Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Slumdog evolutions

There's a rare co-director credit on Slumdog Millionaire that not only attests to filmmaker Danny Boyle's generosity, but to the invaluable assistance given to him on his exuberant rags-to-riches romantic epic by his Indian casting director, Loveleen Tandan.

"When we started, the script was originally in English, the whole script, and it wasn’t working," Boyle recalls. "We had these 7-year-olds, and they just couldn’t handle the English, and the only ones who could were middle-class kids who were very different, obviously, from all the slum kids.… And Loveleen said, `If you really want to make this work you’ve got to do it in Hindi,' and we all laughed, including her, because we’d raised the money and we had a deal and you’ve made agreements about how thick the accents will be and all this -- all the things that the distributors worry about.

"But we tried it anyway, and she was right.… So I rang up the studio and told them that the first third of the film was now going to be in Hindi, and a very difficult conversation was had. But again, it’s a good decision, and when you make good decisions, good things follow. Like the subtitles became exciting, because we thought lets try to make them interesting.... And because people get access to the realism of the kids, they just don’t care about the subtitles. Nobody comes out of the film saying well, `What about the subtitles?' They go, `Wow, those kids were good!'"

Boyle says that Tandan, who's now looking for a project of her own to helm, steered the young actors that play the hero Jamal, his brother, Salim, and the beautiful orphan girl Latika as children and teens. She would give them direction, explain plot points and serve as a liaison between Boyle and the novice Mumbai thespians. She also directed second unit and was integral to the production on many other levels, he says.

Structured as a series of seamless flashbacks -- with the 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel) being interrogated by the cops, suspected of cheating on the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? -- the film turns around the children's often frightening, violent, poverty-marred experiences. It's a heady mix of humor and hardship, romance and roiling adventure -- and it's easily one of the best pictures of 2009, an underdog that looks likely to be facing off against four more-pedigreed titles when the Oscar nominations are announced in January.


Anonymous giggles said...

I can imagine how nervous movie execs would be about subtitles.... "Ya mean I gotta READ at this movie?" Scares a lot of the general public away, for sure... but would most of the general public go see this kind of movie to begin with?? I will look forward to this one too. Your insdie info will help to appreciate the flick even more, I expect.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous giggles said...

Oh, wow!! What a great movie!! Well worth the subtitles that had to be read! One of the best of the year! Is there anywhere in the area that shows Bollywood movies regularly?

I was also wondering if you can help me with Wall-E... I got it for my kids for x-muss, having not seen it but hearing it from all you critic people that it is sooooooo good.... Not so much..... What am I not getting? I get the we're ruining our earth message.... I could not connect with the love affair of the robots.... What am I missing?!

10:22 AM  

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