Tag Archives: Slum Dog Millionaire

Gotham Chopra: Danny Boyle on Storytelling

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to speak to Danny Boyle, the film-maker behind Slumdog Millionaire (neck and neck my favorite movie of the year with Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler –see them both right now!). What started as a conversation around Danny’s triumphant film set in the heart of Mumbai’s sprawling slums evolved into a meditation on the art of story-telling. I’m not going to jump the shark by saying too much. You can hear Danny in his own words here. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I have long been a believer that a single story can change the world. The story of poor carpenter from Bethlehem certainly is proof of that. In more modern times, we’ve watched (for better) the story of how a “half naked fakir” brought down the British Empire (Gandhi) and (for worse) the story of how a failed army corporal perpetrated the worst genocide in human history, each changing the course of our civilization. In our conversation, Danny says it well: “Storytelling is how we talk to each other. It shapes and gives architecture to conversations and circumstances.”

And yet, if you ask me, it’s also why we find ourselves where we are today, with economies and ecologies crumbling. We’ve replaced our mythical heroes – the great prophets of spiritual traditions or the larger than life protagonists of legends like Homer’s Odyssey or Valmiki’s Ramayan – with false prophets, Jihadis and Jezebels, petty tyrants and power-hungry sycophants.

If as a civilization we want to see ourselves progress to our next stage of collective evolution, then we need to create new stories and mine new story-tellers (as well as rely on the wisdom of our elders). Today, we are watching the same old story in the Middle East, the definition of insanity wherein both sides react the same way they have for generations as if expecting a different result. Rationalize it all you want, logically articulate why one side is more righteous than the other (and trust me, I know where I fall…) it still doesn’t change the reality of the murder, mayhem, rancor, and generational rage on the ground fueling an endless cycle of war. Likewise, we need a new story in India and Pakistan today, where the same feud that has raged for decades (even centuries before Pakistan was Pakistan) now threatens the rest of the world. With our ancient habits and modern technologies, we now have the potency to destroy our planet several times over (as if we wouldn’t be satisfied doing it just once).

Alas, Danny Boyle’s fabulous film Slumdog Millionaire is not the panacea that will solve all of the world’s problems (or even just the ones above!). But if there is one thing we might learn from great film-making, or even more elemental, great story-telling and those that practice the craft, it is that through our stories, we have tremendous power. We have the ability to inspire, lead, and transform. The greatest superheroes are ones that embody great archetypes and whose journeys are ones of mythic transformation. From Icarus to Indra, Solomon to Superman, our greatest heroes are those that teach us about ourselves, bring out the best in us, and allow us to create the world we aspire for children.

Now if that doesn’t convince you to see this film, I don’t know what will.

Listen to Danny Boyle and Gotham Chopra’s coversation here

Read Mallika Chopra’s blog about street children in India and listen to Danny Boyle’s interview about his experiences in the slums of India

Mallika Chopra: Street Children in India

One of the benefits of the success of Slumdog Millionaire is that it is raising awareness of the plight of children who live in poverty. Personally, I have been approached by many people asking if the scenes in the film are realistic.

Are there children in India who really live like that?  Are there really organized rings that make a business of children begging on the street? Surely the maiming of a young child – the very difficult scene to watch in the movie – cannot be a reality?  The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, children in India – and in many parts of the world – live and die in this reality.

The power of Slumdog Millionaire is that Danny Boyle has captured, in quite an amazing way, the spirit of of the back alleys and slums that many people wish they could ignore.  And, not only has he shown the reality of dire poverty, he has also shown the vibrance, the survival instinct and the hope for these children.  My brother, Gotham, and Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire chatted about Dharvi, the vast, ever expanding slum city where his story takes place.  As you listen to their conversation, I hope you take away the hope and magic, as well as the challenges that life has to offer. (The entire conversation is here.  The clip about the children and Dharvi is here.)

Several years ago, I came across a blog by a remarkable woman, Anouradha Bakshi, who started an organization, Project Why, to support the education of children living in poverty in Delhi.  I visited, with my two young daughters, the few rooms where she provides education and care for children who have the potential to succeed, but are faced with dire odds to even survive.  From mentally challenged kids who have no where else to go to children who need heart transplants to toddlers whose mothers are doing anything they can to survive, Anouradha has given a name, a face and a story to these beautiful souls.  I was so moved by her work that I donated 10% of the gross proceeds that I received from my book, 100 Questions to My Child to Project Why.  What I liked about her efforts is that she is totally grassroots… so much so that she is often struggling to meet the needs of just one more child.  I encourage you to learn more about Project Why, or other such organizations, and if you are moved, make a donation.

