Slumdog Millionaire (2008) R 120min
January 7th, 2009 by Maxim · 3 Comments · 17,902 Views
Slumdog Millionaire is drama co-directed by brilliant directors Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later and more) and Loveleen Tandan (Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding etc.) based on Vikas Swarup’s novel with the same title. I had no idea what the movie is about; I just heard from some friends on Facebook that they liked it.
The plot: Jamal Malik (Skins‘ Dev Patel), a teenager from the slum of Mumbai, is only one question away from winning jack pot at Indian version of “Who Wants To Be Millionaire”, but is immediately snatched by police who suspect him of cheating – how can a “slum dog” know all the answers? At the police station he was roughed up a little, and as he makes the statement during interrogation and explains how he came up with all the answers, he tells the story of his life in the slums as an orphan together with his brother Salim and their friend Latika – all became orphans in attack on their slum.
The movie begins with a chase sequence, where a bunch of 5-6 year olds are chased by a policeman through the slums of Mumbai - a great device to quickly introduce the audience into the environment in which the events of the film are happening. The camera follows the running kids through the narrow dirty streets… spaces between houses… dwellings and then pans out to show the panorama of the slums. It reminded me of the movie where Patrick Swayze was playing the doctor working in the slums in Calcutta – City of Joy, which employed the same device. This is how we meet Jamal and Salim for the first time. Then the movie fast forwards to Jamal being interrogated by police. It jumps a lot, but perfectly timed, between the past and present. As Jamal is interrogated by police on suspicion of cheating on the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” show, the epic life story is slowly revealed in flashbacks.
The good: The story and storytelling is amazing. Loveleen Tandan (Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding) is a master of creating a great visual story, with amazing ability to find joy and happiness in absolute nightmare. In this case the story is about children. Young Jamal and Salim are played by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail. They are just being kids, until their mother is killed by an attack on their slum. They become orphans and have to survive on their own. The movie shows how they take care of each other in toughest conditions of extreme poverty, surrounded by more poverty, gangsters who enslave children and force them to work as beggars or force them into prostitution. Under these conditions, kids still find a way to enjoy themselves, and they are incredibly adaptive, resilient and inventive. When they fall, they get hurt, but then they forget about it and get up and move on. A lot of attention is paid to details. I liked how in the sequence where the brothers enter a house where their orphan friend Latika is “working” there are some children of prostitutes are playing around the telephone – just like in 2004 best documentary Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids. The policemen that continue watching TV as a person is set on fire. The policemen threaten to “turn on electricity again” if Jamal doesn’t answer their questions honestly. Gangsters maiming children because it makes them more profitable beggars. People scavenging through garbage piles. There are a lot of sequences where children are being just that: with their fears, with situations in which only children get get themselves into and can come out unscathed, and about their fragility at the same time. Final scene with a shootout between gangsters and Salim laying in the bath full of money is symbolic of his life.
Rather then being a realistic drama, this is a realistic dramatic comedy. Despite the horrors in the movie, it brings hope and joy and makes you feel good. That being said, the story of Jamal winning the millions is an exception, but millions of people continue to live in the conditions he was born into. He just won the lottery. I also really liked the part of the story where Jamal and Salim work in “tourist business”. And the part where Jamal gets autograph of the movie star in the beginning of the film is hilarious. And how about that Bollywood dance during the closing credits?
The movie is excellently edited together from the scenes in the present and flashbacks. Beautiful soundtrack worthy of being listened on its own.
Great acting by everybody – Oscar grade. All 9 children who played Jamal, Salim and Latika are going to be famous – the film hinged on their performances and they have done an amazing job. The movie is also not without some Bollywood stars like Irrfan Khan (A Mighty Heart, The Namesake, Chocolate etc.), who even gets a double in the movie, and Anil Kapoor.
The bad: There were some minor continuity problems, but that’s a technicality. This is a good memorable and very enjoyable movie. Young Latika is pretty, but how could Jamal fall in love with her if he didn’t see her for 5-7 years, and the first time he sees her he’s already in love…
The summary: Great story. Great story-telling. Great acting. Great cinematography. Great directing. Best movie of the year 2008.
p.s. Almost a year ago I saw Son Of Rambow and immediately named it the best movie of the year [for me], but Slumdog Millionaire is even better. Loved it.
Related movies: City of Joy, Son of Rambow, Born Into Brothels.
The cast: Jamal Malik - Ayush Mahesh Khedekar -> Tanay Chheda -> Dev Patel | Salim Malik – Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail -> Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala -> Madhur Mittal | Latika – Rubiana Ali -> Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar -> Freida Pinto | Jamal’s Mother – Sanchita Couhdary | Police Inspector – Irrfan Khan | Mr Chi – Sunil Kumar Agrawal | Mr Nanda – Himanshu Tyagi | Prakash – Sharib Hashmi | Maman – Ankur Vikal | Punnoose – Uday Chopra
The credits: Directors – Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan | Writers – Simon Beaufoy | Producers – Christian Colson, François Ivernel, Ivana Mackinnon, Cameron McCracken, Tabrez Noorani, Paul Ritchie, Tessa Ross, Paul Smith | Original Music – A.R. Rahman | Cinematography – Anthony Dod Mantle | Film Editing – Chris Dickens | Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
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