Samir Chopra February 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and Cricket

However, Slumdog has done well with regards to cricket in another regard
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This is the day after the Oscars so it's only natural that I would write about Slumdog Millionaire. My central critique of the movie has already been made, much more eloquently than I ever could, by Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph. I have, however, as a fan of cricket and the Indian fan, another complaint about the movie, which centers on roughly the same complaint that Kesavan made: the movie does not make the suspension of disbelief easy.

For a crucial question in the movie, the one which catapults Jamal into the realm of the big bucks involves a question about cricket. Right off the bat (pun intended), this is a mistake. Why would a question about cricket, and cricket statistics at that, be placed in such a crucial moneyed category of the quiz? Especially when that quiz is taking place in India, home to obsessive statisticians and numerologists, trained for years by the brutal alphabet soup of school exams like the ICSE, CBSE, NTSE, ISC, IIT-JEE, AFMC, and all of the rest, to be the world's best crammers and memorizers?

But that's not the worst part. The true indicator that the film-makers thought so poorly of Indian fans and their cricketing knowledge is that the question asked is (no, not how many centuries Don Bradman made - that's printed on each Indian child's janampatri), wait for it, "Who made the most centuries in first-class cricket?" I was watching this movie at a large suburban movieplex, and I'm afraid my loud guffaws and chortles at this point might have made me a bit unpopular. It certainly earned me a dig in the ribs from my wife.

Oh, sure, I'll acknowledge the film-makers were clever enough to make this question one that Jamal struggles with. See, they seem to be saying, this is one question that every Indian would know, and that precisely is the question that our Slumdog seems to be ignorant about. Doesn't this show his disconnection from the mainstream? Yes, but what the heck is it doing as the 10-lakh rupee question? In the pantheon of cricket statistics questions, this one is not even a minor deity. Rather than the police torturing Jamal, they should have hauled the show's question-devisers off to the brig for a well-deserved thrashing.

However, Slumdog has done well with regards to cricket in another regard. It dutifully includes a scene in which cricket is being shown on the television, as a vital encounter between the movie's central protagonists takes place. And that little bit of cricket captures a painful moment for Indian fans. Not as painful as say, losing to Pakistan in the 1999 Chennai Test, but reasonably heart-ache inducing. The frustration it induces in Javed the Ganglord is palpable and quite likely to evoke sympathetic reactions in those viewers who watched the incident in question.

So, perhaps Slumdog's best contribution to the role of cricket in future editions of Kaun Banega Crorepati (er, sorry, Who Wants to be a Millionaire) will be two questions.

Question 1: In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, which ridiculously easy question about cricket was masqueraded as a challenging one?

a) Who made the most centuries in Test cricket b) Which cricketer was nicknamed "The Don" c) Which country did Donald Bradman play for d) Who made the most centuries in first-class cricket

Question 2: In Slumdog Millionaire which cricketing incident serves to induce a fit in the gangster Javed?

a) Tendulkar being run out for 99 b) Steve Bucknor giving Tendulkar out LBW c) Mark Benson giving Ganguly out in the Sydney test d) Andrew Symonds speaking

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

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  • venkatesh on March 16, 2009, 17:02 GMT

    For your kind information, if i'm not mistaken the questions that come up on the show are randomly picked by the computer. All the questions are from a databank but the order in which it comes out is unknown even to the host!! otherwise once the Producer senses that the guy is close to a million, he will start throwing tough questions. BTW, Samir thanks for the thought provoking article!

  • keyur on February 26, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    might seem irrelevant, but surely indians must know who are the highest career run getter or wicket taker in india's ranji trophy? i know the answer, but would love to know how many self confessed indian cricket fans know the answer. hint: neither record holders ever represented indian team and amol mazumdar is on verge of breaking the batting record. and please no cheating for the answers...

  • Sundar on February 26, 2009, 1:54 GMT

    Samir is right. Any right thinking cricket fan that does not know the answer to that question is not a right thinking cricket fan. I mean C'mon, it is a ggood question for a contest for the quiz but not a 10lac question. May be the 5k or the 10k variety.

  • Sharath on February 26, 2009, 1:01 GMT

    Ha, Samir must be ruing his decision to write this post now.

