Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review of Slumdog Millionaire

Sukhdev Sandhu calls it ‘a hugely important film in contemporary cinema.’ How do I take this film seriously, when in spite of all its merits, it fails utterly when it comes to female casting?

The reviewer Kevin Buist suggests that Danny Boyle couldn't decide whether to ask his actors to be realistic, or overly theatrical, as the film is a homage to Bollywood. It is one of those strange entities, a realistic homage to Bollywood. So I can take it for what it is, enjoy the film, and then dismiss it from my mind. But the thing is, this film is being compared to Charles Dickens novels, and as being in the cusp between art and commerce. So people are taking this film seriously. So I’ve to say, I’m sorry, but would you sit up and take notice of the women? I mean, really look at them, and look at the men.

The entire male cast look realistic. Not one of them could be mistaken for Tom Cruise or Amitabh Bacchan (expect maybe the guy who plays the Beggarmaster). But the female actors? Jamal’s slum-mother looks like she walked off from the cover of a fashion magazine. Well-shaped eyebrows, ethereal beauty and slim frame (which looks achieved by diet, rather than lack of nutrition). Hey, whatdyaknow, she looks like some fashion model turned actor. Jamal’s girlfriend, the slum-girl who becomes a teenage prostitute? She could be the twin of the woman who plays the mother, if the length of their pouts and silkiness of skin are to go by. And their similarity of features, I’m sure, has not occured because of the Oedipal reading the director wants critics to do from the text of the film.

I’m not taking issue with the utter passivity of the female roles in this film. I acknowledge that this is a male-film made in a male-world by men. But this is the west, and we do not live in a pre-feminist world like most of India does, so hey Danny Boyle and gang, please pull your socks up and pay attention. I cannot take the character of Latika seriously in the film because, she is a) a simpering, vapid siren who belongs on a catwalk and b) she has no agency.

I did say I wasn’t taking up the issue of female passivity, but really, I lied. The final scene where Jamal’s brother Salim completely goes out of character and urges Latika to run away, giving her his phone, and immolates himself in a bathtub full of money (!!), really, it was Latika who should have grabbed the car keys, kneed the mafia boss in the groin, and made off with Salim’s phone. Salim was born mean and selfish, and so he should have remained. And if Latika had shown even that little bit of spunk, I’d have forgiven her ethereal looks and general vapidness.

And no, I’m neither a lesbian nor too ugly to get the guys.


aandthirtyeights said...

Zeenat Aman in the original "Don", perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Truth be told, I took the movie with a pinch of salt. Like any Bollywood movie.