I got the chance to watch Danny Boyle‘s 28 Days Later a couple of years ago and it was ‘ragingly’ gruesome considering the suicides and the blood all over. So that was it. But there is another relatively obscure but well-made Boyle movie Sunshine. That was good for me. And recently, Slumdog Millionaire seems to receive great reviews everywhere and is raking awards. It is actually very good, with a seemingly seamless screenplay.
Slumdog Millionaire is about Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a teenage boy who grew up in Mumbai slums with his brother Salim who end up a gangster. Jamal became a millionaire after winning India’s version of the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He actually doesn’t know the answers to the questions as they are. He only learned of the answers based on his life as the events that happened in his childhood revealed the keys to the seemingly difficult questions asked by the very surprised host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor). With only one question left unanswered, Jamal was arrested for cheating and held by the police for interrogation overnight from which his life story unfolded.
As Jamal’s childhood story was revealed to the police inspector, it was made clear that he was not cheating after all. In fact, he is not after for the money but to find his destiny, Latika (Freida Pinto) aka Aramis, the third member of the three musketeers (with Salim) and the answer to the clincher question. Love was after all his motivation to get through all the sacrifices that he has endured.
The movie used two languages – English and Hindi. With that, some of the dialogues are incomprehensible. The English sounds too weird, at least for me, except that of Patel, Kapoor and Pinto. But what is very clear about the movie is the telling of universal language of love that conquers all. It is also successful in realistically presenting the downside of poverty that often leads to crimes, prostitution and child labor and trafficking as well as the reliance by most of us to luck and game shows for easy money.
I would like also to emphasize the scenes where Jamal was a tourist guide since it is interesting how he narrated to those unsuspecting tourists the culture and history of India. Jamal do not know (he is uneducated and barely went to school at a young age) the backstories of the tourist spots but he managed to compose most of them based on his experience, on what he saw and heard. I thought he spoke of ‘window-dressing’ a country on one hand and on the other the omission of the government to address the country’s real problems; that amidst those beautiful structures of history and show of progress, there lies a majority of people suffering from hunger, unemployment, oppression and corruption.
Except for the language (the translation did not help) and individual acting (though Patel and Pinto have a lot of potential), the movie is collectively a gem. It is not just a crowd-pleaser, it reflects reality. The soundtrack is also good – current yet very Hindu. You also would want to amuse yourselves (haha!) with the choreography of the dance at the end of the movie. That was a sigh of relief after almost two hours of drama.
Would it have a chance on the Oscars? I think it is a tough contender for the best film of the year but some ‘expected’ decisions might be forthcoming in favor of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I think it will be a grandslam (it has the Golden Globe, PGA and recently the SAG) for Slumdog Millionaire if it finally gets that golden statuette. You want to use your lifeline? Ask the audience.
Maybe it’s written.