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Slumdog Millionaire

A Brilliant Film About Sordid India

By

Slumdog Millionaire
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire based on Indian author-diplomat Vikas Swarup's best selling novel, Q&A, adapted for the screen by Simon Beaufoy, is a rags-to-riches melodrama set in India, which is equally brilliant and shocking. After winning at the Golden Globes and BAFTA, it swept the 81st Academy with 8 Oscar Awards for best picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, sound mixing, editing, original score, and original song by Indian musicians A R Rahman and songwriter Gulzar for the film's theme song "Jai Ho" - a refrain that parodies the national anthem. The film stars newcomers Dev Patel, Freida Pinto besides renowned Bollywood actors Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan among others.

Seamy Side Up!

Although Slumdog has received rave reviews for its cinematographic perfection and excellent photography, the film doesn’t quite live up to its protagonist’s words: 'You want to see the real India? Here it is!' A typical Westerner’s interpretation of India, Slumdog, many say, is not a true representation of Mumbai and its true spirit. Most Indians will be disappointed with Danny Boyle’s shocking and one-sided portrayal of India’s poverty.

The makers of the movie have been accused of passionately exploiting India’s weaknesses and only exposing the seamier side of the society without showing the many developments that are taking place in present-day India. T P Sreenivasan, former ambassador of India to the United Nations, told Rediff.com, “It was not necessary to rake up the dirt in India to create a film to bring Oscars to India. India rejoiced at the Gandhi Oscars, but Slumdog Oscars will only highlight how India became a victim of exploitation… It is the exploitation of the new curiosity about India's success.”

It is also a superficial depiction of India and raises many questions about its authenticity, especially with its gaping holes in research. Prominent among its numerous bloopers is its reference to the 15th century Hindu poet Surdas. The song 'Darshan Do Ghanshyam Nath Mori' sung by a blind beggar in the film as credited to the blind saint-poet Surdas, was actually penned by N S Nepali for a 1957 film called Narsi Bhagat.

However, if you look at this movie as a pure work of fiction and save your sentiments from being hurt, you may enjoy it, or be shocked by it. Nevertheless, Slumdog will remain a memorable film for its cinematic brilliance. But is this the real India? Not quite right!

The Story

“It's the moment of truth in the studio of India’s smash hit TV show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, the Indian version of British reality show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Before a hushed studio audience, and standing under the blazing studio lights, 18-year-old Mumbai slum kid Jamal Malik faces his final question – and the chance to win a staggering 20 million rupees.

The show's host Prem Kumar has little sympathy for this rags-to-riches contestant. Having clawed his own way up from the streets, Prem doesn't like the prospect of sharing the Millionaire limelight, and refuses to believe that a kid from the slums could know all the answers.

When the show runs out of time and breaks for the night, Prem already has the police waiting outside the studio to arrest Jamal, who he is sure must be cheating.

Interrogating the contestant through the night, the Inspector of Police finds that Jamal is as confused as anyone else by how far he has come in the contest. They revisit the questions one by one; Jamal explains how he came to know each answer. As he does so, the extraordinary story of his young life begins to emerge.

Jamal’s is a story of modern India. Growing up in the slums of Mumbai, as a young boy his mother is killed in a religious uprising. Jamal finds himself living by his wits on the streets with Salim, his older brother, and Latika, an orphaned girl Jamal comes to care for, and as they grow older, to love.

Jamal’s picaresque childhood, lived out on the poorest fringes of the city doesn't tarnish his good-hearted nature. But his brother Salim hungers for wealth and power. Tensions and rivalries between the brothers intensify as they grow into young adults, until a betrayal forces the three friends apart, and Jamal loses Latika, just as he realizes he truly loves her.

When he finds her again, things have changed irrevocably. Salim is working for a violent gangster – and this gang lord has married Latika. Jamal puts everything on the line to free the love of his life, only to lose her, and his brother, again.

Despite himself, gradually the hostile Inspector is drawn into Jamal’s story - and starts to believe that this ‘slum dog’ is actually telling the truth. In a final exchange we learn the real reason behind Jamal's decision to appear on the show in the first place. Finally convinced, the Inspector releases him to go back onto the show, to answer the final question.

Overnight the story of Jamal's dream run on the show and his subsequent arrest has turned him into a media sensation. On the other side of the city, Salim and Latika see Jamal on the news.

Shocked into conscience, Salim sets Latika free from her violent husband’s imprisonment, knowing full well that this seals his own fate. Latika drives across the city to the studio, while Jamal returns to the hot seat for the final question, but she is caught up in Mumbai's gridlocked traffic.

As the whole of India watches, breathless, Jamal asks if he can phone a friend, He dials the only number he knows - his brother’s mobile phone. The phone, which Salim gave to Latika for her escape rings... and Latika picks up. The lovers are, at last, together.” (As described by the film’s official web site)

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