Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Slumdog Millionaire: You can’t help rooting for it
Imagine falling off a running train and slithering down a rocky slope even as swirls of dust and grime envelop you. Most people would land up with a serious hospital bill or at least a broken bone or two. Jamal and Salim, two of the “three musketeers” in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” just get up, shake off the dust and move on.
It might seem a little unbelievable or incredulous, but in the midst of watching “Slumdog Millionaire” (or ‘Slumdog Crorepati’ as the Hindi version is called), you shake off that nagging feeling and move on with Jamal and Salim, simply because you want to believe in their story. It’s not a believable story and yet the film makes you want to believe.
At least I wanted to.
Boyle’s film, which has wooed the West and is on its way to Oscar glory is this fast-paced, at times thrilling, at times chilling and at times poignant chronicle of one man’s journey.
Jamal Malik, who we first meet as an impish eight-year-old, steals your heart instantly and it is his story that sustains this film. Played in parts by Ayush Khedekar, Tanay Chedda and Dev Patel, Jamal’s journey takes you from the dirt and squalor of Mumbai’s slums to the Taj Mahal and then back again to the city of dreams.
Told in a series of flashbacks, we learn that Jamal, a slum dweller who has won 20 million rupees on the Indian version of the gameshow ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’, has been arrested by the police for fraud.
As the police inspector grills Jamal on how a slum kid could know the answers to such tough questions, Jamal begins to narrate the story behind each question and the answers to them which tell the story of his own life.
Also playing pivotal roles in the film are Salim, Jamal’s elder brother, and Latika, (played in part by Rubina Ali, Tanvi Lonkar and Freida Pinto). To narrate any more of the story would be an injustice to anyone who hasn’t already watched it.
Like I said earlier, this film is not entirely believable. How can two poor kids who have hardly been to school and live on the roads speak such perfect English? It doesn’t fit in with the story and jars a bit. Also, how can a twelve-year-old kid get away with firing a revolver at someone?
This is also not an easy film to watch. I admit I cringed at the sight of the piles of garbage and the kids picking up rags. The portrayal of the beggar mafia, the flesh trade and the crime on the streets is something we hear about and see all the time. Yet, when you see it on celluloid, that reality hits you hard.
What will stay with you at the end of the film though is the overwhelming sense that if you believe, the stars will work in your favour. It is this factor which takes the film to a whole another level. I can’t help but root for this “Slumdog”.