By Dan Skip Allen
Jamal Malick is one question away from 20 million rupees. That's how Slumdog Millionaire gets started. The real question though is how did this nobody from the slums of Mumbai, India get into the hot seat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? "I knew the answers," says Jamal while he's being interrogated by a Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan) and his assistant. But even they don't believe he has gotten as far as he's got. Of course, they think he's cheated! How could a telecommunicator like Jamal know so much?
Danny Boyle has been known as an eclectic director during his thirty-year career. He's done slacker films, horror films, and sci-fi films. It wasn't until Simon Beaufoy brought him the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup that he would find and direct his magnum opus, the film that would bring him to acclaim the world around and Oscar gold. Slumdog Millionaire won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009. Boyle would win his only best directing statue to date as well. He hasn't reached such heights since. Slumdog Millionaire will always be his perfect film.
This film deserved every award it got because it really did have everything a great movie needed to be successful. It has great acting from its stellar cast of Indian actors, starting with its two main stars Dev Patel and Freda Pinto. Of course, Irrfan Khan as the police inspector, Saurabh Shukl as his sergeant, and the legendary actor Anil Kapoor as Prem the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? stand out. The children's actors as Jamal, Salim, and Latika are all also superb as well. This cast shines all the way around.
The story in the film is one out of a fairytale. Two friends who turn on each other over a girl. Yes, this was written in the book, but it's almost too good to believe. How could this story be real? It's such a perfect story. I was just blown away after watching it for the time. I couldn't believe what I had just watched. I truly believed I had just seen an absolute masterpiece of a film. A film I would rarely if ever see again in my lifetime. I would be right because I haven't seen a film this great since.
One of the other great things about Slumdog Millionaire is its music and the overall feel of the film. It was filmed in and around the streets of Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, the Indian version of Hollywood. A lot of films from Bollywood have dance numbers and singalongs. Slumdog Millionaire is no different than those other Bollywood films, except the songs are intoxicating and easy to sing along with. They are very catchy. A. R. Rahman won two Oscars for the original music and the score of the film. "Jai Ho" was a worldwide phenomenon. Everyone was dancing and singing to it. I sure was! Music really can make or break a film and in this case, it made this film even better.
Irrfan Khan has quite the arc in the film as well. His character, the inspector thinks he's just trying to interrogate a young punk who he was told was cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and he found something else entirely. He got to hear Jamal's story and why he was able to answer all those questions. That gave him a whole new outlook on this man and his story. He felt he had found a true underdog story in Jamal Malick. By the end of the film, he would be right. This is one of the greatest underdog stories ever put to film. Khan plays a big part in that after all.
Dev Patel and Freida Pinto were relative nobodies when this film first came out in 2008. When it was nominated and eventually won all those awards, they would become household names. They were associated with this Hollywood/Bollywood love story. People around the world couldn't get enough of these two. Since then, Dev Patel has had a bigger career in the movie industry, starring in Lion, The Newsroom, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, The Wedding Guest, and so many more films and TV shows. Freda Pinto has been in a few things since Slumdog Millionaire, but she hasn't had quite the career of Dev Patel. She will always be remembered though for portraying Latika in Slumdog Millionaire.
As a slumdog myself, the same as Jamal and his friends, I could relate to this story quite a bit. I grew up with nothing my entire life. I had to work every day for what little I do have and it's not easy. Seeing this movie back in 2008 gave me the idea that maybe someday I could go on a show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and win a bunch of money playing a game of trivia. Only in my dreams could I win or even be a contestant on such a great show. Maybe someday it'll actually happen.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.