Friday, February 6, 2009

My review of this film is mixed. In many ways the essence of the film is not truly revealed until the music video at the end when they run the credits. I liked the film, but concede it has a very limited audience. For me, the reviews of this film by American critics are very frustrating. It is the typical apologist guilt ridden bourgeois accolades. Now, my long term readers know I am a socialist at heart and reject American liberalism as a pathetic attempt to make amends for and salvage a system they know does not work.

This film must be viewed in the context of contrapuntal analysis. This link expounds on this concept, but in its simplest form, you are to focus not on the bigger story, but on the slum children (the people behind the story) and their existence and how they came about and where they are going. Edward Said who created this form of analysis was a Palestinian socialist who taught Comparative Literature at Columbia University. I tell people you have not read Rudyard Kipling until you have read his works through the eyes of the indigenous servants. It forever changes your view of Colonialism. Anyway I digress - I really want to teach a course on Rudyard Kipling through the eyes of Edward Said.

Back to the film - It is a love story which begins with three orphaned children - two brothers and a girl. During their early years you learn about a history of India I assume India just assume forget. It is brutal. It is important that you note their rejection of colonial literature. This is important because in the end Jamal (India) wins inspite of its rejection of colonial influences.

In hopes that the love of his life will see him Jamal Malik lands a spot on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." After the first night on the show he is arrested on suspicion of fraud. The story opens with the police torturing him to secure his confession. The police chief replays the show and for each question demands that Jamal explain how he knew the answer. With each answer the movie cuts to his life as a small boy to a young teenager. Each answer is found within a tragedy in his life.

You must view this film as a study in sociology. Otherwise, you will be bored to death. You must focus in on how each tragedy in his life brought him knowledge - knowledge which brings him to the point of being a millionaire. He is a reflection of India’s tragic past being a force for its massive economic jump forward. He is India - hence India’s hope and future. He represents slums which are now massive high-rises. He did not allow himself to become a victim of his past. He succeeded because of his past. His slum existence is what made him a success.

The music video at the end, while the credits run, reflect the tradition of Indian music and dance, while incorporating elements of Western culture. It is India accepting itself, while incorporating just a tad bit of Western influence. If you do not view this film through the eyes of India’s tragic past and poverty, you will miss what makes this film more than just another film. India’s current success does not come from the west and its colonial oppression of India, but from India’s endurance and own history independent of the colonial period. It is its destiny.
(Side note- gitano music has its origins in Punjab, India)

This is where the American critics fail the film. This film is not a feel good film of slum kid wins in the end. It is a film of India overcoming its colonial past and the oppression incident to that past. This film does not exist without the music video at the end.

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