Well, after a long and intense anticipation, we've seen it. And unfortunately, PPCC readers, we've decided not to review it yet.
We'll give it a good, thoughtful analysis in the next few months - after the DVD comes out - when we can wind down from the hype and the instant legend-ness and the "miracle of film" and give it a cold, calculated study. Right now, we don't think there'd be much merit to adding our own little voice to the cacophony of praise this film is earning. This thing is a phenomenon. Out of 101 reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, 93 have been positive. Our gurus, the critics at the New York Times call it "a gaudy, gorgeous rush of color, sound and motion." America's Famousest Movie Critic, Roger Ebert, has been similarly swept away and predicts its nomination for a Best Picture Academy Award. Now, loyal PPCC readers know that the PPCC tends to toss around the words "sublime" and "transcendental" a lot, perhaps unintentionally undermining their potency. But when a man like Ebert, who watches more films in a year than most people do in a lifetime, calls it "miraculous", a film that "achieves its immediate goals and keeps climbing toward a higher summit," you know that you've got to be talking about something pretty frickin' special.
So with all this momentum, this force, this amazingness, this "behold what the heavens have sent us!", holy moly, what could we possibly say?
Instead of reviewing Slumdog Millionaire (which, in a nutshell, deserves all its praise - even the hyperbolic kind), we'll answer a question Beth, one of our sabse acche blogger colleagues, posed on our Yuvvraaj review:
PPCC, I think you need to do a post on how you have all this pyaar to go around to all your favorite heroes. E.g. what is the source of the infinite pyaar? How is it nourished? Is it possible for it to diminish? Is there a kryptonite that can ruin it? Etc.
"Pyaar" meaning "love" for our less-Hindi-inclined readers.
Beth is talking about our newest admiration for Anil Kapoor, who, like Slumdog Millionaire and Meatlof, has appeared on our radar like a bat out of hell. And, like Slumdog Millionaire, Anil represents a lot. But first, the pyaar:
The buzz has been building around this guy for a long while. He caught our eye during Welcome and Tashan, but we had mostly relegated him to a B-list commercial actor. Hence our delighted surprise when the news started coming in - he reads Oliver Sacks! he's going to be in a Danny Boyle-directed film! apparently he kicks ass! We went in to see Yuvvraaj highly curious and came out in a flush of enthusiasm. Since then we've undergone a mega-hardcore indoctrination of Anil Kapoor that resembles in intensity the famous PPCC Falls In Love With Franz Ferdinand Event of 2004 or the PPCC OMG Arcade Fire Has Released Their Second Album And I Think The Earth Just Moved Event of 2007 - periods when, after discovering something new and amazing, we went through an intense period of eating, drinking, breathing, sleeping and absorbing only that thing, usually lasting around 10 days. We still have our Franz Ferdinand t-shirt, PJs and underwear (yes, really). And we love these flashes of enthusiasm that happen when discovering a new artist; it flushes out your brain, big time. It enlightens you.
We honestly don't understand what it is about Anil that makes us so enthusiastic. But we haven't been so immediately enthusiastic about any of our other heroes: Naseeruddin Shah, Shah Rukh Khan, Om Puri, our beloved Shashi Kapoor. We think it has something to do with the fact that Anil Kapoor seems to have something one-up on all of them. For example: we think Om Puri thrived the most as an actor in his British-Asian comedy-dramas (My Son the Fanatic, East is East, White Teeth) - he suits that genre and that character-type perfectly. But he never really made a blip in the mainstream Bollywood films we had seen him in, and he was often outshone by Naseer in the local Indian arthouse fare (e.g. Aakrosh). Similarly, Naseeruddin Shah's best roles were found in the Parallel Cinema he would eventually dismiss as constrictive: Sparsh, Chakra, Mandi. His attempts to mainstreamify himself - Hero Hiralal, Naajayaz - were OK, but unremarkable.
Our beloved Shashi - as commenter Eliza Bennet is always quick to point out - was not the best actor in the world. He may have had noble aspirations to more Raj Kapoor-esque heights of "serious theatre acting", but the fact remains that he did his best work - the work we love him for and he's most remembered for - in the 70s masala movies he churned out economy-size to pay the bills. He may have loved theatre, but his charisma (and good looks!) definitely outweighed his technical talent as an actor. Watch him in Junoon or Vijeta or Kalyug - all three ostensibly serious, art films meant to display his acting chops; yet all three left us feeling unsatisfied. Man, other actors could have been better (but none prettier!). Meanwhile, older brother Raj Kapoor could achieve heights of transcendental performance unseen in any other Indian actor - getting to the dizzying heights of Toshiro Mifune (our all-time favorite actor and the best in the world, wethinks). Awaara, Teesri Kasam, Chori Chori... these are films where Raj's powers are most evident. Yet, as so many of you are well-aware, his was a very lopsided talent. It could tumble too easily into self-indulgence and gratuitousness (and what was up with the constant objectification?!).
So what's so exciting about Anil Kapoor is that he seems like he's more than the sum of all these parts. He's delivered remarkable performances in so many films - remarkable because they're charismatic, earthy and intelligent - and it seems like context has nothing to do with it. The movie can totally suck, but Anil somehow manages not only to not-suck, but to kick ass! The movie can be something offbeat, something terribly mainstream, a zany cult classic - whatever - it's all good, all the time. He's delivered performances on the par with Raj Kapoor in terms of nuance and emotional realism, and he seems - so far - to be much more consistent. When we've gone digging for past reviews of his work, even films where he was a tangential character, the reviewer almost always makes a note of mentioning how good that Anil Kapoor guy was. What's even more exciting is that all this great talent comes in such a seemingly sleazy Pran-like "fabulously creepy" package: porn star moustache, used car salesman vibe, a penchant for appearing in trashy comedies that pander to the lowest common denominator. Gosh, he makes us proud of the trash, so condescendingly dismissed by Western audiences especially - because look what talents it hides! And we're infinitely curious about what was it about Virasat and Taal, the films Danny Boyle apparently watched, which convinced him to bypass all the "standard" exportable Indian actors - Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irrfan Khan (well, OK, he is in the film - but his part is relatively limited) - and the "standard" Indian mega-stars - Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan - and instead go for... Anil Kapoor?! The moustache guy?!
OK, that was a very long tangent about Anil Kapoor and how he fits into our infinite ocean of Hindi film pyaar. Consider your question answered, Beth.
Now, what can we say about Anil and about Slumdog Millionaire? We have felt an instant and intense attraction to both, because of what they represent and what they've finally done. In our small-scale niche of a "non-Indian blogger of Indian films" way, we feel proud. We're proud that a film has been made about India by a non-Indian... and Indians feel it well-represents their country. We're proud that a composer like A.R. Rahman is given the chance to have his music heard and appreciated worldwide. We're proud that Anil Kapoor, used car salesman and honest worker bee of Hindi cinema, has suddenly been catapulted along with the film towards legendary status.
People have been saying this film is steaming towards legend-ness like Little Miss Sunshine or Juno - but we think it's even better and bigger than that. Those two films are insular, inward-looking films of a particular genre (the American indie film) whereas Slumdog Millionaire is a literally global effort, concerning and destroying "foreignness" in cinema and using one of our favorite places - the maximum city herself - to do it. Vah! Vah! Vah!