Having grown up up in a small, one-movie-hall town in western part of India, movies, and in particular Bollywood movies, have been a big part of my early life. Those movies are now a part of the memory that is reserved by Indian expatriates to miss and despise alternatively. I had been looking forward to Slumdog Millionaire for quite a while. I had a chance to see it last night.... Say you are in the East Village and you feel like eating Indian food. You can walk to the block of Sixth Street between Second and First avenues. There are about eight Indian restaurants there. All of them have what an authentic Indian restaurant in the West is supposed to have: the look of cheap sophistication, people standing outside trying to lure you in—"Yes please sir, welcome sir, great food sir," and sometimes old Sikh uncles playing sitar. You choose one and try the food. Now, if you go to the East Village often and feel like eating Indian food often and go to one of those authentic restaurants often, you find something strange. The only good Indian food in that entire block is served by a British chain restaurant—Brick Lane Curry House. It looks clean and well maintained and the food has the (more or less) right balance of spices. Having grown up watching Bollywood movies, that is exactly how I felt after watching Slumdog Millionaire. Most Indian movies are fairy tales, and fairy tales in popular culture are for two things: to highlight a moral value and escape the burdens of reality. Both of these have been the driving forces in the majority of our Hindi movies. They tried to induce morality but worked because of the escapism. We love our escapism. We would believe anything. People dancing on the street? Yes. The hero taking in a dozen bullets and driving to the next city in time for his wife's delivery? Yes. A beautiful woman lying on alpine snows wearing nothing but a red silk sari? Oh, yeah. A thirty-five-year-old actor playing a college student? Check. Bad actors with big biceps becoming huge stars? Yes. It's like we have been in the 80s for the last 40 years. We don't mind if our stories or dialogues are corny. Subtlety in Bollywood is like modesty in corporate America. The most famous lines from Bollywood movies have been the cheesiest. Our biggest stars have been those who have were man enough to deliver the cheesiest line without losing the swagger. Remember, if you deliver your goods with enough passion, even the corniest material is tolerable for a short time. Remember Bruce Springsteen prancing around on stage with his sleeves rolled up in the Glory Days video? With the synth and big drums in the background? It worked. But, of course, there is one Springsteen and a decade worth of crappy music. Slumdog Millionaire is a fairy tale as well. But it's what a fairy tale would be if David Simon wrote one. It tells a story of Jamal, a young man out of Mumbai's slums, sitting on the "hot seat" of the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" quiz show. Each question that knows the answers to is, inexplicably, connected to a part of his harrowing life. If this sounds bizarre to you, it is. Even the cops in the movie think so and try to beat the truth out of the boy. As he tells his story we see a vivid picture of three young lives torn apart by the brutal poverty and violence of a Mumbai slum: Jamal, his childhood sweetheart Latika and his tough older brother Salim. The story has a heart of gold that it doesn't mind baring from time to time, but it'll show you the process of molten metal going in the chest as well. Like the best things to come out of Bollywood, it is tough enough to have corny lines like, "I will wait at the V.T. station every day until you come." It is also crisply edited, beautifully shot and, unlike most Indian movies, it takes care of the small things. In one scene Salim is shown picking up a used water bottle from the trash, filling it with tap water and gluing the cap on it so that he can re-sell it as mineral water. A lesser movie would have shown him selling it but Boyle lets the viewer guess it. The film has influences of some of the best crime movies made in India. Danny Boyle cites Satya, Company, and Black Friday as his influences. There is a scene very reminiscent of Satya where the two brothers sit in a construction site and look at the slum below. Some of the people responsible for these great movies even have a part in this one. It also has the classic Hindi movie transition when a character falls down in a dust cloud as a child and comes out the cloud as a grownup. But on the other hand it has the technical superiority of a Hollywood movie. The soundtrack, even though it's very Indian, is more diverse and very modern. Last night in the theater I could see the people around me having a different reaction to the movie than I did. A gentleman sitting on the same row as me had tears in his eyes when he stood up at the end of the film. A tall guy in a Yankees hat, sitting in the front row, cheered loudly every time something good happened for the young protagonist. I didn't feel like having either of these reactions. Neither did I find the movie as heart-wrenching as most of the critics did. Maybe I have been desensitized by years of Bollywood films and naked sentimentalism. Maybe the sound of the lead actor's British accent coming out from beneath his put-on Indian accent was a buzzkill for me. But Danny Boyle, god bless him, has been successful in making a movie about India that does not feel condescending. A story with India as a character but without the funny accents, or westerners discovering themselves, or any crap about "elders of the gentle race." It is actually a film that an Indian can appreciate more than the average western viewer: the subtitles don't let Anglophones in on the cusswords.