First off, any potential viewer of “Slumdog Millionaire,” must realize that director Danny Boyle has worked on a number of marvelous movies including "Shallow Grave" (1995), on to the great “Trainspotting” (1996), then “28-days” (2002), “Sunshine” (2007), and now a crowning achievement with this absolutely incredible tale of modern India. And secondly, half-way through this film, I said to myself: “Wow! What a great script,” having been written by Simon Beaufoy from a novel by Vikas Swarup.
So be welcomed to the real India of the 21st Century, having little to do with the India of yore, and far removed from the comparable peacefulness of “A Passage to India” or any Merchant and Ivory visit to this great continent.
Instead, sit back and view (in full color): Degradation, squalor, pestilence, intolerance, greed, sloth, child abuse, police corruption, media corruption (and let’s not forget political corruption), torture, disease, pollution (both air and land)--and be so entertained that you will applaud during the final musical salute (don’t leave at movie’s end when the credits roll) and its salute to the traditions of Bollywood!
Here’s a tale of children growing up, surrounded by landfills and high-rise apartments towering over landfills, and everything that continues to fail when it comes to human nature and succeed when it comes to political expediency. And marvel at the resiliency of children who can turn the worst of everything into a journey into the imagination.
The film begins at the ending, with 18-year-old Jamal, who is one correct answer away from winning a 280,000-pound prize on a TV quiz show (with a set that outdoes just about every such TV game show ever produced) "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"? Jamal’s performance on national TV turns him into a folk hero and a media sensation (much like America’s salute to bad art “American Idol,” uin this case trading questions for performances).
In flashbacks we learn about Jamal’s life up to this moment, his arrest by the police for being a con-artist and potentially unable to answer any of the questions posed by the--guess what--corrupt master of ceremonies (Anil Kapoor), he of diamond studs in his earlobes and a suit so glittery a marching band could pass through at any moment. And we learn about Jamal’s love of Latika (Freida Pinto), his trials with his slightly older psychotic brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal), all combined in a trip through the London of Charles Dickens moved to the current world of Mumbai (Bombay), with millions of more people and a warmer climate that allows things to fester that never saw the light of day in England, once the ruler of India.
Luckily, through past experiences, Jamal knows all the answers except the last but his upbringing turns out to be the ultimate solution to his future.
Nuff said, just go and enjoy!
A personal question: Why junior-high children should be allowed to see what’s on contemporary commercial TV (including cartoons) but denied watching the real world continues to be beyond me.