When somebody asks me a question, I tell them the answer. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Jan 31, 2009 (Updated Jan 31, 2009)
Review by Mark Vaughan
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:An astoundingly wonderful film, fast paced, beautiful, touching and heartbreaking. A Masterpiece.
Cons:Are you kidding?
The Bottom Line: This is definitely one to see. You will see its name Oscar night.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Directed by Danny Boyle
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"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."
Jamal Malik (played serially by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (youngest) Tanay Chheda (Middle) and Dev Patel) is a poor chiawalla (the guy who shleps the tea for a busy call center) who gets on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He has an ulterior motive, but as things take off, he does better, and better. In fact, he does unprecedentedly well. Doctors fell at the 60,000 rupee level, and yet here, an uneducated boy from the slums of Mumbai is close to walking away with the grand prize. The master of ceremonies, Prem Kumar (Bollywood star Anil Kumar) originally disdainful of the office assistant or Chai Walla (I think Walla has connotations that are remarkably similar to the "N" word in English when applied to work) but grows increasingly impressed, and then increasingly malevolent as Jamal navigates the ever increasingly difficult questions.
The show reaches the end just before the final question for 20 Million Rupees. Jamal could walk away with the 10 Million right now.
However, Prem has other plans. Jamal is arrested, and interrogated. And by interrogated, I mean they pull a Guantanamo on him, even hooking him up to current. However, Jamal refuses to tell how he cheated. Frustrated the inspector (Irrfan Khan) turns to Sgt. Srinivas (Saurabh Shukla) and asks;
Police Inspector: Doctors... Lawyers... never get past 60 thousand rupees. He's won 10 million. [Pause] What can a slumdog possibly know?
Sgt Srinivas: [quietly] The answers?
Seeing he will not break under torture, they question him on how he knew the answer to each of the questions, and Jamal takes us on a journey through his life, growing up an orphan in the streets of India with no one to help him but his brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (youngest), Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (Middle) and Madhur Mittal.) and Latika, an orphan that Jamal invited to travel with them, the third musketeer to his Porthos and Salim's Athos. (Played by Rubiana Ali (youngest), Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar (Middle), and Freida Pinto.)
Slowly, each question unfolds a memory, from the murder of their Muslim mother by Hindu extremists, and Jamal's fleeting vision of the Hindi God Rahm, and the objects in his right hand, a bow and arrow, to the harrowing experiences at an orphanage where the leader, Maman (Ankur Vikal) runs a Dickensenian operation with child beggars. Darker and more malevolent than Fagin, the best singers are blinded (in a scene that is burned into my eyes for the rest of my life) because blind beggars make more money. An incident where Jamal was posing as a tour guide for the Taj Mahal and making a living stealing shoes, he is tipped $100 by an American tourist. He gives the bill to the blind boy, knowing that if not for Salim's intervention, the same thing would have happened to him. The blind boy does not believe it is a hundred, and asks Jamal to describe the man on the bill. Jamal does, and the boy, delighted, exclaims, Benjamin Franklin! One of the high level questions is who is on the American $100 bill.
His life in the slums taught him many lessons, including that people are untrustworthy. When Prem seems to be giving him an answer, Jamal has to decide if he is a man who wants to see him succeed, or if he is the kind of man who would deliberately lie to him to destroy his chances.
As the story unfolds there are several themes; one Salim, while always there, is not a good brother. And two, through everything, Jamal never forgets his love of Latika. Jamal, the dreamer rises above the poverty of his upbringing, not because of burning desire for a better life, but as a side product of his love for Latika. Whereas Salim learns the hard lessons of the street becoming as hard and unforgiving himself. A third major component is the relationship between Jamal and the show; so friendly on the surface, so malicious behind closed doors. It mirrors his life on many levels.
As much a character as any actor, India herself plays a huge part in this movie. The feeling of life on fast forward, a city that never sleeps, never even slows down, a city of filth, and cruelty, and impossibly beautiful wonder makes for a dynamic, even frenetic backdrop to the central story. And in a final nod to Bollywood, there is a wonderful Bollywood style dance number as a parting gift to the audience.
There are elements of this story as old as time; the plot is pure Bollywood, there are standard clichés one expects from Indian cinema. Yet it is new and fresh, revitalized by Boyle's vision, just as a visit to an favorite theme park is made new and magical by the addition of a child who has never been before. There is a lot of hype about this movie; it is nominated for 10 Oscars. Believe me when I tell you, it has earned every bit of praise it has garnered. In a year unusually filled with outstanding movies, this one really stands out head and shoulders above the crowd.
D. It is written.
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