The story of Jamal Malik, 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, 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 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...
It actually amazes me when someone says they've never heard of this movie, as like what happened today when one of my co-workers - a 24-yr old guy with an addiction to Chipotle, Pepsi, "Family Guy" and Britney Spears - admitted to when I told him I'd seen it over the weekend. He gave me a blank look and had to ask me what it was about. Kids (rolling eyes).
Of course any movie that has been generating Oscar buzz tends to make me wary most of the time, but in this instance, "Slumdog Millionaire" proves to be one of those shining exceptions that makes me ever so glad I took a chance on it.
The movie is essentially the story of Jamal, an 18-year-old young man who's accused of cheating after he wins a whole heck of a lot of cash on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". When he's arrested, he explains his innocence by sharing details of his life growing up poor in Mumbai, and how it lead him to appear as a contestant on the extremely popular game show.
Alternately immensely beautiful and starkly horrific, "Slumdog Millionaire" follows Jamal and his older brother Salim as well as Latika, an orphan girl Jamal befriends when their village is violently attacked. These children, no more than five or six, must now learn to survive on their own, and while they are both sneaky and clever, hunger and exhaustion wear down their defenses and they end up in an orphanage. At first things seem to be wonderful, but as time goes on, it becomes apparent that those running the orphanage have bigger plans for the children in their care.
Over the next several years, Jamal loses touch with Latika but then finds her again. He's never forgotten the quiet girl with the pretty smile, and she is the guiding force that keeps him going even in the bleakest of times. His older brother does not understand his single-minded devotion to her, seeing her more of an inconvenience, one that Jamal should just forget. But he cannot, and soon they are together again. Fate is cruel however, and once more Jamal is torn from her side. Yet never does he forget her, and it is his determination to be reunited that leads him to the chance of lifetime on a t.v. show made popular throughout the world (or at least in the U.S. and India).
What a stunning and moving film. The extreme poverty level is heart-wrenching, especially to realize just how many people in India are living in slums. Millions. As in 65 million. A rather sobering thought. Even the children who portrayed the young Jamal and Latika in the movie were taken from the slums and now must try to adjust to going back to their world.
But this is not a social commentary, merely an observation of a more serious nature, brought on by the viewing of this incredibly uplifting film about love and survival. Sometimes it was hard to forget that the main character, Jamal, is only 18 by the end of the film. He's lived so much in so few years, experienced things most people will never know, not all of it good. But Jamal was one of those people that had an open heart and a willingness to believe. Despite the way he grew up, he was able to find beauty in it.
I expected to cry, but I hadn't really expected to laugh much during this movie, yet I did. The kids were typical kids, and there was one scene (and those who saw it know which one I mean) that made me giggle in disgust. It was nasty, but you couldn't help but laugh. I couldn't anyway.
And Jamal as an adult was funny while on the game show. He's this quiet kid, like a deer in the headlights, but he has an engaging personality. I found him very likeable, and wanted him to get the girl in the end. After all, I love a good romance.
Jamal and Latika were wonderful from the very beginning, when he wanted her to be the third Musketeer along with him and his brother Salim. I think it was a sweet love story, to recognize your destiny from such a young age and do everything in your power to make it happen. But this wasn't a complete fairytale; there are harsh realities that Jamal learns and witnesses first-hand, things he is powerless to prevent. But he never gives up, and that is the heart of the story.
There's the flavor of India strewn throughout, from the colorful clothing to the distinctive music and accents. It is such a fascinating culture, one I never really thought a lot about before but now I wish I knew more. I loved the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and it made me curious about the history of the country.
I definitely recommend this movie, and hope it does well at the Oscars. I usually am not a fan of any of the contenders, but I can't say that in this case. It is a film I'm still thinking about days later. It kinda snuck up on me that way. I'll most likely buy it when it comes out.
Have you seen this movie?
What did you think?
Any movies out there you'd recommend?