What To Drink While Watching Slumdog Millionaire

Is that your final answer?

Is that your final answer?

 

A few months ago, Heen posted a blog about a séance he attended in which he managed to communicate with our ex-neighbour’s dog. It’s here, in case you overlooked it: https://zaragozatwins.wordpress.com/2008/11/08/the-curious-incident-of-the-president-in-the-night-time What he didn’t mention was that a few months earlier, I went to see the same medium, David Franco. I didn’t go for any particular reason; I wasn’t looking for anybody or trying to solve any specific mystery, which is what people usually do in American TV series, no, I’d just heard about this guy and thought I’d have a shot.

 

Mr Franco welcomed me into his apartment, which is much like the place Heen described, except that we were alone. I sat at his grubby table and somehow he put me in a kind of trance. I say “somehow” because, to be quite honest, I don’t remember how he did it. There was no pendulum, no counting backwards from ten or anything of the kind. I remember blacking out, or rather greying out, because I know that I was always at least semi-conscious. Mr Franco managed to haul me back to another life I’d had, I life I never knew I had, a life that I was in fact living at the same time that I was living my childhood in a middle-class Zaragozan neighbourhood. I became a parallel me, a Sheen that lived in Dharavi, the most famous slum of Bombay. My name was Supriya and I had the same age as I would have had as Sheen, around ten years old. Needless to say, I had a twin brother, Harshad, but my memories are too vague for me recall if he shared any similarities with Heen. He and I were obviously darker and scruffier than Heen and I, and we spoke several languages: Marathi, Hindi and another that I can’t place but it might have been Malayalam.   

 

I don’t remember any parents. Adults were indistinguishable and interchangeable, usually hostile but occasionally kind-hearted. Harshad and I were always exhausted and hungry but not particularly ill or unhappy. I’m not sure about how we actually lived – there seemed to be no school or work or anything, we just ran about, eating scraps, playing, shouting, collapsing anywhere to sleep for a while.

 

Although the séance lasted only about an hour, I felt I was in Bombay for several days. And I should point out at this point that we called it Bombay, not Mumbai. In my dream-like state I saw the word “Bombay” written down a few times in English, but I think I-as-Supriya wasn’t aware of what it meant.

 

When I came out of my séance, I realised that Supriya and Harshad were still there in Bombay and that I had sort of paid a visit to my other self. I have occasionally wondered about going to Bombay to look for them/us, but it’s a bit disturbing, actually; I’d feel like I were messing about with the cosmic order, if you se what I mean.

 

Anyway, when I heard of the film “Slumdog Millionaire”, I had to see it, for obvious reasons. The slums that appear in the film are never referred to as Dharavi, but I think the general consensus is that director Danny Boyle did base his slum on Dharavi, in the same way as Rohinton Mistry never actually names Bombay in “A Fine Balance” (one of all-time favourite books, by the way; definitely the best book set in India I’ve ever read) but it’s clear he’s writing about Bombay.

 

The kids in the film are very different to Supriya and Harshad. Superficially, the biggest difference is that the characters in Slumdog Millionaire are Muslim, while Supriya and her brother are Hindu, but the main real difference is that Jamal, his brother Salim and their friend Latika seem to share very few happy quiet moments even though they have a mother, a house, school, etc.

 

Personally, I didn’t like the film much. I thought it was overloaded with clichés. I must confess that I’ve never been to Bombay (I mean, as Sheen), but Danny Boyle’s city is populated with crudely-painted pastiche figures when compared with Rohinton Mistry’s deft characterisation, or the rich subtlety deployed by John Irving in “A Son of the Circus”, not to mention Salman Rushdie, who is another league, nay, galaxy. Layer upon layer of stereotypes just annoyed me: the Taj Mahal tourists being ripped off by the crafty urchins, the beggar children being blinded, the chai-wallah and the prostitutes, cruel policemen, bla bla bla, seen it all before, thank you.

 

The tea boy wins a TV quiz show, becomes a millionaire and gets the girl. Brilliant. And this film won Oscars and stuff? Oh dear, oh dear. If you want to see a good film set in Bombay, watch “The Perfect Murder” by Zafar Hai (not to be confused with “A Perfect Murder” with Gwyneth Paltrow, by the way).

 

“Slumdog” has to be watched drinking tea, doesn’t it. Preferably a Lipton’s tea bag, in a glass, with evaporated milk and too much sugar.

 

At least, that’s the obvious choice. You could enhance things by going for Bombay gin. But, to be quite honest, whatever you drink, it isn’t going to improve the film. Pity, because I was looking forward to it, but that’s the way the chapati crumbles.  

 

More:

 

Rohinton Mistry’s masterpiece:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Fine_Balance

 

A Son of the Circus:

http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/irvingj/circus.htm

 

The Perfect Murder:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0176016

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ritu on March 7, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    You just don’t get it, do you. It’s a FEEL GOOD movie. You twins are too analytical. Stop tearing films to bits and just sit back and enjoy!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Canonball99 on March 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I am confused. The Somantana Monkey? WTF? Who are all these people on your blog? Who are you? Why can’t you be more normal? You give me a headache.

    Reply

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