Originally published January 4, 2009
Heartwarming AND heart-wrenching. The lengths one will go to for love. All within the context of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Who knew?
Slumdog Millionaire had it all, as far as I’m concerned. Drama, comedy, family issues, romance, rising above what society expects of you to be.
But what’s pretty much awesome about the film is that while Jamal did rise above (as the social implications of being a slumdog are pretty obvious), he didn’t do it for himself, or the money, or the fame. He did it for love.
A noble sentiment much appreciated by this cynic.
The movie starts with a question: Mumbai, 2006
Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees.
How did he do it?
A: He cheated
B: He’s lucky
C: He’s a genius
D: It is written
I’m not going to give it away, but it’s obvious what the answer is.
The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions. Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its storytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love.IMDb
The movie grabbed me from the brutal beginning to all tied up neatly ending. I was laughing in all the right places, grimacing during the sad parts, and struggling to keep up with the subtitles. The bad guys get their comeuppance, and a new beginning comes with the end. Which includes a bitching Bollywood number over the credits that is basically a crossover of both Jamal and Latika’s kidulthood. 😀
You can see the subtle progression of Jamal’s “knowledge” as a slumdog within the context of the show. Jamal is forced to explain how he knew the answers, and we learn his life story that way. It’s amazing what we pick up as we age. Those little things could serve us in the most random of places, such as a quiz show if it came down to it.
As such, I love how they used “Millionaire” as the basis. The movie was based on a book called “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup, where I assume a regular quiz show was used. But everyone and their grandma know “Millionaire,” no matter how long you were into it. The music, the stupid banter from the host, the lifelines, the nervousness of the contestants.
Listen to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” in the film, in the most perfect of places. Danny Boyle – the director – put it in the movie right where you’d expect it to be. It’s either a remix or a redo though ’cause Maya’s vocals sounded kinda off-key. I guess Boyle and A.R. Rahman (the film’s composer) didn’t want to use the album version. The version they used was cool, though; it fits the scene. The “Slumdog” version – while familiar – was also kinda jarring, at least to M.I.A. connoisseurs such as myself.
I had seen Dev Patel – who plays Jamal in the film – during the first two seasons of Skins. It was crazy to see him play someone that’s not Anwar. But that’s the point, isn’t it? To grow as an actor, you have to take on things that people don’t expect you to. Incidentally, Skins is the reason why Dev got the role. I kept saying to myself, “That’s Anwar, wow!”
Salim – Jamal’s brother – is one of the aforementioned bad guys. But at the same time, you can see why. You sympathize with him even though you kind of find yourself fighting against that. He did have some redeeming qualities, such as his devotion to Jamal in that “big brother who can easily kick your ass to keep you in line” sort of way.
You could also make the argument that Jamal didn’t go down the same path as Salim did. Jamal had seen and lived through the same devastation as his elder brother. But I think Latika and the essence of her helped keep Jamal in line the whole time. Salim had to be the big brother at all times to both of them, and oftentimes to others. He knew the score; he chose to go down that path. That’s a huge burden on anybody. As I mentioned before, he does get his comeuppance though it’s not as dark as all that. It’s kind of bittersweet what happens to him in the end.
All in all, I would recommend going to see it if you can. I was entranced the whole time I watched it. You really feel for each of the characters in their own way.
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