Monthly Archives: November 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Film auteur Danny Boyle’s rags to riches story is a genre-defining masterpiece. But first, a word, two words actually, from our sponsors: karma and dharma.

Karma is what you are born with, the stuff you can see, birthplace, family, body, etc… Karma is also the stuff photo_01_slumdogyou can’t see, i.e. destiny, the future you have created by your choices and actions from the now forgotten past. This includes your successes, your failures, your happiness and distress, as well as your income for life. This may be one of the most unpopular and ill received aspects of Vedic philosophy. Nonetheless, it holds true for all of us. As was quoted in the Sanskrit classic, Mahabharata, “Destiny is all-powerful and it is difficult to evade the consequences of our past actions.”

So if Karma is what you are born with, then dharma is what you do with it. Free will is the choice to act virtuously in relation to your lot in life, or not. You get to choose if you are going to be a zero or a hero by the way you handle what comes your way. If you protect dharma, dharma will protect you.

Slumdog Millionaire is the superbly told story of karma and these two dharmic options. The hero is Jamal Malik a young man born in the slums of Mumbai. The zero is his brother Salim.

The film is the retelling of Jamal’s life and his one true love Latika. The context is a jail house interrogation. Jamal is arrested because he is suspected of cheating on the Indian version of, Who Wants to Be Millionaire, and is on the verge of winning twenty million rupees ($420,000 US).

The ensuing story of poverty, simple aspirations, tragedy, cruel gang lords, decency, and unrequited love is a marvelous, upsetting, and rewarding adventure to witness.

From a spiritual point of view, we see how two people can be given the same horrible circumstances and yet choose two very different paths. Jamal consistently pursued virtue (dharma) and time again he was protected by virtue. All the while his karma, both fortunate and unfortunate, pursued him relentlessly.

While the concept, destiny, may be a difficult pill for many to swallow, it is not as bleak as it appears. Pursuing our dharma offers a path to personal strength and peace of mind. It can be very freeing to realize that even though we can’t know what lies ahead for us there is joy in hoping for the best and strength in preparing for the worst.

photo_02_slumdogOur destiny may be written for us, but our fortune is in the storehouse of love, patience, kindness, forgiveness and the celebration we have in our hearts. Sadly, this is a store house, which, for many of us goes forgotten and unused. But what is keeping us from breaking down the door and looting the love in our hearts? That would be the six dark shadowy figures known in Sanskrit as the Sad Garbha that guard the heart’s door: 1) selfish longings, 2) anger, 3) perpetual dissatisfaction, 4) delusion, 5) pride, and 6) envy. Throughout the film Jamal’s older and decidedly unvirtuous brother demonstrates all six of these traits. How we deal with these six enemies of the heart has everything to do with dharma or the choices we make. This is a film that powerfully brings out this idea.

It is so gratifying when art provides us with powerful experiences that prod and poke at our consciousness. When art does its job, it finds us thinking new thoughts without seeming to have told us to have new thoughts. Director Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy, working from a novel by Vikas Swarup, have managed to do just this with Slumdog Millionaire.

Rating: 8.5/10

Recommendation: See it and tell me what you think…

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Role Models

“Beth I hear you calling…” KISS

In spiritual life affiliation is everything – because you will be drawn up or torn down by the consciousness of those around you. Sometime life doesn’t always give you a choice about how you have to around. It is at those times when it is most important to find common goals that can lift you and your unsolicited fellow traveler upward.

Role Models - the movie

Role Models - the movie

Role Models is a hilarious film about just this theme. The film centers around the downward-spiraling, increasingly contemptuous, dourly-disparaging of all Danny, played by Ben Affleck look-a-like Paul Rudd (a fact that is used for effective laughs on multiple occasions) and his over-the-top sense-enjoying coworker, Wheeler played by an effervescent Seann William Scott.

After the two spokesmen for a Red Bullesque energy drink get in trouble with the law they are forced to do community service at a big brother type center. The center’s director is scene stealing Jane Lynch, whose performance of a recovering cocaine whore deserves an Oscar for funny. The two charges given over to the court ordered mentors are hilarious Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Augie Farks, the nebbish geek who has found refuge in a dungeon and dragon role playing sword fighting tournaments, and Ronnie the all too cute uber-foul mouthed, booby infatuated twelve year old (played like a pro by 12 year old Bobb’e J. Thompson.)

The result of these pairings is good comedy (notwithstanding a few over sentimental and simplistic turns) that brings home the message that cynicism is dead. And that to see the good in life and in difficult situations is the key to self transformation. There are no short cuts in life. You have to roll with the punches, get back on your feet and go at it again. It just helps if you can see the humor in it. This is a film that definitely sees the humor and the irony of life in a world where materialism tends to bring out the worst in us and the desire to go against the current brings out the best.

The sweetly sober message of this film is that everybody needs something or someone to believe in. Maybe the Legendary Rock Group KISS isn’t the ultimate higher power, but the idea of using something bigger than you to uplift you is certainly the right idea.

Rating: 6.5/10

Recommendation: A comedy worth its weight in buttered popcorn, enjoy.

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