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January 23, 2009

About fate and hopes - the slumdog's journey

"Ratti Ratti Sachi Maine Jaan Gavayi Hai
Nach Nach Koylo Pe Raat Bitayi Hai
Akhiyon Ki Neend Maine Phoonko Se Uda Di
Neele Tare Se Maine Ungli Jalayi Hai"

'Jai Ho!' resonates in your ears long after the movie's credits end. Everybody loves an underdog win, but it's not only about the winning that makes the film special. The calm on Jamal's face, disguised in a smile, even as he is clueless about the answer to the 20-million-rupee question, is what makes Slumdog Millionaire a winner.

The 10 Oscar nominations announced today are making everyone in India feel proud. News as this one somehow manages to make our day. How? There is no individual gain but there is a greater sense of pride. Even if you haven't seen Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, you do not question, for a second, the authenticity of the characters. They are real - flesh and bones - somewhere near you. Their hopes, or as the film suggests, the lookout for their destiny is what keeps them going.

As the little Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) jigs out of sheer hope even as his fate is being decided in the most unfortunately way just a few feet away, you wonder if you need to take a lesson or two in life from Jamal. As Jamal grows up, resourceful, smart, observant, he beats any of the privileged us in the race of life. The story of Slumdog Millionaire could happen to anyone but not without possessing the characteristics of Jamal.

I do not know how Vikas Swarup has portrayed Jamal in his book, Q & A, but I love the screenplay by Simon Beaufoy. And this film has made me a fan of Danny Boyle. I watched some of his interviews and discussions with the British and American media and I was pleasantly surprised the way he talks about India. He talks about India like an India-loving Indian would do. He neither glamourises everything that is Indian nor does he see only the filth and the slums. He looks beyond the filth to see a sparkle. Like the kids who played the youngest characters of Jamal, Salim and Latika. Apparently, those lovely kids were picked up from Dharavi for the movie. You cannot do without loving little Jamal. The teens are portrayed by actors you may have seen elsewhere.

Slumdog Millionaire is not about Anil Kapoor, who the Indian media has been chasing incessantly since the time the movie got recognition. The movie is also not about Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto. The movie belongs to the three kids who play the youngest versions of the characters. Even when the characters grow up in the movie, the youngest faces refuse to go off your mind. Now that the movie has released in India, I hope the media talks about those kids, who are not only natural and brilliant actors but also charm you in a fascinating way. When little Jamal rushes to meet his hero, Amitabh Bachchan, covered in grime ('grime' is understating the brilliance in the scene. Look out for this scene!), you cannot but love the boy and admire him through the gaps between your fingers with which you are covering your eyes! The story is Jamal's but Salim (Azarrudin Mohammad Ismail)is no less a hero in his own way. As he grows up (Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Madhur Mittal), he is driven towards the underworld glamour, moving away from his brother. The cast of the film is apt. However, it is not in the grown-up characters that you see the film. You live the film through the kids. Slumdog Millionaire may not be revolutionary but it is definitely touching. It is hardly likely that you would walk out of the theatre unmoved.

Oh yes, you can see the talented Irfan Khan in a small role but this movie is not about him, though he does justice to the small piece of role he gets.

A R Rahman is his usual brilliant self. Like every Indian, I want him to bring in the Oscar. However, I hope that this recognition will open the world's eyes to the other brilliant work he has done. Oh, by the way, does 'Ringa Ringa' remind anyone of the infamous Choli song from Khalnayak, or is it just me?

Danny Boyle, in one of his discussions with the Philadelphia Film Society about the film and India, says, "You can't remain unaffected but not the way you imagine... you don't go there to have something confirmed on poverty and you don't go there to realize something. You go there to, kind of, unwind everything you have ever thought of that stuff... you got to embrace all the contradictions of India to even begin to, not even understand it but to kind of get benefit from it... you realize it when you are there... There's no way you can go there and not learn... you learn about yourself and the human spirit... about how meaningless life is and how wonderful life is at the same time." Danny sums up the movie in his impression about India. He says that within a span of ninety minutes, there is the blinding of a kid and then there is the song-and-dance sequence because both these instances are integral to reporting the facts in Mumbai.

Verdict: Learn from the smiles and the hopefulness of the characters. Don't miss the movie!

Jamal: Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (I am a fan!), Tanay Hemant Chheda (Like his acting!), Dev Patel
Salim: Azarrudin Mohammad Ismail (I am a fan!), Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Madhur Mittal
Latika: Rubina Ali (Love her innocence!), Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, Freida Pinto

Most of us would come out of the movie with a feel-good hangover, forgetting the torturous trials of life that several like Jamal, Salim and Latika go through everyday. Can we help? Yes, we can. Go through Shelly's post on the movie and check the links provided in it.

Here's another review I found myself hooked to: >Slumdog Millionaire: The Secret Is Out - Movie Review By An Indian

January 20, 2009

Koshish - an effort at making things better

Can one person bring about a revolution? History tells us that it takes only one person to lay the foundation of a revolution. Can I lay one? A revolution for what? For making the world a better place. Cliched as it may sound, the need for making the world a better place has always been there and will continue to be there. You and I may lead a comfortable life - which is not without constant cribs - but tend to ignore everything that goes around us. Complains are good as long as they are put into some kind of action. Will I also continue cribbing and not do anything? There is so much to do, where do I start and how? I need to spread awareness about what I propose to do, but before that I need to list down what I propose to do. So, what do I propose to do?
  • I want to make mornings better with less honking and less exchange of bitter words on the street.
  • I do not want to be unnecessarily rude to the person across the sales counter, the bus conductor, the auto driver, the dhobi, the doodhwala, the maid, the neighbour, or anyone of the numerous people I meet everyday.
  • I want to segregate everyday home garbage into biodegradable and non-biodegradable categories.
  • I want to reduce the usage of plastic and eventually stop it.
  • I want to save power and fuel.
  • I want to cut down on habits that contribute to pollution of any kind - air, water, sound etc.
  • I do not want to litter.
  • I want to stop wasting water.
  • I want to build trust in people.
There are numerous other things that do not come to mind immediately but have been in my thoughts for a while now. Can I start this, make others join, and contribute towards a better world? I am a bit confident and a bit unsure.

Everything needs marketing these days and so will this idea. But something tells me that along with like-minded people, I will be able to pull it through.

Koshish - that's what the effort will be called. People willing, it will flourish. Concrete ideas in the next post.