Friday, October 31, 2008

Watch this Slumdog become a millionaire

'Poster


SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), 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 (Frieda Pinto), 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. Intrigued by Jamal’s story, the jaded Police Inspector (Irfan Khan) begins to wonder what a young man with no apparent desire for riches is really doing on this 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.

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Slumdog Millionaire, a sweeping, hopeful story about a boy in the slums of India who becomes an instant celebrity after he wins millions on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) off the novel Q &A by Vikas Swarup, the tale is framed within an interesting narrative structure that revolves around the young man, Jamal, being interrogated for fraud by the police, who cannot believe that a "slumdog" orphan could possibly have known the answers to the questions on the show. Boyle uses this conceit to take us back and forth from the police station, where Jamal ( Patel) is tortured to get him to confess how he cheated, to his appearance on the show, to the events throughout his youth that led to him knowing the answers to the game show questions. How did a boy growing up in the slums amid piles of garbage and filth know which US president is on the one hundred dollar bill, or who invented the revolver? Boyle takes us back through Jamal's life story to show us the mean-streets education that led to him knowing the answers, while managing to avoid making the set-up feel contrived. The scenes that take place during the game show are a masterwork of interplay and intellect, as Jamal duels verbally with wealthy, narcissistic host Prem Kumar (veteran Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor), who's sort of a Hindi version of Regis Philbin. There's a certain level of class struggle going on within the framework of the game show, pitting the wealthy, arrogant host against the soft-spoken, affable kid from the slums. Kumar, fearing that the eminently likable young man might detract from his own popularity with the audience, taunts Jamal for being a poor chaiwalla (tea bearer) and subtly -- and not so subtly -- tries to get Jamal to cash in and end his winning streak. What Kumar doesn't get is that Jamal's not really in it for the money at all. This is a character-intensive story, with the narrative lens focused firmly on Jamal, who, in spite of growing up amidst filth, abuse and the threat of starvation, emerges with his spirit, honesty and courage intact. The heart of the film, though, is the thread of love and friendship between Jamal and another young orphan, Latika, who's befriended by Jamal and gruffly tolerated by his older brother. The trio call themselves "The Three Musketeers" -- Jamal and his brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal) having been enraptured by the classic tale when they attended school before their mother died. Fate, life, and adults preying on the vulnerable youth of Mumbai's slums conspire to keep Jamal and Latika apart, but Jamal never sways from his belief that he and Latika are destined to be together. This love story, interwoven throughout the film, lends a classical, metaphorical level to the film that adds depth to its mainstream-audience friendly, accessible surface. Orphaned children in places like Mumbai are easy prey for adults who force or coerce them into servitude as beggars, prostitutes, and criminals. Jamal's older brother succumbs to the lure of crime as a path out of poverty; Jamal, on the other hand, does what he has to in order to survive -- when you're five years old, homeless and starving while the adults around you kick you around like a dog for merely trying to scrounge enough to keep from dying, the morality of theft and ownership doesn't really amount to much -- but he never loses his sense of fairness, justice and compassion. Jamal's pursuit of Latika is single-minded; She is the only thing in his hard-knock life that he's ever cared about other than his mother and brother. Even when Latika gives up and resigns herself to the life of abuse that it seems fate has mapped out for her, Jamal is her white knight, relentlessly fighting to free her from the prison in which beauty and destitution have trapped her. Patel, with his wide-eyed openness and mournful brown eyes, utterly charms as Jamal -- I want to see much more from this young actor in the future -- and all the cast, including the kids who play Jamal, Latika and his brother in their childhood, bring life and energy to their roles. Sweeping cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle brings the slums of Mumbai to life, finding the beauty and humanity amidst crushing impoverishment that most of us who will see the film could never imagine surviving, much less thriving in. There's sadness and tragedy within Slumdog Millionaire -- starvation, genocide, child prostitution and overwhelming oppression -- but there's humor, humanity and dignity as well. Boyle, stepping outside the UK to focus his lens on India, seems to have freed himself here to bring his brilliance as a director to its fullest fruition. Slumdog Millionaire is Boyle's best film to date, which is saying quite a lot; He's made a joyous, fun, and wonderfully accessible film that should play well, but even though this turned out so well, it MAY get overlooked by most moviegoers. I say go and see this one, you won't be disappointed. A definite 5 on my "Go See" scale

1 comment:

Helen said...

Agree this is an amazing film and a return to fine filmmaking by Danny Boyle. We've seen it twice already, once at the Mill Valley Film Festival and once at a screening in San Francisco with Boyle in attendance for a very fun Q&A. He loved the energy of Mumbai and the energetic soundtrack, cinematography, and editing captured that spirit magically.

Interested in preview screenings if you have information regarding them!

DMD
dmdother@earthlink.net