• Publication date: December 3, 2011

Slumdog Millionare Slumdog Millionaire: A tale of life and love

Slumdog Millionare

Slumdog Millionare

A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.

(What Good Is Millions, If You Have No One To Share It With?) Slumdog Millionaire takes a trip in to the shantytowns of India and shines a spotlight on to the less desirable elements of life including prostitution, class struggles, police brutality, and lack of opportunity

Jamal (Dev Patel) and Salim Malik (Madhur Mittal) are two brothers orphaned after they lost their mother in a series of attacks on Bombay’s Muslims in 1993.  With no parents the two are, from their earliest years, forced into a life of initially petty crime, including theft of tourists’ shoes and posing as an expert tour guide at the magnificent Taj Mahal.

In their teenage years the brothers’ crimes increase in severity; they are workers for a prominent gang lord and perform his dirty deeds in exchange for food and shelter.  However, when the crime boss insists that Jamal burn his eyes out with acid to maximize his profit as a beggar, the brothers flee by train.  Sadly, Jamal is forced to leave behind his childhood sweetheart and fellow orphan Latika (Freida Pinto) despite his best attempt to rescue her.  Years later he would discover that she was forced into prostitution, but this does not change Jamal’s longing for her.

The movie fast forwards to Jamal’s young adulthood and he is still poor but works as a tea servant at a large call center, an occupation at least more respectable than picking pockets at a famed mosque.  His life takes a strange twist when he is granted an opportunity to appear on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and despite public skepticism he climbs the game’s ranks with utter perfection.  Money is not his aim though; he hopes that Latika, like most of India’s population, will be tuned in, see him on television, and accept his hand in marriage..

There are still significant obstacles in Jamal’s way though.  Firstly, he has not seen Latika for years and has no idea if she has married, has children, or that she would even be remotely interested in a relationship with him.  Is she even alive?  Secondly, and more urgently, police have arrested Jamal believing that his success is attributable to cheating, not intelligence.  After all, what is the likelihood a slumdog could be more knowledgeable than doctors, lawyers and much more esteemed show participants who failed miserably?  This is where the story begins.  As police interrogate and beat him they review a tape of his appearance on the program.  For each question Jamal explains to the officers how a real life experience provided him with the knowledge to answer; viewers relive these experiences in the form of vivid flashbacks.

Cinematography in this picture is superb and showcases both India’s beautiful landscapes and its grimy urban poverty.  One must also respect the amount of effort required to film with the cooperation of the villages’ hundreds of inhabitants who are seen throughout the picture and are most definitely not extras.  

With a budget of merely $15 million “Slumdog Millionaire” excelled beyond wildest expectations, grossing over $377 million worldwide, 25 times more than its budget.  Critics praised the film almost unanimously, earning it a 93% fresh rating on popular review site Rotten Tomatoes.