Monday, March 09, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Do not watch Slumdog Millionaire unless you are prepared to be
Appalled by the cruelty dished out casually
Outraged by the social injustice that is part of life
Saddened by daily tragedies and
Exhausted after an emotional rollercoaster ride.

There isn’t a moment of respite for the audience, the story lurches from one tragedy to another. I watched the movie with my eyes shut half the time, and my mouth wide open in one long silent scream.

A destitute, illiterate boy enters the greatest game show in his world, and by astonishing chance, happens to know all the answers asked. How did this boy, he who cannot read, come to know answers that eluded even lawyers and doctors? As the drama unfolds, it emerges that he never went to school, and each nugget of information, trivia to the rest of us, is accidentally discovered through the various tragedies n his life. They are lessons dearly paid for with blood and tears.

It is heartbreaking, not uplifting, to see the resilience exhibited. People don’t simply roll over and die. Even children can become impervious to pain, and find ways to make a living for themselves. So Jamal and his brother became expert at fleecing and stealing from tourists. In a acidly ironic moment, Jamal tells the American tourists, ‘You want to see the real India? This is real India.’ It is not Taj Mahal or exotic festivals.

It gives me some relief to see the obligatory final song and dance because it is a reminder that we are just watching a movie. Yet at the same time, this is the depressing truth - that Jamal and his sweetheart find salvation because they are fiction. The slums are still there, though we leave them behind in the theatre. So why should we feel any more virtuous just because we watched a movie with more depth than usual?

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