Tuesday, 9 June 2009

"Skaw me a smoke maw china" *

I think my claim to being a 90's-rock-loving musical dinosaur has finally crumbled to dust. I am not sure if this is a good or a bad thing or just a thing. Currently my ipod is filled basically with Bollywood jingles.

Yes, I am rocking out to "Jai Ho" from the
Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, and not that pseudo crappy Pussy Cat Dolls version. Pah. I mean the real one from the movie, the Oscar-winning Hindi version (with a hint of Spanish). Bailar bailar.

I admit this music is not my usual fare, but I loved the movie and ever since I saw it I have mysteriously started enjoying this song and others from the soundtrack.

So what did people think of the movie? I am interested to know. I loved it. I thought it was different and interesting and beautifully shot and entertaining in a way that few movies are these days. And I am not talking about what Hollywood movies define as "entertainment".

I have seen very few Hollywood films in the last few years that I have enjoyed. BFG and I love movies but we always end up resorting to foreign films because we just aren't into the Hollywood formulaic vibe at all. But that's just us.

I have heard two main areas of criticism aimed at
Slumdog Millionaire, both mostly by Indian people.

The first I do not agree with. This is the criticism that the movie did not do enough to raise social awareness of the terrible poverty in Mumbai slums. I studied a tiny bit of aesthetic theory, and when it comes to this argument I am very old fashioned.

Films are art. They are there to engage our imaginations, to entertain us, to be beautiful, and all of those other vague things that art does, that no one can really define. To me a really good film is beautiful, it feels whole and complete at the end, it is unusual and unpretentious.

If you set out to make a film to try and change the world, chances are you are going to make a crap film. A crap film will not help your cause. If you don't hook the audience so that they are utterly absorbed into your story, then they will come away with nothing and do nothing to help your cause.

I really feel that if you want to bring about social change, you should make a documentary. Of course some feature films do bring about social awareness, but this should be a side effect. I feel that if it is the main purpose then in most (but not all) cases the artistry will be lost, and with it a receptive audience.

Ever since the film has been out, the child actors, all of whom live in real Mumbai slums, have been in the English newspapers roughly every week. Two of the poor kids have had their houses flattened by Indian policemen. Danny Boyle, the director of the film, set up a fund to help them find new places to live.

I promise you that before the film, kids in Mumbai slums featured in the daily newspapers roughly never. I am not saying that the movie brought about some amazing miracle, but the awareness in England is definitely greater than before.

But this movie was intended to entertain us, that motive is clear. It is a far-fetched, imaginitive love story,like all good love stories are.

The second criticism is easier for me to accept, although I really need the opinions of Indian people here.

I have heard complaints that the movie is not nearly realistic enough, in fact it is far-fetched to the point of ridiculous. I cannot comment because I am not Indian and know nothing of daily life in India, but I must admit it was stretching my powers of belief when the kids miraculously learned English about a third of the way through the film, and then suddenly everything, including TV shows were in English.

It is a pity that the film was in English at all, it should have been entirely in Hindi. The English of course was to pander to us Westeners who are apparently too lazy to read. Personally I prefer watching a movie in the relevant language with subtitles any day.

For me the worst kind of film is that Hollywood film with the American star speaking in English with some ridiculous foreign accent, because I cannot even pretend to pay any attention to the story, I am too busy cringing at the abomination that is the accent. I have always had a thing about accents. I notice them before anything else.

Brad Pitt in "7 years in Tibet" is a good example. Lawd but that was painful, and I love Brad Pitt. Get a freaking Austrian if the movie is about an Austrian, and let the guy speak German instead of heavily accented English. Sorry Brad, but your rugged looks did nothing to rescue you in that one.

Sadly I know that an authentic Austrian movie would sell a fraction of what Brad Pitt sounding like a wally would sell.

But I for one will never grace a cinema with a movie featuring any Hollywoodised "Souff Effriken" EVER again. There is just no point. I cannot watch the actual movie. It can be a laugh, or sometimes it just makes me want to cry. But in no way am I able to follow the storyline.

Yes, the director of Slumdog is British, but at least
Slumdog has authentic Indian people from actual India (except ironically for the main character, played by Dev Patel, who is English), and when they speak English, at least their accents are real. We have to give the movie credit for that level of authenticity.

But I don't know, perhaps for an Indian person, watching
Slumdog Millionaire was like my experience of watching Blood Diamond.

Any Indian person out there? Or else, any opinionated person out there? I would love to know some opinions other than mine.

Personally I have watched the film twice, will happily watch it again, and as an aside,

JAI HO to you.

When in doubt, Jai some ho's. And then everything will be Jai Ho. Hohoho. Jai.

