After twice standing in queues watching 'sold-out' signs go up in front of me, I finally was able to see Slumdog Millionaire last night. I loved it. The last time I soaked like this in a movie experience was probably Amazing Grace.
I soaked in the realism in its depiction of India.
From Amitabh-fever (which has there 30 years ago when I went to see Sholay with my friends) to the poverty and the crowds ... From hearing the Hindi (I reckon I understood every word, even the swearing) to the criminality of petty thieves and brutal big men ... From the putt-putts and the trains (although I don't remember mountains on the way from Mumbai to Agra) to the chai-wallah at the call centre ... From the passion for cricket (with Tendulkar being run-out for 99 in the background adding to the pathos) to the dhobis washing/drying clothes beside the Ganges ... From the Taj Mahal (can there be a more beautiful building in the world?) to those stupid tourists. It just goes on and on. I am amazed that so much of authentic India could fit into 2 hours without leaving the film in fragments. All so real and often so raw. I value every reminder of this lest I become too insulated from the serious suffering that so many in our world endure.
I soaked in the artfulness of the film.
Stitching the plot around the questions in the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? game show (which Amitabh hosted for many years) appealed to me. It pulled me through the story. I found myself wanting to 'turn the page'. It did mean that the plot became a little predictable. As soon as the cellphone was handed over you could see how the film was going to end! When so many plot-lines wallow in deception I liked the way a thoughtful truthfulness in the lead character was honoured. The way the story played my emotions was also masterful. One moment I would be seething with anger and then I would be having a chuckle about something.
But yes - as realistic as the images of India may have been, the plot-line was unrealistic at so many points. When all is said and done, it was impossibly hopeful. It is a movie afterall! I do not find this disconcerting. In fact I find the public's enduring appetite for an uplifting plot to be revealing. It speaks to me of the way God has planted eternity in the heart of every human being. There is this longing for something beautiful to be made out of our messy lives.
I soaked in the insights into contrasting worldviews.
I confess that I am no fan of the fatalism in the Hindu worldview. I find it gives no great incentive to change things. There can be this inertia that is accepting of the way things are. Throw into the mix talk of destiny and chance and the "it is written" by-line in this movie, suggesting that life's plot-line cannot be changed, and it is all so unsatisfying. Is the only hope for slumdogs a matter of mere chance? I find my mission heart being stirred. I much prefer the compassionate activism that provokes the Mother Theresas, the Paul and Margaret Brands, the host of missionaries-past (including my parents and my wife's parents and grandparents), and then those missionaries-present - particularly those thousands and thousands of Indians crossing cultures and learning languages, without leaving India, in an effort to make a difference where a difference is needed most because of their devotion to Jesus.I hope some of their stories will be told one day too.
Yep, I'll soak in Slumdog a few more times, but it will be soaking in Amazing Grace that inspires me with hope that the world can be changed and that I can play a small part in that change.