Friday, February 13, 2009

Movie Slumdogs

Once again I am struck by this rising to the surface of a shadowy battle; the clash of exports from the two great film-producing countries of the world, mediated by the old imperial master, Britain.
There are many good movies on Mumbai, classic like Anand or Kaagaz Ke Phool or Maqbool, but also the more urban-modern: Bombay, Company, Satya. All edgy in different ways, visually arresting, tugging at your emotions, musically vivid. And then, I recently saw Slumdog Millionaire and have watched its Dickensian appeal to the Western media, rising up in waves about the feel-good story of the underdog, the conceits, the pulsating music and truthful view of Mumbai like the Indians would never tell it, and the raw cinematography. The interviews with Dev Patel (where are you from really? London, really? You have never been to India??) and Freida Pinto (are you from India? Really? Sure you are not from Portugal?) and the excitement over Bollywood dancing over the ending credits.
Slumdog Millionaire? A decent Bollywood movie on a $13MM budget. Good production values. But great? Come on! Wake up. Watch a few really good Mumbai the other ones I mention above. And I am just talking about movies out of Mumbai. Don't get me started on Adoor and Ritwik and the other great movie makers that have suffered the fate of all subalterns. Danny Boyle vs. Guru Dutt vs. Mani Ratnam. Such sadness underlies one of the great loves of my life, and yet so much richness.

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