Sunday, 5 July 2009
Slumdog millionaire, months late
The whole world's been buzzing about Danny Boyle's film Slumdog Millionaire, and I came to Anil Kapoor fandom long before the film's European release. The love affair started by seeing the film Taal, in which Kapoor plays the role of an opportunist mogul of Mumbai music business. He is extremely cynical and entertaining in the cynicism. I have not come across any other Indian actor or actress with similar scope for the ironic. He speaks straight to me without any cultural translations. I would love to find the female equivalent of AK, someone ruthlessly bitchy, who at the same time loves the people she's with (although she would never admit it).
Curiously enough, I didn't rush to see Slumdog during its Finnish première, but waited until early July. The whole event just seemed overcrowded. Didn't feel any pressure to be there. Funnily enough, the kids insisted. It seemed to belong to their repertoire of films to see, not mine. I succumbed.
I have seen too many films with AK as the crook, or the competing older groom, or the streetwise Indian professional - it would be difficult to imagine him in another kind of role. He is Indian secular urbanity embodied, I would find it difficult to view him in the role of a village patriarch, or a spiritual authority. He is the sleek urbanite with vicious manners, who often has to go through a fierce moral battle before coming to terms with the surrounding humanity.
I smuggled an underaged child to see the film. Nobody stopped us at the gates, though he was 5 years too young. I was first afraid it might be too rough for the kids to see, but it wasn't. So good it was I got myself a copy of the DVD at Heathrow during a conference trip, with a set of fan postcards included. Now I only miss the T-shirt, and I assume it also can be easily arranged. India is not lagging behind terribly in the commodification of film stars. I plan to travel there later this year. How many kgs of Bollywood materials will I bring along?
It was curious to see a film about Indian slum children that did not automatically envoke soppiness in the corner of the eye of a middle-aged European female (I almost always cry); the economy of emotions was more complex, and the film did also appeal to the spectator's analytical skills.
That kind of alienating effect is unusual when viewing Hollywood/Bollywood films of today. I expect to actually learn something from the film after a couple of rounds of more careful screening.