*I dunno. Too much for me to explain. Ask Leo.


Goblin said...

I hasn't watched it cos it's not really my cup of tea.

But everyone I know loved it?

Helen said...

I haven't seen it yet, but it is on my list... I'm also a fan of subttles where necessary - I REFUSE to watch the dubbed into English version of Pan's Labyrinth! but I'm one of very few of my friieds who wil even go to see a movie that isn't in English.

Quite sad really!

The scary thing is that several million people will watch any movie, regardless of how awful it may be, but to get people to watch a documentary (unless you were nearly a president and you make people want to discuss you at cocktail parties even if you couldn't even get the ocean currents right for the southern hemisphere) is harder than pulling teeth out of an elderly chicken...

LadyFi said...

I loved this film. Actually, I was pretty appalled by the filth and rubbish and cruelty of life that it showed in spite of its happy ending...

I'm not Indian but can't comment. However, as it is based on a book called Questions and Answers, I assume that the premise of the book is that this kid got onto the TV show.. so it's unfair to criticize the film for this...

As for it being in English - one benefit, as you say, is that it has raised awareness around the Western world at least about conditions in Indian slums.

And I totally love the Bollywood jingles. And the stunning heroine - too beautiful!

KaB said...

I loved that post...I loved that movie! It was awesome! I do agree re: your second criticism wasn't really a big deal in the greater scheme of things!

And I love, love, love that song!

Ches said...

Watching LeoDiCap do a Saffa accent was wierd. I also battle watching South African movies, other than Jock of the Bushveld...the old one.

Just finished watching Fight Club.

po said...

Goblin: What is your cup of tea? What's your favourite movie?

Jai ho.

Helen: Hehe, elderly chicken. So true.

Jai ho!

Ladyfi: I thought all of the actors were very good looking.

Jai Ho?

KaB: I loved it too.

Jaaaai Hooooo!

Ches: how you doing? You in too much pain, or is the morphine taking care of that? I loved Fight club, hated Blood Diamond.

Oh by the way, Jai Ho.

(cyber)sass said...

omg! i also fixate on accents - especially when foreigners try to do south african accents - and it's even more difficult when they do it well, cos then when they slip up it's all the more jarring!
i loved the movie, but yeah, i'm also a sucker for a sub-title.
i'm also loving the song - i was surprised to find the pussycats singing it, but i don't mind too much.

Anonymous said...

This depression is going to get a lot worse for most of us. Millions will go cold and hungry. It didn't have to be this way. Greed ruins everything. Its true. Ask any professor of economics.

"As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption; mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery. Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped."

Marriner Eccles, FDR's Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank - 1959

In other words, the first Great Depression was caused by greed. The rich couldn't settle for reasonable pay. They had to have more and more and more. That caused a shift in buying power from the majority to the rich. When the majority lost their buying power, they lost their ability to support the economy. Einstein said basically the same thing in 1949.

Its even worse now. Ordinary people havn't only lost their relative buying power. They have also lost their savings, home values, pensions, and benefits. Meanwhile, the rich have become super incredibly rich. The richest 500 Americans are worth about 2 trillion dollars. More than the bottom 40% of American housholds combined. The richest 1 percent are worth about 18 trillion dollars. More than the bottom 98% of American households combined. Thats just insane. I don't care how much work for humanity the rich claim to do. Its nothing but a cover for their own greed. We don't need anymore rich people to create jobs or make donations for charity. We need them to get reasonable about how much money and assets they keep for themselves.

Don't believe their excuse about paying more income taxes. They don't pay enough. For every tax the rich pay, they get an obscene profit, bailout, contract, or kickback from our government to cover it. We had a progressive tax system that worked for over 40 years after the first Great Depression. It prevented too much wealth from being concentrated. In 1976, the middle 80% owned about 2/3 of America's total wealth. Reagan lowered taxes for the rich. Bush lowered them again. Now, the richest 5% own about 2/3 of America's total wealth. The lower 95% own about 1/3. America's wealth has been transfered from poor to rich again. Now, we have another depression.

Don't believe it when the rich claim to be getting poorer. Property values have gone down for everyone. Thats because of the concentration of wealth and income. When the economy slows down, property values tank. So when rich people complain about lower net worth, its a trick. They still have the same buying power on average.

Too much wealth has already been taken away from the majority and concentrated into the private vaults of rich people. The same ones on TV telling us how much they want to help the world. Its a big lie. Just another way to promote their own names. Rich people don't want to help the world. They want to own it.

