My Name Is Khan vs. Slumdog Millionaire
One has picked up countless Oscars. The other features the undisputed ‘King of Bollywood’. Both are business success stories. But which is best?
My Name is Khan is set in post-9/11 America, and focuses on the discrimination faced by Muslim character Rizwan Khan, played by Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan. The film was directed by Karan Johar, and filmed on a reported budget somewhere in the region of INR38-55 crore ($8.55 million – $12.37 million). FOX Star Entertainment bought the rights for the film for a reported INR1 billion ($22.49 million), making My Name is Khan the second most expensive Bollywood film ever made.
Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of an eighteen-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who reflects back on his tumultuous life while competing to win INR20 million on India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire TV show. Reputed British filmmaker Danny Boyle directed the film, which cost an estimated $14-15 million to make, a modest budget by Hollywood's standards.
At the beginning of March, My Name is Khan was named the highest Bollywood earner in the Middle East, with $3.3 million in box office collections. It shattered the record for the biggest opening of a Bollywood film in the UAE, with some 135,858 tickets sold in the first four days of its release. Worldwide, the film grossed around $40 million.
Despite its relatively low budget, Slumdog Millionaire grossed a massive $365 million worldwide, plus another $32 million in US DVD sales – making it a clear winner in terms of profit. The film saw box office takings of $311,673 during the opening week in UAE.
Shahrukh Khan is the undisputed ‘King of Bollywood’, and has a global fanbase of over 3.5 billion people. Enough said.
Slumdog Millionaire featured child actors with little or no experience – yet their incredible performances made them stars. But there was much controversy last year after the parents of the child stars claimed that they were paid as little as $770 to appear in the film. Established star Anil Kapoor plays the game show host in the film – but only after director Danny Boyle asked Shahrukh Khan to play it. Khan declined the role.
My Name is Khan hasn’t won any major awards to date. But considering the film was only released in February 2010, there is some hope that it will win some honors later in the year.
Slumdog won eight Oscars last year – including Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Danny Boyle picked up the gong for the Best Achievement in Directing. It also won seven awards in the 2009 BAFTA Film Awards, along with around 100 other awards and 50 nominations.
While My Name is Khan did not attract as much controversy as Slumdog, a couple of incidents did prompt some negative headlines. One was when Shahrukh Khan was stopped for questioning by authorities at Newark Airport in the US – which some claimed was a publicity stunt for the film (a charge that Khan dismissed as "lowdown and cheap”).
Aside from the issues over how much the child stars were paid, Slumdog attracted a number of other criticisms, notably regarding how it portrays Indian society. Following its release in India, some alleged that the film fuels Western stereotypes about poverty in India and that it peddles "poverty porn".
My Name Is Khan has received generally good reviews. The New York Times called the film “an affecting fairy tale about the perils of goodness”, while the Los Angeles Times describes it as "a potent, energetic heart-tugger.” Users of The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) gave the film 7.1/10, based on 5,162 votes.
Slumdog Millionaire has been applauded by Western commentators. Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern refers to the movie as “the film world's first globalized masterpiece.” The Los Angeles Times said it is “a Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way”. While both films got some good reviews, Slumdog clinches it: IMDB users gave it an impressive 8.4/10, based on 163,876 votes.
‘Goofs’ – defined as errors “that shouldn't have made it into the movie, but somehow got by the editors” – are popular talking points among film geeks. My Name is Khan contains only one ‘goof’, according to The Internet Movie Database. The plot hole concerns a scene at the beginning of the film, when the character Rizwan is shown to be scared of all yellow things. But later on, he is shown carrying a yellow pumpkin and also holding a yellow placard.
Slumdog Millionaire is full with plot holes, factual errors and revealing mistakes. In fact, more than 30 ‘goofs’ are listed on IMDB. One is when the character Jamal is beaten and tortured by police – only to be seen in the next scene in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire TV studios with his bruises magically healed. Another is when you hear actor Dev Patel's British accent when he tells the host (Anil Kapoor) in the bathroom that he will "not be a million-ahe.” What an Indian!