A Review of Slumdog Millionaire (No-spoilers)

I was able to catch a screening of the new film Slumdog Millionaire last night. The movie, directed by Danny Boyle, tells the story of Jamal Malik, an impoverished youth in India as he progresses through India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

I know, I know. That’s the premise? It’s a bit more than that. At the start of the movie, Malik has already accumulated 10 million rupees on the game show and is thus arrested for suspicion of cheating. As the police inspector says, doctors and lawyers are on the show and do not go past 16 thousand rupees. What does a slumdog know?

So as Jamal is sitting in the police station, questioned by the inspector about his response to every single question, the audience watches as Jamal gives his story and we see how his path in life revealed the answers. We see him as a young boy with his brother Salim and friend Latika. We see him grow up and try to make some kind of living. We’re with him on his journey to find Latika, who he had lost track of. We find out about the events in his life that ultimately bring him to the hot seat of the popular game show.

I read that they couldn’t find a decent person to play Jamal Malik in India and that’s why they went with British actor Dev Patel, who turned out to be perfect for the role. The cast also includes Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor playing himself (or a smarmy version of himself. I’m not entirely sure), newcomer Frieda Pinto playing Latika, and Irfan Khan as the police inspector. Khan has made a name playing in non-Bollywood movies like A Mighty Heart, The Namesake, and Darjeeling Limited and now, this.

Slumdog Millionaire depicts an India that Bollywood usually tries to steer clear of. Boyle shows us the life of kids in the slums and the brutal reality that a lot of them face. It’s not light hearted and fluffy. Also, while the score is composed by A.R. Rahman, one of Bollywood’s most notable composers, there are no songs that the leads spontaneously break out to from 6-8 times during the movie. Instead, the score complements the visuals to give us a really good story that sticks with you after you leave the theater. Highly recommended.

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