We had an official date last night (woo-hoo)! The kids were cared for by the excellent Miss Paige while Mark and I went to a steakhouse to meet other parents who have kids with a little something extra (our local DSN Parent's Night Out). After grilling our own and stuffing ourselves mercilessly, we snuck off to the movies. Yes, I see the irony of eating red meat and then going to see a film set in India.
I cannot sing the praises of this movie enough to do it justice. Please see this film. Prior to going, all I knew was that it was set in Mumbai, had something to do with an impoverished man on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," and that it is taking the awards circuit by storm. Some have argued that they used every cliche in the book and have noted problems with language. In my opinion, these criticisms are hardly worth mentioning.
The cinematography is breathtaking. It's not a stretch to say you can almost feel the heat of the slums and smell the stench rising off of the garbage mountains. The beauty and life force of the people and vibrant colors of fabric being washed in fetid waters are set against a back drop of filth and violence. Extreme poverty and homelessness are depicted in a way that feels quite real but not exploitative in the way I tend to feel after catching a Save the Children infomercial. The characters that you instantly love (even if there is no way that you or I can relate to their situation) take us through; treachery, abuse and violence that is hard to watch, human trafficking, betrayal, disfigurement, putrid waters, chase scenes of children having fun and in other shots, running for their very lives.
Depicting the human condition on a grand scale, especially the aerial shots of the cramped tin roofed Dhavari hovels on fire after Muslims are beaten, burned, and killed during the Hindi-Muslim riots, is done in a way to ensure a hefty dose of liberal guilt without feeling like the audience is being voyeuristic. Amidst conditions that cannot be described as merely 'horrible,' a tale of survival, loyalty, hope, and star crossed love emerges.
It doesn't really matter if our hero wins the million dollars in the end. The people are shown en masse cheering on one of their own while huddled together around television sets in front of shops and the Taj Mahal. This happiness is dampened by the personal tragedy unfolding for the main characters which left me, and quite a few others in the audience, in tears mixed with anticipation, hope, joy, and sorrow. Finally, during the end credits, the cast gives us one last treat as they salute Bollywood.
Afterwards we rushed home to squeeze our kids, blown away by what we had just seen and felt. Can you tell that this film moved me?
In a word, Magnificent.