    I don't blame you, Sameer, because for any 'proper' cricket fan, and by that I mean anyone who does things like checking cricinfo before his emails every morning, this question is easy. My initial reaction to the question was the same as yours - a disbelieving guffaw - but when my dad (who is a 'middling' cricket fan) knotted his eyebrows at me and said curiously, "Isn't it Tendulkar?" I quickly reformed my opinion about the question's difficulty.

    I think you overestimated the number of 'proper' cricket fans in the country :-) Oh, well, we all learn in different ways.

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on February 25, 2009, 10:54 GMT

    Prabhuram Jagadeesan is spot on! i too said (slightly outloud in the cinema!) that it was Jack Hobbs with 199 centuries, but i bet the movie will say 197. and ppl around me giggled when i wasnt disappointed! the 2 centuries he scored against Ceylon (i.e. Sri Lanka) whilst on tour were deemed first class worhty much later. And i'll tell you this as well, it's not a very easy question to answer. a lot of "fans" would not know this. esp in the subcontinent.

  • Shine on February 25, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    Though an ardent cricket fan and having heard this question before, I could not remember the correct answer. So how could one 'Jamal' know it?!!! Sorry Samir Ji! People like you take all Jamals in India for granted. There is in fact a different India that you don't care for or would like to shove under carpet. As one reader pointed out earlier, You should see the film again. This time step into shoes of Jamal.

  • Sunit on February 25, 2009, 3:50 GMT

    I knew the answer. It was not easy but it really is not a 10 lakh question. As for the movie, it was good but India has made better movies but they were not foreign productions though. I agree with what Samir has said.

  • sujata on February 25, 2009, 1:23 GMT

    Cricket related questions are asked all the time in the Indian version of Who....Millionaire. As for easy and hard questions, well, how do you decide which is easy and which is hard? I bet most people got it wrong and answered Ponting or Sachin.

    I can't understand this Indian mentality of poking holes in the script just because Boyle is a foreigner. Are we so insecure that we can't applaud an almost perfect piece of cinema and ignore the paper-thin blips?

  • Suchit on February 25, 2009, 0:43 GMT

    Difficult or easy question, it's a movie made to entertain people of the world, most of whose janampatri did not have cricket stats on it. It is an adapted screenplay from a "fiction" novel. If everything was about solid facts and reality, no fiction will exist, there will be no fairy tales and no dreams. All of us here reading and commenting are much versed with cricket stats than 95% of the people who watched and enjoyed the movie. Whether the question was easy or tough depends on individual field of knowledge. How many of us, Indians will be able to answer the question "Who won India its first Olympic medal?" Most critics and movie goers enjoyed the movie and it got its rewards. Good or bad, remains a personal opinion. However, I totally agree with one of the comments that hails this article too privileged to "... belong to Cricinfo and its blogs"

  • hk on February 25, 2009, 0:27 GMT

    Samir, Who is Jack Hobbs? I heard about him in this movie. Surprising? I think no. You might want to check around and see how many say that they heard about Jack Hobbs in this movie.

  • Roy on February 24, 2009, 19:54 GMT

    I finally thought someone managed to put his finger on it, but alas! How do you make sense of the fact that while the protagonist is absolutely detached from the 'mainstream', especially cricketing number-crunching, one glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar's run-out against South Africa in an ODI sufficed to enlighten him about the player with highest century in first-class cricket! Similar mystifying inconsistencies abound the movie - a shaking of the hand with Amitabh Bachchan either instils his filmography in the slum-dweller's head or drew his attention towards researching further on the actor's career. The Academy never bothered themselves with serious movie-makers, except their fixation with Akira Kurasawa, but this year it sank to a new low.

  • Aravind on February 24, 2009, 18:15 GMT

    I don't think it (Jack Hobbs) was an easy question at all. Maybe for the cricket fanatics who drink the statistics kool-aid all the time. My first instict was Sachin and then thought it could be Ricky. I had heard of Jack Hobbs but had no idea that he had scored almost 200 first class tons.

  • Prabhuram Jagadeesan on February 24, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    I knew it was Sir Jack Hobbs when I watched the movie, But was not aware of the exact number of centuries. Later, i found out that the number mentioned in the movie (197) is wrong from cricinfo statistics, which says that it is 199. Whilst i agree this question doesn't fit the One crore Rupees category, I should say we have a fair bit of cricket-loving population who seldom gives a rat's a** about first class cricket, so this might probably have fitted well in - say - 10 lakh rupees question.