Now, the economy is ruined. Obama can't fix it because the rich won't let him. There will be no bailout for the people because the rich won't let it happen. They always want more. The same thing has been happening in other economies around the world. The world's rich have been getting richer. Now, we have a global recession. Its going to get a lot worse. It didn't have to be this way. Greed ruins everything.

Please copy and spread the word.

po said...

cybersass: glad to hear I am not the only one, but then you are a professional in these matters. I drive the BFG nuts obsessing about where an accent is from, even though half the time I have no clue and am making it up :)

Jai Mc Ho.

Anonymous: duuuuuuuuuuude. So what is it exactly you are proposing we do about this mess, apart from copying and pasting messages into blog comments?

Jai Ho dude, Jai Ho.

Goblin said...

I'm all about brain popcorn with no social or deep messages ;)

Fave movie explains it all: Die Hard.

I'm sorry :(

po said...

Goblin: don't be sorry I don't think Slumdog Millionaire was much more than brain popcorn in Hindi! I liked Die Hard too actually. Mostly cos I liked Bruce though.

Spear The Almighty said...

If you had the great honour of being my Facebook friend, you would notice under movies, I mentioned , "They don't make any good ones anymore."

I haven't seen a good Hollywood movie in ages. Entertaining, yes, but not really all that good.

I have been getting into watching independant films. Most are aweful because of low budgets but some are actually pretty good.

One of my favorite independant film makersm is Julian Smith. He also make short comedy skits. If you have time check out his stuff on Youtube.

Champagne Heathen said...

It's like a gateway drug... if you like it & appreciate that it isn't the "real deal", you'll just be led on to the 'better stuff'. So, even if it wasn't a great intrepretation of India (and some guys I know from India said it was), at least it is a good enough movie to hook you and make you want to know more about India... and so hopefully lead you to watch more "doccie type" movie!


EEbEE said...

I'm a South African Indian so it isn't likely that my views emulate those of a born Indian.
Still Slumdog Millionaire was the best movie I've seen in years. And it's important that I specify 'movie' all those idiots that criticize it for not accurately portraying real slum life in India need to undstand the point of movies. I totally agree with you Po.

As for the 'I'd rather watch it in Hindi with subtitles...' thing, I've seen a number of movies where I understood the spoken language and the subtitles. I feel that subtitles give you the main story but loose a lot of the smaller details and depth in a story. I'm glad they made Slumdog Millionaire an English movie so that these moments are captured and enjoyed by the masses... but that's just me.

(my other 2 cents, Pussycat dolls ruined 'Jai Ho' like Britney ruined 'I love rock & roll')

angel said...

I haven't seen it yet... I thought it was supposed to be far fetched- as the Bollywood movies are?

Anonymous said...

Great post Po! I totally agree on the subtitles, I thoroughly enjoy foreign films. I remember watching Life is Beautiful in Matric (which is one of my favourite films ever) and as I was sick for a couple of days, I missed the ending. I took out the film to see the end, and the video (haha remember those) first had the original Italian version with subtitles and then after that had the version dubbed into English. I switched it off after a few minutes - listening to the movie in bad Italian accented Englisg completely ruined the movie. I wonder how many people went straight to that version and thought the movie was crap.

As South African accents go, I actually thought Blood Diamond had some of the better ones I've heard (hearing Leo calling someone a doos was classic). And Ches, I think why the original Jock of the Bushveld was enjoyable was the fact that it actually had South Africans in it...

po said...

Spear: I don't find many Hollywood movies even entertaining, just boring. I don't mean to be a movie snob, but well, I am! Yeah, independent movies can be fun to watch.

Champagne heathen: this is true. Actually, after seeing that movie I started reading Shantaram, which I think gives an even better idea of what it is like to live in Mumbai.

The kids were in the newspaper again today, one has been given temporary housing until the fund buys him a house. I guess it is sad that it is just the actors that are benefitting from the world's focus, but it is better than nothing.

EEbEE: I am glad to hear I am not the only one with the opinion that movies are art. I have encountered this strange idea of movies as vehicles of social messages so often and it is destined to kill all creative inspiration.

As to the subtitles, I love listening to the language of the people rather than the English. But I have a thing for languages :)

Angel: hehe but this is not a Bollywood movie, honest!

quartercentury crisis: I agree with you, Leo'saccent was quite impressive, but it was still fake and my sensitive ears just cannot tolerateit for some reason. I am just toooo picky. Ah, yes, Jock was a South African movie, as I recall.

I really enjoyed Tsotsi, which had about two words of English the entire time. It made me feel like an alien to my own country, but it was cool!

Dora said...

About movies...try go see Sunshine Cleaning....saw it at a preview...must be one of my favourite movies now!