How does anybody come to acquire the knowledge that brings them to the turning point in their life? This is the question put to 18-year-old Jamal Malik, played by Dev Patel (who some might recognise from cult teenage-angst series, Skins) in Danny Boyle’s latest victory, Slumdog Millionaire. Set in Mumbai, Jamal is about to answer the question that will catapult him to overnight wealth beyond his wildest dreams on the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? With the whole of India hanging on his every word and patronising host Prem Kumar (Kapoor) praying to Ganesh that he will lose everything, the show breaks for the night and Jamal is hauled into a police cell for a session of ‘extreme interrogation’. Against all odds, Jamal is just one question away from wining 20 million rupees – how? Suspected of cheating, he must prove his innocence by explaining how an illiterate ‘slumdog’ was able to answer the questions that led him to this point.
Danny Boyle is well known for his vibrantly brilliant cinematographic style and Slumdog Millionaire is no exception. Fast-paced and frantic, the film continuously builds momentum as it intercuts between Jamal chronicling his life as an orphan on the streets of Mumbai and the interrogation room in which he now finds himself. Through these episodic flashbacks, we are catapulted into Jamal’s childhood experiences with his deceitful brother Salim (Mittal) and Latika (Pinto), the object of his idealized but pervasive notion of love.
Fundamentally, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of the real India, bridging the gap between the nauseatingly crushing poverty and the sumptuous Bollywood ideal. It highlights the extremities in the social hierarchy of modern day India impeccably and without sermonising. However, at it’s core, Slumdog Millionaire is a love story. Jamal’s relentlessly enduring search for Latika after she is snatched by child abuser and pimp Maman is intercepted at every turn by gangsters and murderers will no doubt be engaging and heart-warming to even the most cynical of viewers. After the spate of ‘uplifting’ seasonal movies, Slumdog Millionaire is a refreshingly beautiful tale of human endurance and the universal language of love and hope that really has the sustenance to become one of the best films of 2009.