  • pundit on February 24, 2009, 15:14 GMT

    I bet this was a difficult question for most of the Indians as Jack Hobbs is so least heard of. I dont think he has any records in the international arena as players of the early 19th century r only remembered if they hv any international records or they've contributed significantly for their team. Jack Hobbs's domestic record hadnt gain any limelight as nobody cares about international domestic cricket(especially the indians). So i know many thought Sachin was the answer. Common Indians u cant have Sachin on every record category even though he's the backbone of Indian cricket n a very humble human being.

  • Vineet on February 24, 2009, 10:16 GMT

    I don't have a problem with the question but the options were ridiculous.

    Michael Slater for goodness sake !!

    Don Bradman for Michael Slater and Graham Hick for Ricky Ponting would have been a far better option list.

  • vish on February 24, 2009, 9:08 GMT

    Mr. Chopra now I seriously doubt ur movie watching brain bcoz this question is not at all easy, I have seen Kaun Banega Crorepathi and many contestant's had no idea about many cricket questions. For example the very first show had a school teacher palying and she lost in the very 3rd question.

    The question was where is Chinnaswamy stadium situated? And the teacher could not get it right. Now why did you or ppl like u forgot to imprint the answer in the janampatri of this teacher? Also the movie is about a kid from slum, so what the director intended was to depict that a guy from slums who has made is leaving by conning, by traveling on train top can get it right. Also if u were awake (I seriously doubt) the anchor also misbehaves with him since he is from slum. Just bcoz u ppl are given a column to write does not mean u can write nonsense here. I doubt ur knowledge on movies u better stick to writing about cricket, I think at least u make a decent columnist.

  • Vineet on February 24, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    I don't have a problem with the question but the options were ridiculous.

    Michael Slater for goodness sake !!

    Don Bradman for Michael Slater and Graham Hick for Ricky Ponting would have been a far better option list.

  • Akshay on February 24, 2009, 8:48 GMT

    Look, perhaps it was an easy question for such a big sum and as others have mentioned, not many knew the answer and even me included. I don't think why the author has to get so worked up and generalize the entire Indian population as crammers and memorizers. It is just a movie after all and it just didn't get the Oscar for just the movie but also in other categories as well. Hence, the author's take on it is bafflingly bordering on racial ideals which I strongly protest. That's my thought.

  • Fawad Asrar Qureshi on February 24, 2009, 8:01 GMT

    Importantly the number of centuries Jack Hobbs has scored is 199 not 197 as the movie suggests.

  • Abhishek Muukherjee on February 24, 2009, 7:54 GMT

    It was a ridiculously easy question - and I knew the answer when I was 10 or something...

  • Madan on February 24, 2009, 7:32 GMT

    Samir, with due respect that question was not all that easy for any other than the hardcore, trivia/stats-obsessed cricket fan, and everyone in India is not THAT obsessed...perhaps proof that you are not particularly tuned in to goings on in India yourself! Geez, you folks really surpass yourselves. But wait: you just wanted a ruse to tear apart the film as every self-respecting critic must, is it not? And it is I who have to suspend disbelief at the huffing and puffing over Slumdog's Oscar haul: please, why is an Academy that did not honour A ClockWork Orange (or Stanley Kubrick for that matter) and chose to bestow Titanic with 11 awards supposed to be the holy grail in film recognition and therefore, why the deuce does it matter if Slumdog 'deserved' so many awards or not? Amazing how such a simple detail escaped your all knowing consciousness (and yet sacrilege that Jack Hobbs's record is worth so much in a fictional show!).

  • akapda on February 24, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Too much time on hand, nothing to write about - hence a god-knows-how may words article on a non-issue. Obviously, by putting two hot topics in the title, it is guaranteed to generate click-throughs. What was the point again? The fact that the question was easy? Even assuming for the moment that it was (evidently it wasn't that obvious, as per comments above, and chances are many would think the answer was Sachin). So what?

    Picking on flaws comes easy in a movie which is actually a suspension in disbelief - but clearly this article does not belong to Cricinfo and its blogs, most of which are very readable.

