Slumdog Millionaire. The rags to riches story of an underdog or rather a slumdog. The movie in which you know the end (atleast for some aspects) but the story is more about the journey than the end.
The story revolves around Jamal Malik, a boy from the slums who is close to winning the big prize in the quiz show “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and is taken into police custody as he is suspected to have cheated to win on the show. Under police questioning (Euphemism for the police brutality), Jamal attempts to convince the police officers on his ability to answer the questions as the questions are intrinsically tied up to his past. The plot moves from present to past to present fluidly as we trace the life of Jamal growing up amidst the squalor of Mumbai.
As a result of the anti-Muslim riots, Jamal’s childhood is wrenched in front of his eyes as his mother falls victim. As Jamal escapes along with his elder brother Salim, he meets with Latika who also has no place to go and remains with the boys. Forced into the business of begging and the depravities that go with it, the boys escape and try to establish their life elsewhere. But Jamal is compelled to come back to Mumbai for Latika. Latika is found and lost again, Salim becomes a gangster and Jamal becomes a chai-wallah at a call center as each are wrenched in seperate directions. Each question of the show points to a time in Jamal’s life whose objective of participating in the show is for reasons other than money and this completes the rest of the story.
Performances by the cast have been amazing. Deven Patel as Jamal brings in the right amount of vulnerability and sensibility that the role demands. Freida Pinto as Latika shines in her role displaying innocence and a hope for a better life. Anil Kapoor as the game show host who tries to play down Jamal, delivers a nuanced performance and is quite subtly nasty (if such a combination exists) as he tries to ensure that Jamal does not win. The child artists have delivered amazing performances and do ensure that there are some light moments in the movie.
Danny Boyle has breathed immense life into this movie and excellent cinematography ensures that Mumbai is shown as it should be shown for this movie. Cruel, gritty, dank and squalid initially to one with life and optimism in the later part of the movie.
Final review. Slumdog Millionaire is not a great movie. It is a good movie with a great first half. The second half is a bit contrived especially playing towards the they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. However, it is one of the most compelling movies that have come out recently. Once you start watching the movie, there is no way that you are going to switch it off. It has a deft screenplay and brilliant pacing.
Ah yes, it has amazing score by AR Rahman. From the starting note of “O Saya” to “Jai Ho”, the background score gives the life that the movie deserves. It is never intrusive and elevates the movie. Kudos to the team in ensuring that none of the songs look like they have to be fitted in.
On the whole, Slumdog Millionaire definitely ranks among the best releases of 2008 and is a must watch.