Sunday, 8 February 2009

An outing! Slumdog Millionaire

On a day when Canberra sweltered in 38C temperatures, looking for somewhere air-conditioned became a priority! My house is like a sauna, and the current heatwave has just about sent me off my trolley.

So - after a ride in Anna's air-conditioned car, and lunch with Anna and Glynis in the air-conditioned Cafe Macchiato, we braved the heat to walk (or in my case, hop) to a lovely air-conditioned bookshop in Garema Place.

The Multicultural Festival is in full swing. I haven't seen Civic so crowded for a long time (I only go there to work!) There was a whole bunch of crazy people milling about in the heat, listening to ethnic music, watching ethnic dance, eating ethnic food from dozens of stalls set up in Garema Place - ugh, the crowds! The noise! The colour! The absolute swelter! The light was so bright and sharp it intensified the heat if that's possible.

I had to escape! Crowds make me feel a bit claustrophobic.

Off to the cafe in air-conditioned Borders, where there was standing room only. No escaping those crowds... The Ancient Submariner met me there and we took ourselves off, via an iced-chocolate in the Canberra Centre, to the air-conditioned (and crowded) Dendy. Where the heck did all these people come from? Where do they hide during the week? I've never seen them in town before...

Anyway - in air-conditioned comfort, we spent a couple of hours watching even more heat, crowds, crush and swelter - but what a treat it was!

Slumdog Millionaire is fabulous: colourful, noisy and filled with contrasts, it's an optimistic fairytale set against an uncompromising backdrop of the reality of poverty and deprivation in modern India, existing (as it does) side by side with formidable wealth.

A friend who spent some time living in Bangalore told me how difficult it was to live in their comfortable foreigners' compound, in a flash house with servants, when a view of the most incredible poverty and filth just outside the compound's perimeter could be had from their window.

I must admit Slumdog Millionaire gave me no desire to visit India. I really enjoy novels by Indian writers - the multicoloured tapestries they weave - the stories leading to stories leading to more stories; the word pictures of the crush and hubbub - the colour, the noise... One of the most evocative bits of scene-setting I have ever read is the opening of The God of Small Things - and Slumdog Millionaire brought together all those elements - wild exuberance, colour and optimism existing cheek by jowl with poverty, decay and corruption - in a very watchable and engaging story.

In air-conditioned comfort - I prefer my swelter on the big screen.

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