  • Adeel on February 24, 2009, 7:02 GMT

    i know jack hobbs because i played EA sports cricket 2002 and it had Hobbs in one of the classic teams. I knew the other three options were not the ones with most centuries in first class so the automatic choice was HObbs. Considering that he was from the slums it was'nt that bad a question. I used to have this "who wants to be a millionaire" game and it had some pretty tough questions ... surprsingly the question that i got for the final bank was " whats the name of cinderella's cat" Lucifer was the answer and i wont the lot coz i had seen the animated movie. How many do u know the answer to that lol unless u have read the book or seen the animation u wont be able to judge it ...lol so i dont think thats a big deal ...for some that might be an easy one and for others its a tough one ... Pakistani ppl are crazy about cricket but i bet not everyone knows about first class cricket stuff ... a pointless article in my opinion ...

  • Vishy on February 24, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    I don't agree with your comments, Samir. I don't think many modern Indian cricket fans would have heard of Jack Hobbs. Other interesting questions that a modern Indian cricket fan might struggle with are (1) Who has taken the most number of wickets in first class matches? (Answer : Wilfred Rhodes) (2) Who (non-wicketkeeper) has taken the most number of catches in first class matches?(Answer : Frank Woolley) (3) Who hit the first century in Test cricket? (Answer : Charles Bannerman). All these were cricketers who started playing before the first world war and I wouldn't be surprised if many cricket fans hadn't heard of them.

  • jaya on February 24, 2009, 6:25 GMT

    oh!!this critic is made just because he wanted to make a critic on great movie 'slumdog'. as all have commented lot of cricket fans in this world except who are wel into cricket and all cricket stats would probably answer the question but not a general cricket fan man. anyway don't make critics on such films if you realy don't know how to. anyway for me that was a superb movie. watch it.. ..

  • Arv on February 24, 2009, 6:10 GMT

    I am alarmed at how a whole bunch of readers have missed the author's point. However tough the question might be to "suburban" movie-goers, what's it doing as the "10-lakh rupee question"? For, after all, the quiz makers do expect the 10-lakh question to be tough even for the likes of "ICSE, CBSE, NTSE, ISC, IIT-JEE, AFMC" crammers, right? That's how high paying quiz shows are made. They are certainly not made for the "jamals present in India". And all this "does not make the suspension of disbelief easy". Also, I don't think that the author intends to be Andy Zaltzman! I defend this article passionately because it voices a very simple opinion in my head: Slumdog whatever got the Oscars because it was a Hollywood movie with an Indian connection, and for some reason, the Academy decided that its theme this year would be "Hail India".

  • Swami on February 24, 2009, 6:02 GMT

    The comments are a revelation for me more than the article. As I was watching the movie, I thought that particular question is as much a slamdunk cricket question as Bradman's average is ( especially as a 10 lakh question ). However reading the comments, I realise its not so.

  • Siva on February 24, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    I agree the question is too simple. But if your guffaws attracted stares in a suburban theater then the filmmakers are right in assuming not everyone would be able to answer this.

  • Shafiq on February 24, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    I haven't see the movie but this article looks ridiculous. I really would love to watch the movie asap...Congrats to whole sub-continent of winning 8 oscars. Thankyou India.

  • saurabh on February 24, 2009, 5:26 GMT

    Tushar I for one knew instantly that Jack Hobbs was the right answer and don't think that just cos you dont know the answers rest of the Indians are ignorant as well :) I agree with Samir, it was a lame question

  • Manoj on February 24, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    Yes, I have to agree with Tushar. In fact, my first reaction to the question was Sachin. However, I realized upon further thought that Sachin has probably not played too many first-class games apart from Tests, and so it had to be Hobbs. It is a fairly tricky question that a person in the hot seat could easily get wrong so I don't have any problems with it. If they had asked, "Who has made the most Test centuries?", that would have truly unbelievable.

  • Mahek on February 24, 2009, 5:19 GMT

    Even if one didn't know the answer it would be easy to guess it's Sir Jack Hobbs, simply because all the others are players from the 90's and it's hard to find a present-day cricketer with even a hundred first class centuries.

