Jamal, an orphan from the slums, is poised to win it all on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, only to be accused of cheating and imprisoned. As he’s being interrogated, he recounts the experiences of his life that have led him to know the answers, from his childhood as a beggar and con-artist to his adventures with his brother Salim and their friend Latika, and on to his job as a chai wallah (or tea porter) at a call center. What begins as an almost Dickensian “rags-to-riches” yarn eventually evolves into a romantic melodrama in the style of old Hollywood. For all of its plot threads and time-hopping, the film is remarkably easy to follow and beautifully shot, showcasing the hectic and cluttered mess of modern-day India. The acting is superb, from Dev Patel’s resilient and ever-patient Jamal, to Madhur Mittal’s violent and ambiguous Salim, to Anil Kapoor’s silky-smooth but deceptive host Prem Kumar. The setting is one of the most jarring aspects of the movie, contrasting the deep poverty of some areas with the economic and technological booms of others. From the brutal to the dreamy, from the slums to the mansions, these tonal shifts define the film, making it at once uniquely Indian, and yet universal in appeal. A modern-day fairy tale that is well worth the watch.
Film Review: “Slumdog Millionaire”
(Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2 hours. Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. Directed by Danny Boyle.) Dev Patel (Jamal Malik), Freida Pinto (Latika), Anil Kapoor (Prem Kumar), Madhur Mittal (Salim Malik), Irfan Khan (Police Inspector). Music by A.R. Rahman.