One question away from becoming the first winner of the Hindi version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Jamal Malik is about to become a celebrity. But as we are taken to the police station, they have a question for him: how did this tea server make it this far? With a name like “Slumdog Millionaire” you’d think it was a rap album. Turns out, it’s not just a movie, but one of the best I’ve seen this year or last year , keeping in mind that '09 just started. Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) has done it again. This time, Boyle takes us from the slums of India to the hot seat at the Hindi version of “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”
The story centers on Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a young Muslim boy from the slums of India. In a series of flashbacks, while he’s being grilled by the cops, we hear his tale. Every question takes him back to his past as we learn the answers. From being homeless, to living on a train and running into shady characters, this story makes you feel his pain. Jamal’s love interest in his childhood friend spans the entire story, as he finds her, loses her, and finally takes one last chance to be with her. It’s almost heroic. But it’s also a tale of two brothers struggling to survive the harsh Indian streets, finding cleaver (and funny) ways to make a buck (The Taj Mahal scene is brilliant!), and try to be a family through it all. Boyle makes the slums and the high rises of modern Mumbai come alive, while making the harsh environment real.
What I also found interesting was the beginning. The audience gets asked a question: how did he get this far? The answers run from “he cheated” to “he’s a genious” to “it is written”. It is a line that gets said only once by the unsympathetic game show host (who was well played by Anil Kapoor) but it makes you wonder: are some things just supposed to happen? Jamal seems to think so. I don’t believe in luck or fate, but as a Christian I believe in Providence. Writing on this Adam Parker of Bring the Books writes:
The film is upfront about what it has to show from the very beginning. From the earliest parts of the movie, you know that Jamal Malik gets all the questions up to the last one right. You know that he survives all of the events in the flashbacks that bring him to this point in his life; you just want to see how it all happens. The interesting thing is, that's sort of what predestination is like. Detractors of predestination argue that our actions have no meaning if they are already decided beforehand; Jamal, however, seems to believe otherwise. Though God knows everything that will happen (He has determined it already, after all), we still must do what He has planned, and sometimes it's as interesting to see things unfold as it is to know the ending ahead of time.
Go see this movie and try to follow along. It’s a long but fascinating ride.