Which doesn't mean Slumdog Millionaire is less affecting compared to The Reader.
A friend told me last week that he had watched Slumdog and immediately felt bad because he know the film would create a splash at the Oscars. "Maiiwanan na naman tayo ng India" was his lament. I still had to watch Slumdog at that point, so I held back on the commentary.
I got to watch Slumdog Friday night and was promptly blown by the visual feast. I had one word for it: Kaleisdoscope that actually works. How the director, the cinematographer, the production designer, and the editor managed to produce a coherent piece from a material that always threatened to get out of hand was a feat that would be difficult to duplicate. The acting was uniformly affecting - the three actors that played Jamal's character were all brilliant. Someone should give Dev Patel an acting award.
What I really, really liked about the film was the very strong Indian flavor that permeated it, one could almost taste and smell India in the whole thing. It was colorful, frenetic, dazzling, chaotic, etc. Mumbai, the City, was a very strong presence in the film it probably deserved top billing as a character in the movie. I've never been to Mumbai (I hope I get to visit India again in this lifetime and actually get to Mumbai) but I felt a strong attachment to the city just by watching Slumdog. The only thing missing was a song-and-dance routine in the middle of the film (the director wisely placed it at the closing credits).
Slumdog works because it is Indian to the core. And this is what I've always been telling my friends: If we want to build a name for ourselves out there in the world, we must do so as Filipinos (shades of Kidlat Tahimik and Grace Nono) not as copycats of Whitney Houston and Beyonce.
And by the way, I just have something to say to the people who are picking on our local film industry for not having produced something in the league of Slumdog. Note that we did produce Himala, which was recently adjudged top viewer's pick as best Asian film. But Slumdog is one of about 300 films that Bollywood produces each year. Our film output is about 50 a year, and mostly indie films. Bollywood produces more films because they have a loyal audience that patronizes Indian films.
It's a chicken and egg situation, I know. I just want to point out that we too have a responsibility in the whole scheme of things. If we want our local film industry to produce great films, we have to support the industry by actually watching local films.