Make way for the underdog

Slumdog Millionaire has been receiving praise and criticism. Danny Boyle, along with Freida Pinto and Dev Patel, on what the movie is all about...

“What do you call the space between two houses?” Dev Patel asks Freida Pinto, to which he himself replies, before she can get a word in, “Ali! Get it? Alley? Ali?” he goofs, to which Freida throws a playful punch at him, and he nearly falls into the swimming pool. Dev’s not your everyday musclebound hero, but it’s just what the doctor ordered for Danny Boyle, who was not, in his words, looking for the typical ‘hero-in-waiting’ for Slumdog Millionaire. A film that’s stirred up a real hornet’s nest among armchair critics about its portrayal of Mumbai.

The three of them are at the JW Marriott and in an “oasis of calm” as Boyle puts it. “Hornet’s nest?” he says, taking a bite out of an enormous muffin. “Terrible things happen in London and New York. There are slums all over the world. I’m aware that a lot of people
have said a lot of nasty things about the film but the difference here is that there’s a great humanity in this film. Everybody loves the underdog. It’s a soft spot anyways for everybody. We all love the idea that a nobody can come right out of nowhere and make it. And of course, I loved doing it!”
For Freida, it’s a dream come true. “The six months of auditioning really helped me get into the actor mode. I’ve never acted before,” says this ex-Xavierite, continuing, “But the most challenging scene for me was the kitchen scene, where Danny told me that I have to say no with my words but say yes with my eyes to Dev’s character. That was a really tough thing to do, and I remember several times just getting frustrated with not getting the scene right.” But it all worked out quite okay in the end. This is all quite a
dream in a way for Dev, a kid from Harrow, UK. “When we were flying down to India together yesterday morning, we got upgraded to first class. And Dev was absolutely thrilled by that!” said Boyle, glancing at Patel, who was fiddling with getting the samosa knot of his tie the correct way. “Yeah it’s a whole lot different; Danny would keep telling me to act in such a way that the audience would be able to follow every emotion I was trying to convey. The Taj Mahal sequence was the toughest for me. When I tried that scene the first time, I went all over-the-top, and overacted. But then Danny showed me how to control myself. And measure out my emotions,” says Dev.
That’s exactly what these three will have to be doing in real life as well, as for the duration of their stay in India, they’re going to
have to deal with all sorts of questions about a film that has pretty much become the talk of the town. Danny realises that there are probably a lot of people who have already seen the film. To which he says, “Hey, this is the Maximum City right? Aaram se is my favourite expression here. But you know what? India is probably one of the few places where the film industry makes stars out of directors as well. And one of the few places where the name of the director is displayed real big on the posters!” he laughs.