of autorickshaws, millionaires and freakonomics – part 1

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics has been asking some pertinent questions here and here.

As an Indian living in Mumbai, I need to weigh in on both these posts.

*********Potential Spoilers**********

What do I think of Slumdog Millionaire? I think its great. All in all, I really liked the movie. What struck me immediately after I finished watching was that it’s pretty much a hybrid of Hollywood and Bollywood filming aesthetics.

The portrayal of the slums is something that’s caused a good bit of controversy. As a mumbaiite for over 18 months, I can say thisĀ  much: it is real. In Mumbai, the portrayal of the slums is pretty accurate to real life, right down to the public ‘toilets’. Therein lies the problem. Mainstream bollywood typically deals in escapism. Bollywood deals with exotic locales, fast cars, mansions, and fresh-faced and well-dressed actors. of both sexes. Bollywood deals in weak plotlines with a lot of laughs and really really happy endings. So I’m not surprised the depiction of the slums is slightly too big a dose of realism for the stereotyped bollywood audience.

The story itself, is a classic bollywood line. The only thing more cliched in the industry than forbidden love that ends happily ever after is a forbidden love triangle that ends happily ever after. As Dubner rightly mentioned, it does feel forced and predictable in parts and wallows in excessive melodrama. That it wasn’t an out-an-out bollywood flick and did have some external influences did protect it from something overtly ridiculous like the protagonist driving a Ferrari at some point. While there’s nothing wrong with such a plot and is justifiably popular with the indian populace who watch movies for ‘time-pass’, I’m not surprised that there are people who don’t like the plot.

So to whip out my stereotyping brush and paint in broad strokes, there’s a demographic who probably prefer the greater realism of hollywood and liked the depictions itself and were rather underwhelmed by the plot and another demographic who resented the hard gritty depictions of Mumbai but loved the warm, fuzzy feel-good plot.

Me? I hope like a lot of other people, fall somewhere in the middle.

*****End Spoilers*****

I’ll post my thoughts on Dubner’s other question a little later. Probably during lunch.