Slumdog Millionaire is a refreshingly different movie; perhaps an expose of sorts, but disguised under the soft nuances of a romance. The setting of the movie is again a surprise, as it's Mumbai 2008; the producer couldn't have imagined that Mumbai would hold spotlight, world-wide, just as his movie was to be released!
Danny Boyle, the director of the movie, has a reputation for making controversial movies, and this was no different as it elicited some extreme reactions from the audience. Some felt the movie was a misrepresentation of India, others had a problem with the myopic lens of the film maker whose depiction of India was apparently 'lopsided'; though the fact that the story writer is Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat, gets Danny Boyle off the hot seat. Then there were those viewers who were convinced the movie would be nominated for the Oscars for it's direction and screenplay. However, there was one thing all these viewers had in common: they were all of Indian origin. All of this made me want to see the movie and decide for myself!
Slumdog Millionaire turned out to be a very entertaining movie that showcased some stark scenarios in Mumbai like that of abject poverty leading to child abuse and prostitution. It also highlighted the Hindu Muslim divide in Mumbai leading to violence and oppression for the underprivileged. Having said this, one would imagine the movie to be a somber tale of struggle with little reprieve. However, that's where the movie surprises; the stark reality of Mumbai is so naturally embedded in the storyline that it ceases to be revolting. For instance the 7 year old protagonist being covered in human feces does not evoke shock or revulsion as much as it does laughter and empathy for the passionate young film lover. 7 year old Jamal is clearly determined to get his favorite Bollywood actor's autograph, even if that meant going through a hole in the ground which happened to be the slum dwellings public-toilet-facility! It is this, the master weaving of the somber amid the tender and the humorous, that allows the movie to get away with the shocking and inhuman scenarios it presents; all apparently happening in Mumbai.
The movie is about a young boy called Jamal who serves 'chai' (tea) to employees in a call center in Mumbai. He is suddenly thrown into the spotlight when he becomes the most unlikely finalist on a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" TV game show which would earn him a million dollars if he were to win it. The movie glides smoothly between the the protagonist's past and present, by the end of which the viewer has a clearer picture of who the protagonist is and why he is so. The three actors who play his part through the different phases of his life do justice to the character as they provide him tremendous credibility; it is difficult to believe that the 19 year old Jamal of the movie is in reality a British actor, Dev Patel, who hardly knows Mumbai!
I would recommend this movie to anyone who believes art is but the artists perspective. As the audience, we don't have to be one with the perspective or with the vision that is born out of it, though we could appreciate the artist's passion for having created a piece for us to ponder upon. In fact I pondered on this particular one a trifle too long; I now see Jamal, the unlikely finalist wanting to be millionaire, as a metaphor for 21st century India, the surprise contender for being the top economic growth engine of the world.
Definitely a movie worth watching.