‘Slumdog Oscaraire’ - perfect blend of Indian exotica and brilliant cinema

February 23rd, 2009 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Slumdog MillionaireWashington, Feb 23 (IANS) After a breathless evening where it seemed that everything was indeed written, the combined toast of two filmmaking cultures, “Slumdog Millionaire”, swept the 81st Academy Awards, winning eight out of 10 Oscars.

The only awards it missed were for Best Sound Editing, which ended up going to Richard King for “The Dark Knight”, and the Best Song, which it lost to … itself.

So just what is it about this big-screen adaptation of Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup’s bestselling novel “Q&A” that has taken Hollywood by storm?

Is it sheer filmmaking brilliance, fascination with Indian exotica, or has India finally - one shudders to use the word - arrived?

It’s all three, actually.

Yes, “Slumdog” is a testament to the creative power of cinema. Music, editing, script, cinematography, sound - the basic building blocks of this art form - are all present and accounted for, and all unite in a kinetic and magical manner to transcend borders.

And yet, at its heart, “Slumdog” is not only a love story, as its makers have modestly been claiming. It is the age-old story of an underdog (who is incidentally a ’slumdog’) who triumphs in the face of all odds.

Poor boy makes good despite being pitted against criminals, false Samaritans, upper-class snobbery, police brutality, and yes, the accident of his own birth into circumstances not of his own choosing.

Is it realistic? Hell, no.

Does it work as cinema? Hell, yes.

For all the pointless shrieks about the film’s title and the focus on the squalor hidden behind every mall in every major city in the country, the film really does celebrate Mumbai and India.

If the film is guilty of stereotyping, then it is in fact guilty of the exotic stereotype - hence the presence of the Taj Mahal, India’s one greatest and near-ubiquitous symbol. (Snake charmers and elephants are thankfully absent.)

The critics can scream themselves hoarse about shameless, populist entertainment raking in awards while more austere and more ‘important’ films were overlooked, but you can’t blame the cast and crew of “Slumdog” for making a terrific piece of cinema.

If the sight of Danny Boyle leaping up and down on the Oscar stage to fulfil a long-forgotten promise made to his children didn’t make you smile, you probably won’t like the film either.

You can:

(A.) Love It.

(B.) Hate It.

(C.) Be lukewarm towards it.

(D.) Admit to yourself that it probably is written.

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