mercredi 25 février 2009

And the oscar goes to...

Slumdog Millionaire for best picture! I could have bet money that the Oscar voters would go for Slumdog Millionaire and its 8 Oscar awards prove it. Its got all the elements going for it--not quite a big Hollywood film, a feel good storyline (perfect for these depressing times) that has a plausibly happy ending and actors who charm the audience with the naturalness of their acting. More than that, it has the relevant social commentary that is crucial for a film to be taken seriously. Director Danny Boyle has succeeded in capturing an India that is reflective of the leaps and bounds it has taken to modernize itself while showing the price of such modernization. It is a pretty good film and quite enjoyable. It is even quite touching. Perhaps because I could well imagine this movie as being set in Manila where people will turn out in huge numbers to root for the underdog winning big just like the folks who turned out to cheer for Jamal.

That said, the film should be enjoyed independently of the book on which it was based. As with a number of other film adaptations, the film has taken the barest premise of the book and structured it in such a way to make a coherent film that stands well on its own and away from the original, so to speak.

In Q and A, the novel by Vikas Swarup which was the basis of the film, Ram Mohammad Thomas is in jail for having won 1 billion rupees in Who Will Win a Billion. Unlike the movie, he is rescued from the police's tender ministrations thanks to a lawyer who asks for his life story in order to save him from criminal charges. Thus begins Ram’s Scheherazade like telling of his life, whose twists and turns fortuitously give him the answers to the various questions. There is a chapter with an Australian family which gives Ram the reason to learn the term "persona non grata" (very crucial question in the contest) and another chapter set in Agra where Ram meets the love of his life, a kind hearted prostitute who yearns to escape her squalid life. Like Scheherazade's tale, Q and A's plot requires a suspension of belief. The story is not quite believable but it is an engaging one. Swarup manages to capture an India that demands to be seen and heard. The book's biggest achievement is to paint a portrait of modern India with all its squalor and filth but also the vibrancy and grit of its inhabitants. More importantly, he has written this story with genuine humor and sympathy for those whose lot in life is most unfortunate. When the appropriate happy ending does come, we don't begrude Ram. After all, don't we all want a happy ever after?

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