Slumdog Millionaire Music review : Outsourcing the revolution.

Danny Boyle’s new film Slumdog millionaire is made in Mumbai on the sets of the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Based on a novel by Vikas Swarup, the film takes us through the life of a tea delivery boy at a call center,  that lives in the slums of Mumbai, and somehow mysteriously, gets all the answers to the show’s questions. The story is about how he knows so much.

An Acceptable premise to hang a narrative on. The neorealist possibilities of the story are tremendous if somewhat wasted on the unfamiliarity of boyle  for the subject and its context. The film seems to one like an uncreative rehash of a 2001 Dev Benegal film “Split wide open” complete with its Mahim Dharavi slum visuals and man boy lover Dickensian bad guys, in Modern Mumbai.

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle ,famous for his 1996 punk revival piece  Trainspotting has recently been something of a scattershot in terms of the themes he has handled. 28 Days Later , a 2002 Zombie revival film about a mind destroying epidemic sweeping the Island , explored the insecurities of a post Sep 11 Britain. It featured an edgy soundtrack (original music composed by John Murphy) Murphy’s frentic sound  never looked back on its wild ride which opened with Godspeed you ! Black emperor’s “East Hastings”. At that point it looked like boyle was setting the pace for a punk revival that Trainspotting adumbrated with it’s blend of disparate genres as Bizet’s Carmen and the music of Iggy pop and David Bowie, Lou reed , Elastica and Underworld

It seemed to articulate a coherent musical argument  as a truly cool film revival setting out the Muiscal raison d ‘itre for the British punk revolution of the early 80’s , Its sympathies, influences and offshoots, when the world had gone all Nirvana grunge in the last five.

And then it seemed the music died.


Millions was a fable about a little boy finding an Impossibly large amount of money, it featured John Murphy, the composer who did both Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, but the music was now a dreamlike classical and almost arabesque in it’s romantic innocence. The essential driving force behind the Punk revolution  is a call for a return to simplicity, But It would be a justifiable claim if one said the revolution was definitely anti romantic. Boyle and his composer could at this point,  be accused of selling out . There was no doubt that the quality of music was high but Danny started showing signs here , of the aging punk rocker midlife crisis.

Sunshine was a science fiction film, and featured the pop-techno group Underworld (Boyle and Murphy  had used them  earlier in Trainspotting) almost felt like classic rock and roll sound (GASP!!) with its cadences drawing from classical techno pop which to the people that lived the raves in the 80’s were almost an alternate Alan parsons project universe.

In Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle moves genres once more to A R Rahman’s Bollywood pop. The soundtrack features M.I.A , A British Srilankan Dancehall artist whose work is definitely the other , to Boyle’s earlier cultural influences, that makes us wonder which musical geography this  tourist (Boyle) will dabble in next…Japanese bubblegum pop? A R Rahman’s work in millionaire is authentic and  Bollywood classical , with is solid reliance on the synthesizer and movie soundtrack grammar colored with Indian tones and natural scales in orchestra.  The focus of the soundtrack is urban and the sound professional, like as if  a team of union composers were producing music for a HBO thriller Miniseries.

It seems that there is a conflict of motivations here. The Indian Music and film  crew is producing cross over showcases of professional work . Danny Boyle repeatedly finds himself (probably from not knowing any better)   needing to accept shorthands and clichés in scripting and musical phrasing. It’s difficult to produce Truly Insightful honest work when you need to rely constantly on your second unit for the truth (The Truth).

And ultimately , this is the letdown when you outsource the revolution. It just don’t feel real .


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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8 Responses to Slumdog Millionaire Music review : Outsourcing the revolution.

  1. Cynthia says:

    Thanks for the review. I just saw an article in the newpaper for this but didnt have time to read it.

  2. Shali says:

    Did you notice that there was an error in the movie? Surdas did not compose “Darshan do Ghanashyam” as the movie says. It was Narsi Bhagat and you cannot get mixed up between the two as they were centuries apart!

  3. rameshram says:

    im sure there are others too, but i dont expect boyle to know indian music. my quible was that the film didn’t deliver on what boyle knows best- the punk revival sound.

  4. Shali says:

    No, that’s why they hired Loveleen Tandan to help them catch those kinds of cultural mistakes.

  5. rameshram says:

    Well, I guess it was only a job for her, and not a revolution….where. as they say, is the passion?

  6. rameshram says:

    My point is, I guess, people can get facts wrong and still make an awesome movie, if they bring their passion into the filmmaking….Two out of ten in the indian audience would know that darshan do ghanshyam was not a surdas bhajan, but an Indian audience can easily make out that this is merely Music television work..

  7. satish says:

    Hello Shali,

    “Darshan Do Ghanshyam —” was written by Gopal Singh Nepali and NOT by Narsi Bhagat as it appears in many places.
    And, certainly not by Surdas. The movie had another mistake, most centuries were not made by Hobbs.

    All the same I thouroughly enjoyed the movie. Quite disturbing at times but realistic.


    If you want you can write to me directly at

  8. Qalandar says:

    Satish: the movie was correct on Hobbs. Jack Hobbs does indeed hold the record for the most FIRST-CLASS hundreds (197), which is what the question was. That record is unlikely to ever be broken, given that contemporary players simply do not play as many first-class matches (the record itself favors people who spend their lives playing first-class cricket in England as opposed to (e.g.) Australia, as far more matcher per season are played in the former)…

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