Posts Tagged ‘Bombay’

Reading Vikas Swarup’s Q&A/Slumdog Millionaire

March 30, 2009 2 comments

The more I read the more it hurts (and not in the good way), it’s one of those books. Let’s start with Vikas’ protagonist, Mr. Ram Mohammad Thomas. Firstly, wtf. I mean I know Swarup was probably trying to indiciate religious unity in his name, trying to make him the representative of all Bombay (what about the Parsis, Jains, Sikhs?) and whatnot but… really? Apart from his name, Swarup has chosen him to be his first person protagonist, a rather bad choice considering some of the language used in the book. For example:

I reflect on how good it is to have simple, uncomplicated ambitions, like shaking a film star’s hand.

This thought occurs to Ram during the first 1000Rs. chapter where he is supposedly a small boy living in a Bombay slum. The idea that a small boy, regardless of where he lives, can have meta-cognition of this level and be able to personally reflect to this degree suggests that he could be the next Tibetan Lama. I mean what kid of like 10 years old would be able to ‘reflect’ on ‘uncomplicated ambitions’. I don’t think so. And this is just *one* example where Swarup’s first person protagonist seems to have maturity and age (and vocabulary) far beyond his years.

Suddenly Salim looks up. ‘Do you think I could speak to her? Maybe I could persuade her to come back to Armaan. Tell her that it was a mistake. Tell her how sad and contrite he is.’

Speaking of vocabulary, Ram’s childhood friend Salim also appears to be blessed with an advanced lexicon. Even assuming that Swarup’s characters would speak in Hindi and Swarup would be pseudo-translating to fictional English, ‘contrite’? Lol. Who uses that word in general conversation, let alone a bloody kid?

I mean Swarup obviously has a decent understanding of Indian society, even its lower echelons, and Bombay (as evidenced by his recounting of how things in a police cell work, his characters’ preoccupation with the female film stars’ breasts and male film stars action sequences, cat calls at cinemas, etc.)… well good enough for me anyway, but his dialogue and prose is so spectacularly terrible that it makes me cringe. Rohinto Mistry this man is not.

And finally, the main plot point in the first 1000Rs. chapter, the idea that a film idol would don a false beard and come to a cinema screening his film to molest a pre-pubescent slum dweller (who by coincidence, idolises him) is so ridiculous that it makes me giggle (and pedophilia is not funny).  Now I see why Danny only ‘loosely’ based the film on this novel.

So far so bad, Vikas Swarup. I’m sure you’re an impeccable diplomat. But you suck at writing.


Is Bombay the new Tokyo?

January 17, 2009 4 comments

It feels like with all of this Slumdog Millionaire business dominating the papers and my google reader (perhaps this is more a reflection on the sort of feeds I subscribe to) that the film, its cast, its Golden Globe statues and everything to do with it are everywhere right now. There are also billboards, posters, etc (phew it’s not just me). Seems like a marketer’s wet dream really and why not? The film is obviously very different to the usual Hollywood fare. For starters, it’s made by a Scot, Danny Boyle, and although Danny (from Trainspotting, Shaun of the Dead fame), is certainly not an unknown in Hollywood/movie circles, he is no Spielberg. Neither are the film’s leads Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, Brad and Angelina… neither is AR Rahman John Williams (though arguably he could and should be).

And along with all of this reporting going on about Slumdog, the inevitable reporting about Bombay follows. We’ve been hearing all this talk about how Mumbai is Maximum City and how it’s so amazing and wonderful (y’all know I don’t disagree). The question I want to ask now is… is Bombay the new Tokyo? I remember back in the day (well I don’t really remember but I’m pretty sure this is how it sorta went down) when Orientalist Westerners developed a keen interest in Asia, Tokyo was the hip and happening place to go to, discover and revel in the exoticism of it all (like zomg wow check it out manz they are so different and they eat with sticks!) so now that Slumdog is everywhere and an entire generation of moviegoers is going to prepare to dive headlong into the slums of Bombay in search of love and excitement (I’m seeing slum package tours organised by Intrepid, God)… perhaps Bombay will be the new Tokyo. I do love Bombay but if they make a film starring Bill Murray going to Bombay and getting freaked out by chaiwallas and rickshaws I may have to vomit.

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