Times are tough around the world as we begin the new year.  However, my hope is that as we each think about our own personal intentions, we also remember the larger global community that is often struggling just to survive one more day.

If I could vote for the Golden Globes, my vote for Best Director definitely goes to Danny Boyle and Best Musical Score to our friend, AR Rahman! Not only is it a powerful movie, it tells a story that has definitely moved many people to look at the world differently.

Read Gotham Chopra’s blog about Danny Boyle and storytelling and listen to Danny Boyle’s interview about storytelling and Slumdog Millionaire

Mallika Chopra: Which actors deserve a Golden Globe this year?

A few weeks ago, I asked our community to share their favorite movies over the last year.  The responses were fantastic, and I have a new list of movies to see now!

Today, the Golden Globe nominations were announced.  While I have not seen most of the movies – the reality of being a parent with two young kids – I was very happy to see that Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for Best Drama, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Original Score.  You can see the full list here.

For those of you who haven’t heard Gothams interview with Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, I encourage you to listen.  His passion, intellect and commitment to good storytelling were very inspiring!  He captured part of the soul of India and the human need to survive and live in such a touching and powerful way.

(And, I have to add, we are so excited about AR Rahman being recognized for his incredible talent.)

I plan to take advantage of visiting my parents during the holidays to sneak out and watch some more movies. 

In the meantime, what performances do you think were amazing this year? 

I think Heath Ledger in Batman was amazing, and his nomination is well deserved… Seems both Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep gave great performances in films this year as well.  Would love your thoughts…

Gotham Chopra: Danny Boyle — Slumdog Millionaire

Let me start with this disclaimer: I loved the film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

I’m not the only one. The indie film about a Muslim kid name Jamal Malik from the slums of Mumbai who earns his way through the popular TV show Who Wants to be Millionaire has garnered accolades from audiences and critics since it’s first showing, culminating with this week’s receipt of the prestigious Nbr (National Board Review award) which apparently, amongst those who know, is generally considered a solid prognosticator for the Oscars.

I already blogged a few days ago about Slumdog after I saw if for the first time. I’ve subsequently seen it two more times, dragging my wife and then another family member to insure that they too would see it. I’m that guy in the theater that leans over to the person sitting next to me whispering: “this scene is my favorite…check this out…wasn’t that awesome…I love this song…etc.”

But I’m blogging again now because today I had a chance to talk to Danny Boyle the film-maker behind Slumdog about not just the film, but the deeper story and context behind it and why he does what he does. Click on the link to hear the whole interview which touches on a variety of things, but most notably the idea of story-telling and how it can change the world.

Without getting all heady on you, here’s the jewel in the crown. We live in conflicted times. Economies and ecologies are crumbling. Wars are raging and Mavericks and Martyrs, sinners and saints, Jihadis and jingoists are all separated by a razor’s edge. Still, some stories rise above the noise and make a difference, contribute in a way to a planetary dialogue about who we are, where we are going, and why we believe that no matter the dire circumstance we may find ourselves in, there is always the chance that we might endure it and succeed. Danny Boyle gets this. Slumdog is a courageous film, a “rags to Raja” tale that combines the best of Hollywood and Bollywood in a way that no other film I have ever seen does. It’s a triumph in every sense of the word.

But more than that, Slumdog is part of an emerging mythology. Beyond the perfectly executed melodrama of Jamal Malik and his brother Salim is a tale that is raging all across our globe, in bustling metropolis’ just like Mumbai where today even kids from the slums can dare to dream about winning it all. Right now, we need that dream more than ever.

Listen to the interview. Watch the movie. Become a Danny Boyle fan. You’ll feel better about the world and feel better about yourself. Chances are I’ll be sitting in the theater right next to you whispering: “I told you so…”

 

Listen to Gotham Chopra’s interview postcast with Danny Boyle

Read more blogs by Gotham Chopra

Interview transcription courtesy of kavitachhibber.com

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