  • Tayyab on February 24, 2009, 5:09 GMT

    With all due respect "sir", you are not andy zaltzman, and if you had seen the movie, then you may have remembered that he didn't even know picture of which famous leader in on some indian currency note ! I think the movie is made for the people like you who seem to forget about all the jamals present in India, and "ICSE, CBSE, NTSE, ISC, IIT-JEE, AFMC", well you should see the movie again!

  • Visal on February 24, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Like you, I also scoffed when I saw the question. However, I watched the movie with my friends who are also cricket fanatics and they had no idea. In all honesty, I don't know how many people in 21st century society have ever even heard of Sir Jack Hobbs...

  • Tushar on February 24, 2009, 4:32 GMT

    In my view, and with all respect, I think it is a pretty tough question. Most Indians are aware of the pot pourri of international cricket, but most rarely have any idea of first class cricket in their own country, let alone England. I bet most of the viewers would have thought of Sachin Tendulkar being the answer!!

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  • Tushar on February 24, 2009, 4:32 GMT

    In my view, and with all respect, I think it is a pretty tough question. Most Indians are aware of the pot pourri of international cricket, but most rarely have any idea of first class cricket in their own country, let alone England. I bet most of the viewers would have thought of Sachin Tendulkar being the answer!!

  • Visal on February 24, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Like you, I also scoffed when I saw the question. However, I watched the movie with my friends who are also cricket fanatics and they had no idea. In all honesty, I don't know how many people in 21st century society have ever even heard of Sir Jack Hobbs...

  • Tayyab on February 24, 2009, 5:09 GMT

    With all due respect "sir", you are not andy zaltzman, and if you had seen the movie, then you may have remembered that he didn't even know picture of which famous leader in on some indian currency note ! I think the movie is made for the people like you who seem to forget about all the jamals present in India, and "ICSE, CBSE, NTSE, ISC, IIT-JEE, AFMC", well you should see the movie again!

  • Mahek on February 24, 2009, 5:19 GMT

    Even if one didn't know the answer it would be easy to guess it's Sir Jack Hobbs, simply because all the others are players from the 90's and it's hard to find a present-day cricketer with even a hundred first class centuries.

  • Manoj on February 24, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    Yes, I have to agree with Tushar. In fact, my first reaction to the question was Sachin. However, I realized upon further thought that Sachin has probably not played too many first-class games apart from Tests, and so it had to be Hobbs. It is a fairly tricky question that a person in the hot seat could easily get wrong so I don't have any problems with it. If they had asked, "Who has made the most Test centuries?", that would have truly unbelievable.

  • saurabh on February 24, 2009, 5:26 GMT

    Tushar I for one knew instantly that Jack Hobbs was the right answer and don't think that just cos you dont know the answers rest of the Indians are ignorant as well :) I agree with Samir, it was a lame question

  • Shafiq on February 24, 2009, 5:30 GMT

    I haven't see the movie but this article looks ridiculous. I really would love to watch the movie asap...Congrats to whole sub-continent of winning 8 oscars. Thankyou India.

  • Siva on February 24, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    I agree the question is too simple. But if your guffaws attracted stares in a suburban theater then the filmmakers are right in assuming not everyone would be able to answer this.

  • Swami on February 24, 2009, 6:02 GMT

    The comments are a revelation for me more than the article. As I was watching the movie, I thought that particular question is as much a slamdunk cricket question as Bradman's average is ( especially as a 10 lakh question ). However reading the comments, I realise its not so.

  • Arv on February 24, 2009, 6:10 GMT

    I am alarmed at how a whole bunch of readers have missed the author's point. However tough the question might be to "suburban" movie-goers, what's it doing as the "10-lakh rupee question"? For, after all, the quiz makers do expect the 10-lakh question to be tough even for the likes of "ICSE, CBSE, NTSE, ISC, IIT-JEE, AFMC" crammers, right? That's how high paying quiz shows are made. They are certainly not made for the "jamals present in India". And all this "does not make the suspension of disbelief easy". Also, I don't think that the author intends to be Andy Zaltzman! I defend this article passionately because it voices a very simple opinion in my head: Slumdog whatever got the Oscars because it was a Hollywood movie with an Indian connection, and for some reason, the Academy decided that its theme this year would be "Hail India".