers from the west about India. Having travelled a good portion of my life in trains in India and even witnessed all kinds of untoward events including a suicide, chain-pulling (to stop train), and almost a burglary and a watch-snatching, these things being shown in "Slumdog Millionaire" is pure crap. Like the famous rope-trick from India many of these things from India are nothing but myths made by people in the west.

It is not that the director was trying to capitalize on showing the scenes of poverty, squalor, dirt and the poor living conditions of this country but why exaggerate them for visual appeal instead of showing just the truth.

4. And where is the music man? A.R Rahman is great but the music of "Slumdog" hardly makes an impression considering his other works be that songs or scores.

5. Hindi or English? Either the movie could have been entirely in Hindi (in which case it would qualify for the Foreign Language category only) or in English. Starting in Hindi and then the kids suddenly speaking English and that too as guides in and around Taj Mahal was too much to take. And then dialogues about Mumtaz, Shah Jehan's wife, pregnant, died in a Traffic Jam etc was outrageously silly.

6. And finally I am not sure about the other movies running for this year's Oscar awards. Didn't any of the rest offer any competition. I must see them to compare with "Slumdog Millionaire".

Among the good things I liked were the photography and the other (and I wonder if all viewers got it) was the fact that besides all what happens (physically/emotionally) your love for someone is what matters and will endure all adversities.

In the end, "Slumdog Millionaire" is good for India, winning awards all over the world, giving up and rising stars like Freida Pinto and Dev Patel big breaks although it does keep India as a poverty stricken, dirty country in the minds of many viewers in the west and outside India who know little of India.

So is "Slumdog Millionaire" worth all this hype, awards and lauding? Certainly not.

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