Life Lessons Pay Off
by Betty Jo Tucker
How could Jamal, an orphan growing up in the slums of Mumbai, India, know the answers to tough questions asked on a TV quiz show? In Slumdog Millionaire, street smarts account for our heroвЂ™s success, much to the amazement of the television host, a man who thinks torture will force the lad to confess he cheated. What a great idea for a rags-to-riches story even Charles Dickens would appreciate!
Slumdog Millionaire deserves the eight OscarsВ® it won —В Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Song, and Best Musical Score. Although Mamma Mia! ranks as my favorite 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire was definitely the most entertaining and inspirational movie nominated for Best Picture this year. It boasts a вЂњtriumph of the underdogвЂќ story with characters we care about as well as adventure, suspense and romance, plus a rousing Bollywood song-and-dance number (to A. R. RahmanвЂ™s вЂњJai HoвЂќ) at the end — andВ all this is practically impossible to resist.
Talk about overcoming obstacles! I believe this film does a great job showing the tremendous struggles of Jamal and his brother Salim (each played by different actors as they age) while they live by their wits in order to survive a series of horrifying situations. Along with Latika, a young girl they both care for, these two siblings become members of a group of child beggars working for a vicious crime lord. (I had to close my eyes rather than watch some of the cruel treatment depicted here.) As they grow up, Jamal and Salim choose different paths — with Salim (Madhur Mittal), unfortunately, allying himself to the crime boss. Jamal (Dev Patel) loves the beautiful Latika, but loses track of her. How Jamal finds Latika (Freida Pinto) and helps free her from a depressing fate emerges as the most suspenseful part of Slumdog Millionaire.
Although Dev Patel and Freida Pinto deliver touching performances as the romantic couple in this acclaimed movie, itвЂ™s Anil Kapoor who stands out to me. Kapoor, one of IndiaвЂ™s most popular leading men, portrays the skeptical Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? TV host with such smarmy confidence and amazing screen charisma that I canвЂ™t help wondering why he hasnвЂ™t appeared in any English-language films until this one. The child actors (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Tanay Hemant Chheda, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Rubina Ali, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar) also deserve kudos. They all seem so genuine and believable.
Skillfully adapted by Simon Beaufoy from Vikas SwarupвЂ™s Q&A novel, Slumdog Millionaire benefits immensely from Danny BoyleвЂ™s direction and cooperation with India co-director Loveleen Tandan. Masterfully blending all the important elements — including cinematography, acting, editing, music and pacing — these filmmakers have given us a unique and memorable film.
(ReleasedВ by Fox Searchlight Films and rated вЂњRвЂќ for some violence, disturbing images and language.)