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Five things we learned from Slumdog Millionaire, ten years on


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Even before the film Slumdog Millionaire had released in India, it was creating a lot of buzz internationally. The film had already received good reviews, and due to the controversies it had been stirring back home - with its name, the representational issues, the actors playing the role of the host etc. - Indian audiences were eagerly waiting to watch it with a little more enthusiasm than any other national audience. 

Ten years, eight Oscars and seven BAFTA awards later, here are five things that the film gave us which are still etched in our memories.

1. The filmmaking lessons :  

The Indian film industry up until 2008 had been fairly straight forward in its technicalities. Most mainstream films were shot using mostly traditional methods of filmmaking - both for production and post production. In Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle shot several sequences in a slum in Mumbai with a small hand-held camera - some of them complex sequences such as a chase. Additionally, some sequences of the film were so well crafted through its edit cuts - for instance, the juxtaposition of the pat on the cheek that Jamal receives from the host of the show with the mighty slap that he receives during his interrogation. These details of filmmaking in the movie introduced a new field of play that filmmakers in India didn’t know they were competing with. 

2. The soundtrack : 

If there’s one thing that everyone who has watched the film has taken away with them - it definitely is the soundtrack. It is not even surprising to see this association because the creator of the track is the musical god A.R Rahman. For a lot of the Indian audience, his music is often among the list of memorable things from several of his movies that he has worked in. Cases in point include Bombay (1995), Rangeela (1995), Dil Se (1998), Taal (1999) etc. With Slumdog, he created the same magic - and apparently also managed to do it in only twenty days, and gave Jai Ho a permanent slot on our pick-me-up playlists. 

3. The sibling relationship : 

Traditionally in mainstream Bollywood films the relationship between siblings have been very standard in their trope - they are either good or evil. Slumdog however, provided a grey area in this depiction. Salim and Jamal, the two brothers in the film share a more realistic relationship than those depicted in another mainstream Bollywood movies. Salim’s character as an elder brother is particularly interesting, because he’s shown as both the elder brother who wants to take care of Jamal, and a child who wants to annoy him by locking him up! 

4. Anil Kapoor as a host : 

The Indian equivalent of Who Wants To Be  A Millionaire? is Kaun Banega Crorepati? Since the inception of the show in this country, it has been hosted by one man only i.e Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan holds a legendary status in Bollywood, and is the face of the show in India, along with being almost solely responsible for the success of the show in the country (which is currently running in its tenth season). Shah Rukh Khan, another extremely popular actor became the host of the show in its third season - and that did not go down well with either the audience or the makers of the show. However, Slumdog with Anil Kapoor as the host showed us that there could possibly be an alternative to both these faces - and probably, he’s the actual underdog in this case! 

5. The Stereotypes: 

Despite the brilliant entertaining factors, the filmmaking and the music, there were some parts  of the movie which were rightly critiqued. Some aspects of representation in the movie - for example the glorification of poverty and the life in slums in Mumbai, was a very stereotypical one. Even though the movie filled in a gap of representing the life in the poorer parts of the city on the reel, it wasn’t particularly done in the best possible way. Internationally, it reiterated a lot of stereotypes about life in India and the country at large - making it one of the things that the audiences remember from the movie even today. 

All of these factors contribute to Slumdog Millionaire, being a good mix of Bollywood and Hollywood elements and a movie that is worth remembering and rewatching years later - if not for anything else, but because it lends itself to a meaningful conversation at the end. 


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