Channel 4’s India Winter

Channel 4’s short India Winter season kicks tomorrow with Brit ‘Bollywood’ flick Slumdog Millionaire.

The season’s content is very much Slumdog-themed, with an episode of The Secret Millionaire alongside programmes on Gordon Ramsey’s cookery and Kevin McCloud on learning from the Devanari slums. There’s even a Shah Rukh Khan-hosted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? from a couple of years ago.

Teaser clips for some of the programmes are available on 4OD’s YouTube channel, including (more promisingly) Kristnan Guru-Murthy on terrorism and poverty in India, as well as the country’s rising superpower status, for a news special.

Sadly the season does seem to be fairly light on films. There’s the excellent Rang de Basanti staring Amir Khan, which follows Slumdog Millionaire, but it looks like the only film we get is the Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om. I’ve yet to see it, so it’s certainly welome, but a sham there aren’t more.

Several readers have found their way to my blog looking for more information on the soundtrack to Channel 4’s adverts for India Winter (thank you WordPress stats).

So, the song used in the above clip is O … Saya, featuring MIA and the first track on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack.

There’s another trailer more focused just on that film that uses the Florence + The Machine track Dog Days Are Over, which is from her debut album Lungs and you can watch the promotional video here.

Ironically I got Slumdog Millionaire on DVD for Christmas and really enjoyed (the irony being the timing of the gift rather than my enjoyment.)

It’s quite some way from being a Bollywood film, though it certainly seemed positioned as one on release last year. Instead, it is nearer in feel, though with quite different subject material, to director Danny Boyle’s  1996 film Trainspotting and very watchable with it.

The film weaves backstory with kinetic pace around a former slum resident who competes on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

A minor point, but one thing I particularly liked, was the non-traditional presentation of the Hindi subtitles that appear in the first part of the film. Breaking into the main portion of the screen, the colourful lettering almost convinced me I wasn’t watching a film that was, partially at least, in a foreign language.

More seriously the poverty, the children’s treatment and where it led them as they grew up was pretty shocking.

I remember the controversy in India at the time of the film’s release, with some reviewers adamant a foreign director shouldn’t be showing the horrors of the Mumbai slums. (I remember too my parents-in-law making sure they watched it before their trip to India last year so as to be able to join in the inevitable conversations about the film.)

Maybe it was just that issue the reviewers had a problem with, or maybe it was the film’s subsequent success (Oscars and all). It’s not as if traditional Bollywood films haven’t dealt with the harsher sides to life, though I struggle to name one as unflinching at Slumdog Millionaire.

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